A central cultural hub in Kingston, live music venue The Hippodrome, is under threat. Kingston and Surbiton Labour Executive Committee members are determined to make sure cultural and arts spaced continue to thrive in Kingston.
Below: Kingston locals came out in their droves to see world famous band The Charlatans play at The Hippodrome in May 2017.
Over recent weeks, initial proposals for the redevelopment of Surrey House and The Hippodrome site have been shared with the public. As with any proposal of this size, a number of important questions will need to be answered: will there be any affordable housing? Can the town centre support more car traffic? Are there plans to improve the local infrastructure? Considering the current rate of vacant stores in the town, is there a need for more retail space? These questions should be asked of all developments; however, the unique feature of this proposal is the proposed closure of The Hippodrome nightclub and live music venue.
As anyone who has visited the venue on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night will tell you, this is an upsetting and devastating proposal. Grove resident, Alex Nelson, said “My own visits to the site over the last decade have led to me meeting some amazing people, discovering new music and watching friends display some spectacularly bad dance moves”.
Alongside being a firm favourite for local people, as a gig venue it has played a huge part in enabling Kingston to become a hub for rising international bands, provided a springboard for local talent and played host to nostalgic nights from bands who topped the charts in the 80/90/00s.
The application for the site fails to consider the thousands of people who visit the site every year (both the clubbers and gig goers) who view the Hippodrome as their cultural space within the town. Krystal Finan, President of the Kingston University Labour Society, explains “No other club or venue in the area offers what it does – a space for huge touring bands, a range of club nights that play everything from the Top 40 to obscure indie acts, as well as providing a community space that is used in the day by local charities.”
All of this stands alongside the clear benefits to the night-time economy and the jobs that the club provide. The photo above, taken in May 2017, shows the numbers of locals attracted out on a late Thursday evening to see a band, The Charlatans, that has played significant venues and festival throughout the world for over 25 years.
The council currently fails to understand how important it is to maintain a space for all local cultures, or the importance and the unique identity that Kingston’s music scene gives the borough. Kingston Labour Youth Officer, Clare Keogh, argues “While music and club culture appeals to people of all ages, we must remember that in particular this is an important space for young people and students, who bring so much life to our borough”.
“Kingston Labour will fight for all cultural and arts spaces across the borough, and will continue to hold the council and developers to account, ensuring that Kingston is not reduced to a homogeneous commuter town, but a unique, vibrant and inclusive place for all.”