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  CHRIS DALE'S METAL MELTDOWN
LONDON VENUE'S NAZI PAST?
1st March 2012


chris dale

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Chris Dale is a Heavy Metal bassist. He is currently the bass player in TANK whose recent live DVD, 'WAR MACHINE' is out now. He has previously played with lots of Metal bands and projects, most notably a two year stint in Bruce Dickinson's solo band.

Chris fronts the pop-group Sack Trick, DJs occasionally on Bloodstock Radio and in his spare time works on tour as a roady for anyone going to a hot climate...

***********************************

The London HMV Forum (or Town And Country Club as it was) is a great rock venue in North London. I've seen tons of top gigs there including Dio, Anthrax, Queensryche, Mr Big, Living Colour, W.A.S.P and Motörhead. It's a great venue with a lot of history, and it's one particular aspect of this history that especially started to interest me.


The Kentish Town HMV Forum

One of the rumours that has been doing the rounds for a while (I've heard at least half a dozen variations of it, one from Scott Ian of Anthrax onstage at the Forum) is that the venue was built in the 1930s for Oswald Mosley's British Fascists. Sometimes it is said that the venue was built for Adolf Hitler himself. Here's one version of the story I found posted anonymously online:

"The true reason why the Forum in Kentish Town was actually built. It is quite common knowledge that not only is it one of the greatest music venues in London but it was built by Nazi facists, though this information is quite well hidden, and was originally built for the final destination of Adolf Hitler's tour. If you have ever been inside it is plainly obvious by the decor of huge eagles and the depiction of Roman battle scenes which were associated with the Third Reich.

"Also I have been informed that it wasn't that long ago that the swastikas that lined the walls either side of stage were removed but the whereabouts of them now are unknown. As well as this it has been said Moseley had a bit to do with its building. There is a sister building to it in south London.

"I do not have a great deal of information on the whole building's association with its reason for being built and the information I do have is quite patchy as this piece of history has seemed to be well buried. If anyone has anymore information on this subject please post it on this site and stop them from turning this valuable information into an urban myth and making the people believe it was originally built as a cinema."

Despite his occasional typo error, he is right about some things at least. There are certainly neo-Roman columns and big eagles on the inside of the venue.


The interior of the Forum. Note the Roman Eagles on the left

And as the blogger says, some people are trying to make us believe the venue was built as a cinema. The Forum's official website says: "The Forum was originally built as an art deco cinema in 1934 by Herbert Yapp... the architect was J Stanley Beard and the interior design was by his partner WR Bennett. The Forum was launched with a grand opening ceremony of music and films, conducted by the star Sydney Howard, on 17th December 1934."

So which is true? Has there been an official cover-up of the venue's sinister past? Was it built for Blackshirts or for black and white movies? The first point to look at is, was this "the final venue for Hitler's tour?"

Reading around a bit, we find that unlike modern Heavy Metal bands, Hitler didn't do 'tours'. No, he stayed in Germany hatching evil plans. When he met with foreign leaders, such as the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938, they came to him, not him to them.

He never travelled outside his conquered or closely allied territories and wouldn't have done very well as an orator in North London anyway because he didn't speak English.


Adolf Hitler and the Nazis

Besides, in early 1934 when the foundations for the Forum were being laid, Hitler was not yet the German head of state, nor was he an ambassador, foreign minister or in any other position that might warrant a trip abroad. From 1933 he held the title of Chancellor. He only became Führer (or leader) on the death of President Hindenburg in August 1934, and then became suddenly very busy at home silencing political opponents and persecuting minorities.

He did not plan a visit to Britain in the mid 1930s.

But what about the "decor of huge eagles and the depiction of Roman battle scenes which were associated with the Third Reich".

He's right that there are huge Roman eagles adorning the walls. But looking into Third Reich or Nazi German artwork we don't tend to see any Roman style figures. This is because Nazism, as a form of extreme nationalism, focused on the glories of the master race (i.e. themselves) rather than that of their neighbours. Mussolini's Fascists in Italy made the most out of Roman glories but not Hitler's Nazis.

The Nazis loved Wagner's Germanic heroes- Lohengrin, Tannhäuser and Walther von Stolzing. There are no Wagnerian themes in the Forum.

Our online source says that "it wasn't that long ago that the swastikas that lined the walls either side of stage were removed but the whereabouts of them now are unknown". I have to doubt that bit. I find it hard to believe that during the Second World War, Londoners put up with Swastikas on the wall of their weekly Saturday morning cinema while they were being subjected to the Blitz air raids from Nazi Germany.

There's also no reference to these swastikas in any other sources I've found and you really would think that large Swastikas in public would provoke some comment from somebody.

I think we're going to have to dismiss the Hitler story both from lack of firm evidence and general implausibility. It just wasn't his style or that of Londoners.

But maybe as our anonymous online source says there was a Blackshirt connection and that is how the Hitler story started. For those of you who don't know, back in the 1930s politics was a little more extreme than today's middle of the road squabblers. Rather than battling for the centre ground as our Eurocrats and US political candidates do, back in the 1930s the cool thing to do was align oneself with extremists in the left and right.

Stalin's Russia was extreme left, Mussolini's Italy was extreme right and both were effectively violent dictatorships. Spain had a civil war between extreme right and extreme left. The right won.

Most countries had legitimate Communist and Fascist political parties. Britain had the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and Sir Oswald Mosley's Fascists, or Blackshirts as they were known after the colour of their uniforms. Both were seen as threats to the country's stability by the mainstream parties.


Oswald Mosley and the Blackshirts

Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats, had been the youngest member of Parliament to take his seat in 1918, standing for the Conservative Party. After several terms in Parliament, first as a Conservative, then an Independent and then in the Labour Party he grew disillusioned with mainstream politics and formed his own party which became the British Union of Fascists.

The BUF advocated ideas such as eliminating the existing British class system, promoting pacifism, keeping closer ties with Europe and forcing an end to party political bickering. These enlightened ideas hid a darker side and though the party was not openly anti-Semitic like the Nazis in Germany, violence and intimidation followed the movement from the very beginning.

Mosley's sympathies with Nazi Germany were well known. His second marriage was conducted at Goebbels' house in Berlin in 1936 and his first marriage in 1920 was attended by the Kings of Britain and Belgium. It is often forgotten that he was a very popular character at the time. Had he come to power however, we in Britain would undoubtedly have been under the grip of a totalitarian one party state allied to Hitler and Mussolini.

So was the Forum built as a Fascist meeting house thus inspiring a Nazi element to be added to the story? If this were the case, it would not be surprising that the venue would not want it mentioned on their official website. It's nothing to be proud of. But is it true?

Reading through several histories of Mosley's movement I can find no mention of the Forum at all. You would think if he'd built the place and given speeches there that it would turn up in his extensive biographies. The more I read into Moseley, the less it seemed likely that he would have built the place and this was for a very simple reason. He was just too popular for it.


A London BUF Rally in the 1930s

By the mid-1930s Mosley's Blackshirt meetings were held at much bigger venues such as the Olympia Exhibition Centre and the Royal Albert Hall. Sometimes he held rallies at large outdoor spaces like Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park. In 1934 Mosley had no need for a 2,000 capacity venue like the Forum.

So it seems from a lack of evidence to the contrary, that the official story of the Forum being built as a cinema is true. Indeed, this version is backed up by several cinematographic and local histories. Before televisions became common household items people flocked regularly to cinemas to catch the latest black and white blockbuster or just to see the Pathe news.

There was a great demand for new cinemas in the suburbs in the 1930s and Herbert Yapp was the man to provide them. He owned several cinemas already and commissioned architect J Stanley Beard and interior designer WR Bennett to build two new cinemas in Kentish Town and Ealing (West London not South London as our blogger heard). Beard was a well known architect, especially known for building cinemas. In all he designed over twenty cinemas and theatres in the London area. The Kentish Town Forum was opened with a night of music and films, conducted by Sydney Howard on 17th December 1934.


Programme for the opening night

The cinemas of the 1920s and 30s were places of fantasy. Before modern technology transformed our lives, these were the only places audiences could be transported in their imaginations to the Wild West, deepest Africa or Ancient Rome (as in the popular 1925 silent film, 'Ben Hur').

The interior of these cinemas, courtesy of Walter Bennett and other designers like him, were usually given beautifully imaginative decor forest scenes, fake pipe organs, battlements or in the case of the Kentish Town Forum, pillars and eagles, evocative of the glory days of Rome. Perhaps the very title Forum (the Latin name for an open square or meeting place) partially inspired the particular classical theme.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about decorating a cinema with fantasy themes in the 1930s. Next time you're at the Brixton Academy, ignore the band and have a good look around. That one's really spectacular.

But these rumours don't just start themselves. There must be some grain of truth, some tiny spark that the story sprung from. And I think I've found it.

After the Battle of Cable Street in October 1936 (immortalised by the Men They Couldn't Hang on their 1985 track, 'The Ghosts of Cable Street') in which the Blackshirts openly fought with protestors and the police, Moseley's fascists were banned from marching in East London. For their next march in July 1937 they chose a different starting point - Kentish Town. I wonder if it was outside the newly built Forum?

Could it be that the story of the Forum being a meeting place for Fascists started life simply as the Fascists met somewhere near the Forum? Add that to some decorative classical architecture and you've got the story that the Forum was made specially for the Fascists. From there its only a short step to Adolf Hitler himself turning up. It just goes to show what a bit of Chinese whispers can do to a small story.

I've listed my main online sources here:

Forum and Cinema History

http://venues.meanfiddler.com/the-forum/this-venue/history
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMV_Forum
http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/6293
http://www.tnunn.co.uk/forum.htm
http://www.flickr.com/photos/woody1969/sets/72157602046085964/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stanley_Coombe_Beard

Hitler and Nazi History and Architecture

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/hitler.html
http://www.thirdreichruins.com/
http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/
http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERhitler.htm
http://forum.axishistory.com/index.php

Moseley and Blackshirt History

http://www.oswaldmosley.com/british-union.htm
http://www.20thcenturylondon.org.uk
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oswald_Mosley
http://www.battleofcablestreet.org.uk/index.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzKv5gjOzTA

The Anonymous Blogger

http://www.knowhere.co.uk/Kentish-Town/Greater-London/London-and-inside-M25/info/musicvenues


I think his claim about HMV trading arms with the IRA to buy the Forum probably also has to be taken with a pinch of salt but as he admits, he's "been unable to confirm this as being true".

More Chris Dale's Metal Meltdown Columns Here


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It's the musical collaboration we never knew we needed, until now...

magnum MAGNUM'S DECEMBER UK TOUR DATES ANNOUNCED
The legendary British melodic rockers take acclaimed album 'Escape From The Shadow Garden' back on the road...

nashville pussy NASHVILLE PUSSY ANNOUNCE UK TOUR FOR OCTOBER
Southern US Hard Rockers will tour in the wake of rave reviews of their 'Up The Dosage' new studio album...

les fest wildfire WILDFIRE FESTIVAL LAUNCHES KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN
The festival with a track record of successful events is offering festival goers a unique opportunity be part of making Wildfire even bigger and better...

wovenwar DEBUT WOVENWAR ALBUM LANDS ON NUMBER 36 ON THE BILLBOARD TOP 200
See Wovenwar live at their debut UK appearances on the current European tour...

evile EVILE ANNOUNCE NEW GUITARIST - EX- FALLEN FATE GUITARIST PIERS DONNO FULLER
After months of auditions and rehearsals the band are confident that they have found the perfect man for the job...

darkest era DARKEST ERA ANNOUNCE HEADLINE SHOWS IN BELFAST AND DUBLIN
These two dates are in addition to the already announced seven date UK tour in support of their latest album, 'Severance'...

buckcherry BUCKCHERRY SAY FUCK IT AND RELEASE THEIR NEW EP ON AUGUST 18TH
The EP is simply titled 'FUCK' - six songs that unapologetically rattle the speakers as much as they will the censors..."

orphaned land ORPHANED LAND LAUNCH VIDEO FOR 'LET THE TRUCE BE KNOWN'
"The tragedies we see in the Middle East are down to the fact that no negotiations, nor peace conventions, will ever help us achieve peace as long as hate, revenge, and self-victimisation are used as excuses for war..."

demonic resurrection PRO-FILMED FOOTAGE OF DEMONIC RESURRECTION AT WACKEN IS REVEALED
The band can be seen performing three numbers: 'The Demon King', 'Trail Of Devastation', and 'The Unrelenting Surge Of Vengeance'...

lacuna coil LACUNA COIL ANNOUNCE UK CO-HEADLINE TOUR WITH MOTIONLESS IN WHITE
"A melting pot of darkness, adrenaline, sick rock Metal and goth atmosphere is going to embrace you all soon..."

blackwolf tour PLANET ROCK PRESENTS BLACKWOLF, THE BREW & FIRE RED EMPRESS UK TOUR
Catch this sparkling line up on five dates this coming September...

mr big MR. BIG CONFIRM DETAILS OF NEW ALBUM "...THE STORIES WE COULD TELL"
The original line-up are back with some of their most powerful material to date and their signature hard rock sound...

neal morse NEAL MORSE LAUNCHES VIDEO FOR 'HEAVEN SMILED'
The opener from 'Songs From November' sees Morse in classic singer/songwriter mode...

hrh prog HRH PROG 3 ANNOUNCES RICK WAKEMAN TO HEADLINE NEXT SPRING'S EVENT
The Prog icon heads up an exceptional bill, with more to come...

billy idol BILLY IDOL ANNOUNCES UK LIVE DATES IN NOVEMBER
As well as the live dates, a new album and an autobiography will also be released this autumn...

mike portnoy MIKE PORTNOY TO JOIN BIGELF FOR UK/EUROPE TOUR
Portnoy has also contributed his drum work and arrangement skills to the band's latest album, 'Into The Maelstrom'....

martin barre MARTIN BARRE ANNOUNCES STUDIO ALBUM FEATURING TULL CLASSICS
'Order Of Play' is the studio version of the acclaimed show performing Tull classics with his talented live band...

accept ACCEPT REVEAL THIRD TRAILER DOCUMENTING NEW ALBUM 'BLIND RAGE'
Wolf Hoffmann talks about the ingredients needed to write a great song, as well as mentioning the guitarists who have influenced his playing...

avenged sevenfold AVENGED SEVENFOLD UNVEIL NEW TEASER FOR 'WAKING THE FALLEN: RESURRECTED'
"We have left no stone unturned in our quest to bring you the archived footage, rare and early recording and demos and live performances of the madness which set the pace for the Avenged Sevenfold we are today..."

hammerfall HAMMERFALL REVEAL THIRD ALBUM TRAILER FOR FORTHCOMING ALBUM '(r)EVOLUTION'
Watch for a sneak preview of the band's upcoming video for the track 'Hector's Hymn'...

tryptikon TRIPTYKON UNVEIL NEW VIDEO CLIP
The clip is an ominous visualisation of 'Aurorae', one of the most poignant and personal songs on 'Melana Chasmata'...

absolva BREAKING NEWS: DAN BATE LEAVES ABSOLVA; FURY UK LINE-UP REUNITED FOR EUROPEAN TOUR
"Although we're more than a little shocked at this turn of events, the situation has been entirely amicable and we have nothing but good to say about Dan..."

california breed CALIFORNIA BREED LINE-UP IS RE-ASSEMBLED
Bonham Out, Joey Castillo In - Bonham: "I wasn't going to be bullied into touring"...

wacken 2015 SAVATAGE TO REUNITE FOR WACKEN 2015 WHICH ALSO FEATURES TRANS SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA AND RUNNING WILD
The Savatage reunion gig will mark the band's first live performance in over a decade...

gus g GUS G. LAUNCHES NEW VIDEO FOR 'BLAME IT ON ME'
There are also videos of guitar tutorials and a recap of the recent European tour...

hammerfest HAMMERFEST ANNOUNCES HRH DOOM
It's an afternoon of Doom on Friday 13th March with a specialist stage...

persian risk PERSIAN RISK TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM 'WHO AM I'
The NWOBHM band, who reformed in 2012, are back with their third album...

the agonist THE AGONIST SET TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM 'EYE OF PROVIDENCE' IN NOVEMBER
The follow up to 'Prisoners' sees the debut of vocalist Vicky Psarakis...

sixx am MÖTLEY CRÜE'S NIKKI SIXX RELEASES NEW SIXX:A.M. ALBUM
Sixx:A.M announces long-awaited third album, 'Modern Vintage', with the first single available on August 4th ...

wolf cover WOLF PREMIERE VIDEO FOR 'SHARK ATTACK'
The video is taken from the album 'Devil Seed'. "No story, no acting, no bullshit - just full throttle velocity of in-your-face Heavy Metal..."

hammerfest 2015 HAMMERFEST ANNOUNCE MORE ACTS FOR MARCH 2015
Candlemass, Devilment, Raging Speedhorn, Hell, Hirax & many more join the event in Wales...

les fest wildfire LES-FEST ANNOUNCES FIRST DOZEN BANDS FOR 2015 AND A NEW NAME
Les-Fest-Wildfire is back in June 15 with Tygers of Pan Tang revealed as the first headliner...

striker STRIKER RELEASE PREVIEW TRACK FROM UPCOMING 'CITY OF GOLD' ALBUM
"It's about Heavy Metal and a good time. If you're having a party at your house, then put our CD into the player and drink some beer..."

devin townsend DEVIN TOWNSEND REVEALS 2ND 'CASUALTIES OF COOL' VIDEO
The haunting video for 'Flight' is available to watch now. The long awaited stock of physical CDs of 'Casualties of Cool' have also arrived...
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