For some this may cause nostalgia, for others it will make them want to build a time machine and go back to experience them… Either way, they are all unfortunately long gone, as awesome as they may sound. I don’t know about you guys but I sure as heck had no idea London had these crazy and huge venues not too long ago…
5. Begley’s / Canvas
This vast warehouse space was always living on borrowed time as a nightclub, right behind Kings Cross station. Unfortunately due to crumbling buildings, redevelopment could not be postponed any longer, however until that day… the parties were going strong. Hosting huge weekly club nights and loads of special one-offs, such as the time Prince performed live, or when Madonna shot a video. It was famous partly for holding the biggest capacity nights in London as well as having flamboyant clientele. Also including oddities such as washing lines full of clothes above the dancefloor with housewife characters vacuuming up on podiums. With six sizeable rooms all operating at once, it was the closest thing to a festival from which you could catch a night bus home. It got even more popular when DJ Ariel started doing 10-hour sets as well as other hardcore rave nights happening every Friday. However, the fact that this huge bomb of a party was in the middle of Europe’s largest urban regeneration project, meant that it had to be closed.
4. Velvet Rooms
Nick Holloway, the man who previously opened Milk Bar which hosted names such as Paul Oakenfold, Pete Tong and Dave Morales to name a few, had also a big thing going on in the Velvet Rooms. The idea was to replicate the intimate basement vibe and to fill it with global DJ line-ups. And what better way is there to do this other than literally, a velvet underground spot. You wouldn’t call it luxurious (especially the toilets), but the velvet theme and cosy dancefloor provided a welcome change from the otherwise vast spaces. It is said and has been credited as one of the birthplaces of Dubstep as well as being famous for Fabio’s drum & bass on Wednesday nights. Big house names visited on Saturdays and none other but Carl Cox was the main long-running man for techno Thursdays which incidentally was a ”one-in-one-out” situation by 11 pm in an era when presale tickets were unheard of… Unfortunately, developers got their hands on this one as well and so the Velvet Rooms have been replaced by a bland chemist sitting right on the top of what used to be a party place.
3. The Cross
When Billy Reilly noticed the regular parties happening opposite at Bagley’s warehouse, he decided to open up a wine bar to serve pre-club drinks, until Camden council granted him full dance licence and suddenly his arches were offering full-on club events of their very own. The club expanded into more arches plus opened a garden terrace for summer nights which honestly felt like you were transported to Ibiza. A string of long running promoter residencies from the glammed up Glitterati and Italian fave Vertigo, to mega-Prog-House brand Renaissance and welcoming gay night Fiction. Simply, a great night out. With an easy switch from the sweaty main floor to a comfortable sofa, all your nightlife needs were catered without too much hassle. The famously beautiful crowd was an easy-on-the-eye bonus and the slightly exclusive feel made each event feel special. As with Bagley’s, the whole area has now been completely transformed.
Former policeman John Newman opened a wine bar in 1985 which eventually grew to become the UK’s first 24-hour licence venue in 1990. Offering a space for hosting house events similar to the experience that the illegal outdoor raves had previously provided. First to take advantage of this, was gay scene promoter Lawrence Malice, who brought this already infamous club to an all time high. Changing the lives of many who attended via its futuristic pounding electronica and the shear insanity of what was going on all around. Many found it a challenge to descend the winding staircase into the wall of pumping male flesh known as ”Muscle Alley” and past people having full sex on the dancefloor… but, once settled inside, the vibe was that of a family. Albeit, a seriously dysfunctional one. On some nights, the Chemical Brothers were residents and Tiesto had played the days before he went stadium-sized. The building’s lease eventually came up for renewal and as suspected, the owner wanted to push for a lucrative office redevelopment however this did not go through for a number of years leaving the place heartbreakingly empty, until it was brought down with a wrecking ball.
1. The End & AKA
Last but not least, to end this list, is The End club. Apparently, when your dad Is an architect, theres a lot you can do to an old post office sorting depot, or at least, that was the case for DJ Layo who turned it into a venue. Launched in 1995, it soon became the most cutting edge nigthclub in the country hosting a variety or nights from drum & bass to techno and all innovative forms of music in between. Later, they also opened AKA, a bar at street level which was also incorporated into the club on big events. The line-ups, were simply to die for. Laurent Garnier was a resident to begin with, playing all night long. Erol Alkan’s trash scene on Mondays and Fridays were all about drum & bass heroes like Andy C or DJ Markey. At the time, the now renowned Fabric, was merely a newcomer. What was most amazing about it was dramatic ideas like placing the DJ booth in the middle or the dancefloor and at crowd level, to little touches like the famous drinking fountain. This was no ordinary place and a monster soundsystem confirmed extra-sensory mayhem indeed. The ever so creative team behind all this decided to move on and leave on a high rather than let things get stale. Being connected to the club, they did not want to continue under different management, plus developers once more placed an offer that made it difficult to refuse. The venue, forced to rely on grim commercial parties soon closed down and is currently boarded up.
Even though I personally never got the chance to experience these places, they definitely sound amazing. It’s a great shame all of them have closed and I’m sure a lot of people who have been to some of these must really miss them. Hey, maybe we can all team up and re-open one that’s still standing? Who says London can’t have crazy party venues anymore!
Written by: Thalia Agroti