Kelvin Arena

3 Sep

Kelvin Arena is a very exclusive live music venue, recording studio and creative space in North London. It’s recently been announced that these legendary rooms will cease to exist as we know them at the start of November.

You might never have heard of Kelvin Arena. Few if any places in London have managed to maintain such a semi-mythical exclusivity. I mean where these days doesn’t have a website? You won’t be able to Google Kelvin Arena.

The Chorus playing live at Kelvin Arena in 2005

Of course, despite being named an ‘arena’ the live area is smaller than the smallest club. Original artworks hang on the walls. A cat, Billy, reaches out a paw from under the red velvet sofa by the entrance and swipes at your ankles. I first found myself in Kelvin Arena after the singer-songwriter Robin Elliott got me to send a demo he & I were writing there. When the song was finished I travelled up from Essex to visit Robin at Kelvin and for the first time, late one night, walked into the main room. There were artists there, designers, jewellers and us musicians.

(The song we wrote, ‘Fiona, We Gotta Quit Drinking,’ would eventually appear on Robin Elliott & Sodi Cookey’s brilliant, ultra-rare ‘Live At Paul’s’ LP, along with a version of The Chorus’ ‘Mary Harper.’  I urge you to hunt that record down if you can.)

This was before I’d seen any bands play there. Anyone who has watched a gig at Kelvin Arena will know that the intimacy (it’s tiny in there), the rudimentary sound, the lack of entrance fee (or stage) all provide an atmosphere no other London venue has ever delivered. Robin and Sodi played there, as did Hatcham Social, Nine Ashes and my own band The Chorus. Nine Ashes’ gig was brilliant, perhaps the best time I ever saw them. When they eventually morphed into Shakers In The Dark the band recorded many of their strongest tracks in the studio upstairs.

Kelvin Arena’s most common live events were the after-hours acoustic sessions that sprang up in the kitchen area whenever a musician got asked. No one ever said no.

One of the many drunken, late-night kitchen sessions, this one in 2009

So, I was back at Kelvin Arena this week to rehearse a couple of songs with Paul Green; we’ve been asked to play at our friends’ wedding on the weekend and were keen for it to be perfect. We did the rehearsal and made a recording and it occurred to me this might be the last recording I would make at KA. I was left alone in the old place the following night and couldn’t resist switching on the webcam and making one last video there. I’ve recorded videos here before: ‘Mary Harper,’  ‘Open Season’ and a cover of ‘Come As You Are’ were all shot there, just for fun, to upload on YouTube. No other footage I know of has been shot at Kelvin Arena. So, I just shut the door behind me and Kelvin Arena’s quiet; if this Hank Williams song I just filmed myself playing really is the last recording made at Kelvin Arena then I’m pleased it’s me that made it.

A well-known jewellery designer has recently used space downstairs to create bespoke pieces while upstairs tracks were recorded and people got drunk in the kitchen. The current tenants are splitting. There are other spaces like this in London, I’m sure. This was one. It’ll soon be gone. It was great and I’m glad to have been a part of it.

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One Response to “Kelvin Arena”

  1. Barton Young April 4, 2012 at 5:41 PM #

    Not really in tune. Not everything is though.

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