Oh for a good old-fashioned English high street, a scruffy one, with no Starbucks, Accessorize and Oliver Bonas popping up everywhere. Well that’s pretty much Kentish Town for you, where you’ll find newsagents, printer shops, friendly market stalls and even a library – granted a Costa lurks, but it doesn’t seem to have ushered in the rest of its identikit mates.
It’s also home to The Forum, my favourite of the bigger venues. The real reason I love this place is because it’s the dream venue for short people. You are guaranteed to be able to see the whole stage, not just occasionally glimpse the lead guitarist’s elbow as the crowd sways around you. This is because the auditorium is split into two, with the back half (where the bars and cloakroom are) set on a slightly higher level than the area in front of the stage. So position yourself somewhere along the railings which divide the two areas, and it’s like being 6ft 7in tall, as you gaze straight over people’s heads with an unimpeded view of the stage. Brilliant. Don’t bother with upstairs, it’s set too far back and although it’s comfortable, you feel removed from the action.
Right next door to The Forum is Club Fandango @ The Bull & Gate, a quirky and characterful pub, with its own gig venue at the back. The promotions team put on a varied range of live music most nights and for around £5 (with flyer) you’ll see usually about four acts. The ornate bar section is fantastic in itself, it’s a noisy, fairly crowded space, where you often find yourself chatting to others waiting for Club Fandango or The Forum’s gigs to start.
STOP PRESS… Oh no!! Just heard The Bull and Gate is closing down and it’s reopening as a gastropub. Get down there soon to enjoy this lovely old boozer, and the gigs, while you can.
Kentish Town has other good pubs, but The Assembly House, next to the tube station, can get rammed on gig nights, for obvious reasons. My favourite is The Pineapple, set back in a residential street and only a two minute walk from both the music venues. It’s a friendly place with a warren of rooms, a fire burning in the grate and a cozy vibe. They also do perfectly decent and reasonably priced Thai food. This lovely pub has a huge history and thankfully was saved from the dreaded conversion-into-flats scenario ten years ago.
Prints by Stuart Free are available at Frameworks Gallery in Crouch End, N8 8TE www.frameworkscrouchend.co.uk
This post was originally written in February 2013, while The Bull & Gate was still an endearingly scruffy pub with gigs for £5 most nights. Things have changed and this pub is now a gastropub and cocktail bar.