Legendary UK live venue bids farewell20 January 2009
UK: Following last week’s Demolition Ball, the London Astoria has closed its doors for the final time, writes David Davies. The Rolling Stones, Oasis and The White Stripes are among the countless major-name acts to have graced the Charing Cross Road venue, which is making way for a worksite to support the Crossrail train service project and the redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road underground station (visualisation pictured).
Demolition of the Astoria – which has hosted an eclectic array of musical performances and club nights since the mid-1970s – is expected to begin shortly.
The venue’s final show, billed as the Demolition Ball: The Final Goodbye, took place on January 14th and included performances from VV Brown, Brigade and My Vitriol. The Astoria 2 – a 1000-capacity venue situated in the ‘underbelly’ of the Astoria – has also bolted its doors for the last time.
The future of the Festival Republic-operated site had been in doubt since the early part of this decade, when the planned routing of Crossrail first came to light. The plans seemed to necessitate the demolition of the Astoria to make room for a project worksite, but it wasn’t until October 2007 and an announcement that all funding for the _16bn project was now in place that the venue’s demise appeared to be sealed. Early this year it was finally confirmed that the Astoria would cease operations on January 19th.
A spokesperson for Transport for London (TfL) tells PSN-e: “By 2017, Tottenham Court Road station will be one of the important stations in the West End serving both London Underground and Crossrail. Starting later this year, Tottenham Court Road will be extensively redeveloped to create an expanded Tube ticket hall approximately six times larger than at present and for high-frequency, high-capacity Crossrail services.
“To facilitate major redevelopment of the station, a number of properties including the Astoria need to be compulsory purchased and demolished. The affected properties were detailed in the Crossrail Bill four years ago and all those with an interest in the properties advised. Compulsory Purchase Notices were issued in October 2008 and will take effect from 19 January 2009 when possession of affected properties will transfer to Crossrail and allow the _1bn redevelopment of the station to proceed.”
Ivor Wilkins, Festival Republic regional manager for Astoria/Astoria 2, commented: “Having witnessed over 20 years of incredible music, the loss of such a fantastic venue with its electric atmosphere that few others possess is a terrible shame and one, unfortunately, that we had no control over. Its history of live music will remain in our hearts; beer-soaked and memory-stained. It is the end of an era.”
According to TfL, Astoria site owner Derwent is currently developing proposals for the use of the space post-completion of Crossrail. Any ensuing applications will be subject to the normal planning process.
The Crossrail development is one of the most extensive projects in modern UK rail history, with services not due to commence until 2017.
(Image provided by London Underground)