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UK has its own fare share of abandoned nightclubs and venues

Darko Nanevski

The legendary Hacienda music hall in Manchester wasn’t the only one that ceased to exist. While we were doing our research for that article, we found other music venues around the UK that, for whatever reason, got closed down.

And these 3, in particular, we considered worth mentioning because they each had a direct impact on the youth culture and music scene of their era.

The Turnmills

In the London Borough of Islington, there was a building that used to stand on the corner of Turnmill Street and Clerkenwell Road. During the 1980s and 90s, it was a very popular bar and nightclub, and the first in the UK that had a 24-hour working license, kickstarting the whole all-night clubbing trend which first became popular within the rave community.

Called Turnmills, the club hosted regular dance party nights and other kinds of events for over 20 years, until, on March 23, 2008, it was announced that the venue was closing for good. The main reason behind it: the expiration of the building’s lease that John Newman had purchased in 1985.

Outside Turnmills nightclub venue, corner of Farringdon Lane and Clerkenwell Road. Author: Rubberist

Outside Turnmills nightclub venue, corner of Farringdon Lane and Clerkenwell Road. Author: Rubberist

Today, the building exists only in memory, because not very long after its shutting down the club was demolished and a new office building took its place. And despite all the numerous objections and petitions from activists, including William Palin, then secretary of Save Britain’s Heritage, that the building should be listed and its historic importance acknowledged, the decision was final. Turnmills didn’t hold the aesthetic and cultural values that the English Heritage Trust deemed as necessary for a building to be considered for preservation, and Islington Council set things in motion, approving the club’s bulldozing.

Turnmills Laser Light Show – 6 May 2006. Author: wilf3102

Turnmills Laser Light Show – 6 May 2006. Author: wilf3102

But why would a destruction of just an ordinary nightclub would be met with so much backlash? Well, because for the citizens of Islington, Turnmills was so much more than just another dance arena. The building had been there since the Victorian era and over the course of 2 centuries it has been used and re-used in all sort of ways, starting in 1886 as a warehouse for the Great Northern Railway Company.

Angels

Located in the town of Burnley, England, this former nightclub was one of the most famous music venues in all of UK, especially during the house music craze in the early 1990s. DJ superstars like Carl Cox, Paul Oakenfold, and Paul Taylor, who was also the club’s owner, held regular spots here.

It was officially opened in June 1974 by the Mayor of Burnley and the British dance troupe Pan’s People.

A sign above the main entrance of the former Angels nightclub in Burnley. Author: Trappedinburnley

A sign above the main entrance of the former Angels nightclub in Burnley. Author: Trappedinburnley

However, due to the car parking, which was an integral part of the building, and having major irregularities in its structure, the Great Portland Estates and Burnley Council, who actually owned the site, decided that the best thing to do is to demolish the area and start rebuilding it from scratch.

Despite all of the club’s enormous success and huge popularity, it was all over for Angels. The last rave party was held on 27 April 1996. And shortly after that, the club’s owners were faced with eviction, which forced them to move out and look for a new place.

The Buffalo Bar

Located at 259 Upper Street, in a basement underneath The Famous Cock Tavern in Highbury, The Buffalo Bar was a famous music venue that existed at the height of the alternative indie rock scene. From when it opened in 2000, and until it closed in 2014, the Buffalo was totally dedicated to always promoting new and exciting music artists and performers.

For 14 years, countless live concerts, gigs, and album promotions have been held in this establishment, where people would come to see their favorite bands up and close.

The exterior of The Buffalo Bar during its heyday in the mid-00s. Author: Ewan Munro. CC BY-SA 2.0

The exterior of The Buffalo Bar during its heyday in the mid-00s. Author: Ewan Munro. CC BY-SA 2.0

However, in November 2014, the County Estate Pubs and Stonegate Pub Company decided to terminate Buffalo’s lease and, shortly after, an eviction notice was found stuck on the front door by the staff.

Faced with imminent closure, the club announced the news on their official Facebook page, which immediately caused a surge of people to rally against the decision. The town’s counselor, Olly Parker, also expressed his support, addressing in front of the Islington Council how the Buffalo Bar “has probably done more for the cultural life in Islington than anyone”.

The Maccabees at Artrocker Festival, Buffalo Bar, 2006. Author: Greg Neate. CC BY 2.0

The Maccabees at Artrocker Festival, Buffalo Bar, 2006. Author: Greg Neate. CC BY 2.0

Even a petition signed by over 5,000 people didn’t help to revert the decision. Buffalo’s final night was held on New Year’s Eve, and the music hall that made a tremendous impact and contribution in the town’s youth culture was gone. It is still undecided what will become of the place in the near future.