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


chris dale

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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...

April 2015: Undiscovered Kisstory: The Kiss Drummer Auditions Of 1980
March 2015: Matthew Trippe RIP - The strange case of the man who would be Nikki Sixx
November 2014: Kiss: 'Love Gun' Deluxe Edition
October 2014: Mr. Big – Live Review at Koko, London
September 2014: Mr. Big: 'The Stories We Could Tell' album review
September 2013: Intensive Bass Course with Billy Sheehan
August 2013: Booking Agents vs Promoters
July 2013: Rock and Metal Pub Quiz
June 2013: Communication Tips For European Festivals, Or How To Learn A Language In An Evening
May 2013: Storm Thorgerson (1944-2013) RIP
April 2013: Daily Mail Columnist Richard Littlejohn Sinks To New Low With Anti-Heavy Metal Article
April 2013: The Future Of Classic Bands
March 2013: Smashing Pumpkins Video Shoot
Febuary 2013: Ten Years On Total Rock
January 2013: Kiss Follow Up To Monster 2013
December 2012: Kiss Reformation Magick
November 2012: Exclusive Interview With Geoff Tate
November 2012: Morally Worrying Session
October 2012: Kiss 'Monster' Review
October 2012: The Best Invention Of All Time
September 2012: A Conversation With Rudy Sarzo
August 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 3
July 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 2
June 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 1
May 2012: Managers v Producers
April 2012: Kiss 'Monster' Album Preview
March 2012: London Venue's Nazi Past?
February 2012: How Not to Join the Ozzy Osbourne Band
January 2012: Metal Evilution
December 2011: Take Your Pick Competition
November 2011: The Pandora's Box Of Pop
October 2011: Tank Tour Diary 2011
September 2011: Festival Stage Collapses
August 2011: Bruce Air, The Early Days
July 2011: European Festival Round-Up
June 2011: Bernie Torme Proud To Be Part Of MT Ozzy Article
June 2011: Who's Your Favourite Ozzy Guitarist?
May 2011: Japanese Tsunami Disaster
April 2011: 10,000 Tank Albums!
March 2011: Death Metal Session!
6th February 2011: Gary Moore (4th April 1952 - 6th February 2011)
February 2011: Recording Bass at Steve Harris'
January 2011: A Column About Columns



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American fans can experience live versions of the new tracks, in addition to signature hits throughout the limited-run, 19-city solo tour...

fields of nephilim FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM REVISIT 'ELIZIUM' AT THE SUMMER SOLSTICE SHOW
Fields Of The Nephilim revisit their most iconic album for the first time since its release...

ben ash acm CARCASS'S BEN ASH JOINS ACM LONDON'S TEACHING FACULTY
The Academy of Contemporary Music is extremely excited to bring its unique brand of education to London...

exodus EXODUS ANNOUNCED FOR 'BATTLE OF THE BAYS' UK SHOWS WITH OBITUARY
"We can't wait to see you all in the pit on such an epic, heavy tour!! Look out Europe you've been warned..."

twilight TWILIGHT FORCE TO RELEASE 'HEROES OF MIGHTY MAGIC' ON AUGUST 26th
"While we are still staying true to the essence of Power Metal, the songs, sounds and magic adventures have all evolved from the once drake hatchling into a colossal arcane arch-dragon..."

dark funeral DARK FUNERAL ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN HEADLINE TOUR
Dark Funeral will go on the road with their label comrades Krisiun and Deserted Fear...

bloodstock BLOODSTOCK'S FIRST M2TM FINALS WINNERS ANNOUNCED
The bill for the August spectacular is starting to fill up as quality fresh blood joins the line up from the Metal 2 The Masses finals...

wakrat RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE BASSIST SIGNS WAKRAT TO EARACHE RECORDS
"We have put a shit load of blood and sweat into this and we want it back! Our mission is to attack modern music and smash the grid. Unapologetic, unrelenting, unbridled and uncensored..."

alter bridge ALTER BRIDGE SIGN WITH NAPALM RECORDS
"We are very excited to see what the future brings and look forward to reconnecting with our fans in 2016..."

stone free STONE FREE FESTIVAL ANNOUNCE FULL SCHEDULE AND FURTHER ADDITIONS TO THE BILL
Wilko Johnson headlines the Indigo at The O2 on Sunday, with many more additions to a full and varied programme...

wolf hoffman WOLF HOFFMANN RELEASES 'SCHERZO' – THE FIRST SINGLE FROM 'HEADBANGERS SYMPHONY'
"I have always incorporated classical music in my songwriting with Accept, especially with 'Metal Heart', but I constantly felt there was so much more that I could do..."

barb wire dolls BARB WIRE DOLLS ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM 'DESPERATE' OUT ON 22nd JULY 2016
The album is released via Motörhead Music. After seeing Barb Wire Dolls live, Lemmy took an immediate interest in the band and placed them under his supportive wing...

epica powerwolf EPICA AND POWERWOLF ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN TOUR: LONDON TICKETS ON SALE NOW
"I really can't wait to be back on the road again and to see the music, the energy and our lovely fans become one. Until then!"

rock am ring BLACK SABBATH ROCK AM RING PERFORMANCE CANCELLED AFTER LIGHTNING STRIKES
Festival organizers vowed to resume the open-air event but local authorities revoked their license in the interests of fan safety...

queen and adam lambert QUEEN AND ADAM LAMBERT AT ROCK IN RIO, LISBON: PROFESSIONAL VIDEO FOOTAGE ONLINE HERE
"There's never going to be another and I'm not replacing him. That's not what I'm doing..."

ac dc AC/DC GO DOWN A STORM AS THEY STRAT THEIR STUFF IN LONDON
"Axl was amazing! His voice was incredible and he commanded the stage; plus they came on fifteen minutes earlier than scheduled!"

iron maiden IRON MAIDEN RELEASE OFFICIAL PERFORMANCE VIDEO FOR 'DEATH OR GLORY'
"He came over before we started recording and we wrote 'Speed Of Light' and 'Death Or Glory'."

alestorm ALESTORM SIGN NEW CONTRACT WITH NAPALM RECORDS... IN RUM
"Unfortunately we only had white rum left (all the good stuff had already been drunk), so our signatures are invisible. We'll leave that one to the lawyers to sort out."

ac dc AC/DC ANNOUNCE RESCHEDULED US TOUR DATES
"This band has got a ton of energy and you're going to see a fusion of all that terrific chemistry that we have felt ever since rehearsals in Lisbon..."

ricky warwick RICKY WARWICK & THE FIGHTING HEARTS ANNOUNCE UK TOUR
"We can't wait to get back out there and play a full length set and I am delighted that my old friends Vice Squad will be special guests..."

johnny rotten JOHNNY ROTTEN: "I WAS BANNED FROM THE BBC FOR SPEAKING OUT AGAINST JIMMY SAVILE SEX CRIMES."
"If you said anything you'd be off playlists, but that didn't bother me as I was doing a good job of that independently..."

bad company WAS BREAKING NEWS: BAD COMPANY ANNOUNCE THE SWAN SONG UK TOUR WITH THREE ORIGINAL MEMBERS
"Returning to the UK with Bad Company where it all began 40 plus years ago is full circle for the band and the fans. It's always a pleasure to play in the UK."

saxon WAS BREAKING NEWS: SAXON ANNOUNCE UK TOUR WITH FASTWAY AND GIRLSCHOOL
"I think this line-up is unique, you don't wanna miss it. Looking forward to battering some halls... Welcome to the Metal church!"

dead daisies WAS BREAKING NEWS: THE DEAD DAISIES ANNOUNCE UK FESTIVAL HEADLINE APPEARANCE AND DEBUT US HEADLINE GIG
"We have had some amazing bands perform at Planet Rockstock over the years and the Dead Daisies are right up there with the best of them."

wildfire festival WAS BREAKING NEWS: WILDFIRE FESTIVAL ANNOUNCE THE HORRORFLY STAGE
"For those that often think we don't do heavy, the latest additions should change that perception..."

sabaton SABATON AND ACCEPT ANNOUNCE FIRST DATES OF 'THE LAST TOUR'
"'The Last Tour' will be the biggest and best tour of Sabaton ever. It is the tour we have been looking forward to do for all these years!"

manowar MANOWAR ANNOUNCE FIRST DATES OF THE FINAL BATTLE FAREWELL TOUR
The tour promises to be monstrous in terms of both number of dates and production and the first nine dates will be in Germany beginning on Novermber 24th 2017...

pink floyd PINK FLOYD POSTAGE STAMPS UNVEILED TO COMMEMORATE FIFTY YEARS OF THE BAND
The stamps are available to pre-order on the Post Office website and will be physically available in 8,000 UK post offices...

the tubes THE TUBES ANNOUNCE 'MONDO PULP' UK TOUR FOR OCTOBER
"I embrace my British heritage; the beer and the fish and chips and the best rock and roll fans in the world..."

fear factory FEAR FACTORY ANNOUNCE INTIMATE BLOODSTOCK WARM-UP SHOW IN BRIGHTON
This performance will precede their highly anticipated appearance at renowned Catton Park based metal festival...

tax the heat TAX THE HEAT ANNOUNCE FURTHER UK TOUR DATES INCLUDING AS GUESTS TO TERRORVISION
'Fed To The Lions' shows a band bursting with creativity and energy - previous singles 'Some Sympathy', 'Highway Home' and 'Fed To The Lions' sit alongside future classics...

sinsaedum JOEY JORDISON AND DRAGONFORCE'S FRED LECLERCQ REVEAL NEW BAND, SINSAENUM
"Joey Jordison sent me an SMS to ask what I was up to, so I told him about those death Metal songs..."

manowar WAS BREAKING NEWS: MANOWAR ANNOUNCE FINAL BATTLE: NEXT TOUR WILL BE THE FAREWELL TOUR
"We are calling all Manowarriors to prepare yourselves now and to join us for The Final Battle!"

bloodstock BLOODSTOCK CONFIRM MORE BANDS
Bloodstock festival is excited to announce another batch of bands for August's event at Catton Park...

jared james nichols JARED JAMES NICHOLS' NEW SINGLE AND OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO ONLINE NOW - LISTEN HERE
"We're really excited about the brand new kick-ass single," says Jared. "I'm positive it'll kick-start the shows into high gear."

moonsorrow FINNISH PAGAN METALLERS MOONSORROW OFFICIALLY ENDORSE CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN FOR DOCUMENTARY ON BAND'S HISTORY
Fans from as far apart as the US, Hungary and the UK took part in writing an unofficial biography of the band...

the dead daisies WAS BREAKING NEWS: THE DEAD DAISIES NEW ALBUM 'MAKE SOME NOISE' UNLEASHED 5th AUGUST
"The record is a straight up rock n' roll record. Very raw and punchy. We didn't do lots of overdubbing of the guitars which I loved..."

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