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Celebrating local theatres, comedy... plus late night lounges 🍸

Grassroots performance spaces in the spotlight this week, in the ongoing Camdenist Culture Campaign

Camdenist Culture Campaign is back in fighting form, as this week’s main feature takes a good look at the challenges currently facing our phenomenal cluster of fringe theatres, backroom comedy clubs and assorted cherished performance spaces.

These stages are where the entertainment culture we all love is first formed, the big stars of tomorrow get their first break, and new audiences get hooked on the joys of live entertainment.

But it sure seems harder than ever to survive, so we spoke to a range of local venue owners, promoters and directors about the issues - and the solutions - in keeping the show on a road near you.

Read the feature: Supporting Camden’s Theatres and Grassroots Performance Spaces now, then go out and see a local show this week. 👌

FOOD & DRINK

🔑 As new local members club The Dally prepares to open, we round up more local lounges with a touch of exclusivity

The Dally’s historic townhouse before its latest reinvention

Over on Islington’s Upper Street, a brand new neighbourhood-based members club concept is due to open its doors any day now.

The Dally will provide day-into-night hanging out, eating, drinking and a programme of events for locals who don’t want to travel too far to get their refined social fix.

The female founder duo came up with the concept over shared local school gate pickups, and are aiming to appeal to the post-Covid WFH generation with a club on their proverbial doorstep.

The handsome Victorian townhouse The Dally now occupies has had many incarnations over the years. Hands up those who remember it as the Medicine Bar, Albert & Pearl, Double Frank Bar, House of Wolf, Dead Dolls House, Upper House or Jack’s Bar?

Until KOKO opened their members club in 2022 (see below), you’d have to venture into West End clubland proper for a touch of velvet rope and deep sofa exclusivity that was pretty much absent out ‘in the sticks’ of Camden and Islington.

So let’s hope this latest endeavor hangs around, and the latest fickle shifts in work and social trends don’t scupper the idea for this historic building like so many of the concepts before it.

With Soho House currently taking a bashing, accused of becoming global club house Ponzi scheme, we like the idea of such off-West End spaces doing the whole membership thing a little differently - just as long as members can bring in well-chosen penniless creatives as guests, too, of course. 😉

12 more (semi-exclusive but mostly accessible) local spots to try

🎷 Nola’s is a note-perfect Jazz Era speakeasy hidden down a passageway behind the food and music hubbub of Lafayette and Goods Way in King’s Cross. The intimate lounge seats 50, so you can take over the whole place if your group is big enough, and it’s open until 4am on club nights, when you can also pop next door for a dance.

🎹 Frith Street’s Arts Theatre Club was a one time illegal drinking den and playground of the notorious gangland Kray Twins. The venue has a rare unbroken connection to the illicit Soho of the past, and with a solid 3am drinks license every night (it’s open Tues-Sat), you won’t be the only one making a late beeline there when everything else shuts.

🍸 Slap bang at the centre of the well kempt King’s Cross estate doesn’t feel like the most likely location for a clandestine watering hole, but once you head down into the bowels of the pink R7 office block, you are rewarded with SUPERMAX. It feels reassuringly hidden and definitely decadent, with conspiratorial neon-lit banquettes, swathed in heavy velvet curtain all around.

🐗 Fitzrovia’s Lucky Pig has all the feels of a prohibition era subterranean drinking club accesses with a wink to the doorman by those ‘in the know’, but once you descend its iron stairs in the shadows of nearby BT Tower, you’ll find its open to all thru until 2am (weekends).

House of KOKO’s Stage Kitchen by Executive Chef Andreas Engberg

🪩 Flush local music lovers might want to consider splashing out on a membership to House of KOKO, the exclusive members club that sprawls out high above Camden Town’s eponymous live venue. Inside you can enjoy DJ sets in the iconic copper dome, live jazz out on the roof terrace restaurant or in a number of intimate and luxurious lounge bars, even play your own vinyl in special listening rooms, and all with an unbeatable 5am license at the weekend.

🐦‍⬛ Hanway Street has long been known for its afterhours basement speakeasys, so with a 2am weekend license and a very keenly priced cocktail menu, Murder Inc is a perfect hidden spot for an overconfident nightcap on the route home.

🍬 Hotels are always a safe bet for elevating your night out into something akin to a members club experience, and Euston Rd’s The Standard is an ideal choice for such a dalliance. Sweeties is the late night lounge (open until 2.30am at weekends) with floor-to-ceiling windows with a serious view, or you could cosy up in the former Council library on the ground floor. You might even splurge on a meal at Decimo up the red pill lift on the 10th floor, that’s open super-late.

🍷 Likewise, head into Phillip Starck’s St Martins Lane Hotel, where behind the façade of a boutique tea counter with a secret golden hand-shaped handle you can find the speakeasy style lounge of Blind Spot. Open Thurs-Sat until 2.30am

SOMA Soho is very much a cocktail bar in look and approach, but with room for only 23 guests, a secret booth in the back behind a curtain, plus a 3am weekend license, you can easily feel like you’re inside the most privileged of hotspots. Drinks vear towards the Indian subcontinent on account of this being pat of the excellent Kricket restaurant above.

🚂 It’s only open until midnight, but the eye-popping grandeur of The Midland Dining Room’s Gothic Bar is enough to make anyone feel like they are a member of a very exclusive club. It’s unashamedly pricy to match, but is sure to impress a date, if that’s your game.

🧱 For a candlelit Berlin-meets-NYC secret warehouse vibe, Below Stone Nest on Shaftesbury Ave really delivers the shabby chic VIP atmosphere. A chalk board of libations and free live music or DJs until 2am, plus a walk-ins only policy mean it’s accessible to join the select crowd.

🚪 And one for this summer... the Carnaby quarter’s swish but defunct former private members club The Court is currently being turned into the latest ‘house party’ themed bar in the highly popular Little Door empire. The Little Violet Door will open on Kingley St soon.

Remember it’s Earthfest all this weekend in King’s Cross. Here’s what you can expect, and info on FREE tickets

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STAGE

Support a community stage refurb with a load of local celebs

Kiss Marry Kill

Camdenist in partnership with

💘 Inspired by real-life events Kiss Marry Kill is a provocative new play that reimagines the first same-sex wedding in a UK prison - between men both serving life sentences for homophobic murders. At Stone Nest until 26th April.

👵 Beloved TV host, comedian, and writer Sandi Toksvig has written new play Sliver Lining about a night of storytelling and adventure for five women an in old people’s home, runs until Sunday (21st) at Upstairs at the Gatehouse.

😆 Free comedy on Tuesday (23rd) as Katie Pritchard brings her brand-new show to Tufnell Park’s Aces & Eights basement as she pretends to embark on an arena rock/comedy tour…in a 30-seater venue. She says “think Lady Gaga on acid!”

💰Support the renovation of Acland Burghley School’s brutalist classic assembly hall as a local arts space at A Hall for All-Stars Evening With… on Thursday 25th April. You’ll get music, comedy and performance from locally based superstars including multi-instrumentalist magician Sam Amidon, double Ivor Novello Award0winning songwriter Sacha Skarbek and actors Tracy-Ann Oberman, Shaun Dingwall, Adam James, Samantha Spiro, Claire Skinner and Tom Basden, stars of iconic shows such as Outnumbered, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, Sex Education, Plebs and many more.

MUSIC

5 diverse live delights

Antony Gomes at Dingwalls

🎧 London DJ scene stalwarts Greg Sonata and Giles Smith (the former Secretsundaze party instigator, now going it alone) will be keeping the basement jumping tonight down at The Cross.

🎸 Dingwalls plays host to Canadian blues and rock guitarist-singer and on stage whirlwind Antony Gomes (pictured) who is bringing his high voltage blues tour to Camden tonight.

🐱 Quirky cosplay gig of the week must surely be the, er, Hello Kitty Rave going down tomorrow (Sat 20th) at Electric Ballroom. There’s no mention of the music (the focus is firmly on the free Chupa Chups, glitter station and ‘kitty juice’ cocktails), but they do promise a Hello Kitty DJ set…

🎛️ Roundhouse Rising Festival always delivers, and on Tuesday(23rd) that means the thrilling electronic compositions of Detroit’s Jlin, who will weave her sonic soundscapes in the perfect industrial setting of Chalk Farm’s Roundhouse.

🤠 NW5 goes all Country this week as Louisiana’s multi-award-winning singer-songwriter and breakthrough actress Lainey Wilson is in town at the 02 Forum Kentish Town on Tues 23rd and Wed 24th.

COLLABORATE

📊 This week’s 1-click poll

What do you make of the national attention that squatters at Gordon Ramsey's Parkway pub has gained?

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(If you didn’t catch the latest on this fast-moving story, check the Camden Art Cafe Instagram,

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📊 LAST WEEK’S POLL RESULT

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Love it. Amy was amazing so no wonder people can't get enough
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Drop it. It was a tragedy but it all happened a long time ago and people are just trading on her name now.
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Not fussed. Any celeb who gets that big gets attention, that's just the way things are.
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Reader comments:

I liked her music, but I do find it slightly unedifying that her dad is profiting from her work and life story and is now involved in making a film about her life, given he quite clearly contributed to the paparazzi hubbub around her that eventually took her life, and has continued to try and profit from her death by selling her belongings and doing a hologram tour”

In terms of UK soul singers, she’s up there with Dusty. Unique and beautiful voice! I get that new artists also need to be appreciated.”

I absolutely loved Amy. It makes sad to see people still making money out of it though. And I’d really like to discover a new Amy before it’s too late. ”

Camden used to be a centre for cutting-edge music, not someone who was made famous by Terry Wogan on Radio 2”

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