London: live music capital no more?30 January 2007
UK: The prospective demolition of the Hammersmith Palais to make way for offices and a restaurant has dealt a fresh blow to the diversity of London’s live music scene. The news emerges during a period when there is also a question mark over the long-term future of another iconic venue in the capital, writes David Davies.
A meeting of Fulham and Hammersmith Council’s planning committee on January 22 granted conservation area consent to developers Parkway Property, clearing the way for the Palais’ demolition. While there is a stipulation that Parkway must begin work on its development immediately after the existing building is removed, the committee ultimately decided that the loss of original interior features and residents’ complaints about antisocial behaviour meant that an original decision to permit demolition in 2001 should be upheld.
“We recognise that some people will have fond memories of the golden era at the Hammersmith Palais, and it is true to say it played a huge part in West London’s music scene,” said councillor Lucy Ivimy in an official statement. “Sadly, the golden era for the Palais is long gone.”
The news heralds a decisive full-stop to the Palais’ 87-year history. Originally opened as a jazz club, it is arguably best-known for hosting legendary performances by the Sex Pistols and The Clash in the late 1970s. It’s latterday operator is Bar Club, whose directors were unavailable for comment at press time.
For some, the loss of the Palais highlights a deficiency in the capital’s live music network. “We have lots of intimate venues and big hangar-sized halls, but the mid-sized venues are under threat,” says Paul Stokes, news editor of NME/NME.COM. “[They] give audiences a chance to appreciate growing bands in an appropriately sized venue. The Palais was great for this as it was wide and airy, and offered good views.”
Meanwhile, there is also an ongoing campaign to safeguard the future in its present form of legendary rock haunt the Astoria in Charing Cross Road, which was sold to property developers Derwent Valley for _23.75m in June last year. The venue remains under lease to Mean Fiddler until December 2008.