The Church is going from The Forum

Report on meeting at The Forum. Monday, 23 November 2009.

There were six members of staff present including Steve Foster, the managing director and Dan Pike, general business manager and Julian, manager of The Church.

There were about nine of us including several very close neighbours to The Forum and Ralph Scott, local councillor.

Steve Foster went through previous minutes and said that of the issues that had been highlighted, the first was boards indicating car park locations which had been put into effect.

The second issue was ticket touts being aggressive at the tube station and illegal merchandising/bootlegging – again by aggressive merchandisers.

The Forum are liaising with the police who may be working soon with Trading Standards on enforcement.

THE CHURCH:

The Church was a matter that had been a major issue in previous meetings and Steve announced that as of January 2010 it will not be operating from Kentish Town any longer. It will be at the Clapham Grand with the first event on 3 January.

One question was raised was how many late nights has The Forum applied for this year because only six are permitted p.a. The answer is one but Steve Foster made it clear that the loss of The Church would represent a loss of a quarter of a million pounds and they would be seeking other ways to make up this loss which might include more late nights.

There were discussions about the need for wardens after concerts to try and deflect people from going up some of the residential streets. Steve Foster said they would try to achieve this but that the management could not be responsible for every action of all customers. They do try to police the area as much as possible and up to 30 security staff were employed. The police are provided with details of every event including a profile of the likely audience and a risk rating. There is a logbook of incidents including any matter that involve the police.

Ralph Scott said that in fact not many complaints have been logged by Camden about the venue.

Steve Foster said that 278,000 people, plus those attending The Church, came last year and that he felt they were one of the least problematic sites in Camden.

Before the meeting started we had a brief tour with Dan Pike. The inside is pretty spectacular. The auditorium is huge and I was told can hold 2,350. Downstairs was standing and upstairs was seating but I understand seats can be installed downstairs too.

The decor is original and has been restored. The colour schemes are startling: the rather splendid dome is blood red; the walls are mainly blue with gold decorations – a classical frieze round the top and Roman legion style decorations down the sides of the stage. Apparently an urban legend has it that it was designed by Oswald Mosley. This is untrue. If you are interested, you might like to go into the website at this link which gives a history and background of the building:

http://venues.meanfiddler.com/the-forum/this-venue/history from which you will see “The Forum was originally built as an art deco cinema in 1934 by Herbert Yapp, a cinema magnate who also owned the Forum cinemas in Ealing and Fulham. The architect was J. Stanley Beard and the interior design was by his partner W.R. Bennett.”

(It would have been Albert Speer anyway if you want to make uncharitable Nazi connections)

Dan Pike told me that the rehabilitation had so far cost one and a half million pounds.

The next stage of refurbishment will concentrate on the hallway which has quite a fine tiled floor and on the outside of the building where the stained glass windows at the front will all be removed and rebuilt before being returned. The facade and side will be cleaned and repaired. Cost £250,000.

I suggested that it might be a good idea to have some sort of open day or afternoon so that people could see the building. He was quite receptive.

I suggested that at a squeeze the IARA Xmas party 2010 might fit into the venue. He said he’d consider it.

During the course of the meeting it was suggested that it could be included in the annual Open House Day but we were told that the organisers were not happy with the fact that, if there was an event on that evening, various areas would have to be sealed off.

There were discussions about soundproofing and Steve Foster said that readings had been taken which prove that soundproofing was good and the Bull and Gate pub next door was considerably louder. One of the people attending lives directly opposite and says that noise is not a problem except briefly when both doors are open.

I suggested that the flagpoles should be restored and flags flown. Steve Foster said he would be happy if someone would like to pay for them and there are health and safety issues about raising and lowering flags.

They were asked about using it as a cinema again sometimes. Steve Foster said the cost of installing all the full equipment was enormous and cinemas are often playing quite empty.

Musically – They have a reputation for heavy rock etc – but in fact they have quite a wide range and hope to broaden their styles.

The same firm also owns the Jazz Café and lots of other venues. See website.

David