Green light for London Crossrail link – red light for the Astoria?23 October 2007
UK: Crossrail – a long-mooted railway link connecting central London, the City and Canary Wharf to Heathrow and to commuter areas to the east and west of the capital – is now close to becoming a reality after funding for the predicted _16bn project was finally confirmed earlier this month. The planned routing of the link has caused considerable alarm for some music and AV industry professionals, not least those in Soho’s post-production community and the operators of legendary live venue the London Astoria, writes David Davies.
Speaking on a visit to the Crossrail offices earlier this month, prime minister Gordon Brown (pictured here with London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Crossrail executive chairman Douglas Oakervee and Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly) confirmed that “both the private and public sectors have made major financial commitments and that the project will now definitely proceed”.
Subject to the Bill receiving Royal Assent, construction on Crossrail is due to begin in 2010, with the first trains expected to be running in 2017. The 118km track will involve 38 new stations and enable an estimated 200m passenger journeys each year.
For parts of London’s professional audio-visual and live music communities, however, Crossrail continues to be a major headache. While calls by UK Post, the APRS and others for the use of floating track technology in Soho to mimimise disruption to the work of the area’s post-production companies have been acknowledged and supported by the relevant Commons Select Committee (see this month’s print issue of PSNE for more on this development), the long-term future is looking rather bleak for another central London stalwart – the Astoria live music venue on Tottenham Court Road.
In a statement issued to PSN-e, a Crossrail spokesperson confirmed that the present Astoria site does feature in its plans: “As part of making major improvements by rebuilding Tottenham Court Road station, a worksite will be required and the choice favoured by engineers after discussion with various stakeholders, including the local council, is to use the site on which the Astoria building is based, next door to the station.”
Should the Astoria be demolished, however, both Ken Livingstone and the local council are said to be determined that live performance should be accounted for in the site’s eventual redevelopment. The statement continues: “Any relocation costs for businesses involved will be the subject of negotiation. It will be for any future developer to decide as to what is built on the site once Crossrail has completed construction, but both the Mayor and Westminster Council have made clear that any proposal for redevelopment of the site should include an arts/entertainment venue.”
In use as a music venue since the 1980s, the Astoria has played host to celebrated performances from Radiohead, Blur, Oasis and Franz Ferdinand, among many others. While the Freehold is now owned by property developers Derwent Valley Central, the venue continues to be rented to Mean Fiddler – recently rebranded as Festival Republic – under a deal set to lapse in December 2008.
PIC CREDIT: Joanne O’Brien