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.

The Forum by Stuart Free www.stuartfree.com
The Forum by Stu­art Free www.stuartfree.com

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.

The Forum by Stuart Free
The Forum by Stu­art Free www.stuartfree.com

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.

Bull & Gate, Kentish Town

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.

The Pineapple, Kentish Town

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.

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