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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...

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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


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orphaned land METAL MUSIC IS BIGGER THAN WHAT POLITICS CAN OFFER: ORPHANED LAND BRING ISRAEL AND PALESTINE TOGETHER
"We are the ambassadors of peace, more than our foreign ministry, or prime minister, or authors..."

madball MADBALL REVEAL OFFICIAL VIDEO FOR 'BORN STRONG' FEATURING CANDACE PUOPOLO FROM WALLS OF JERICHO
The track is taken from the album 'Hardcore Lives', released June 30th...

metallica METALLICA RELEASE NEW SONG
'Lords of Summer - First Pass Version' gets official release after being premiered on the first night of the current tour...

ted nugent kamp "TED NUGENT KAMP FOR KIDS" CELEBRATES 25TH ANNUAL SUMMER "KAMP"
When he's not being a guitar icon, Ted Nugent is on a mission to improve young lives. New album 'Shutup&Jam!' is out July 8...

massive wagons MASSIVE WAGONS RELEASE SINGLE AND NEW VIDEO 'RED DRESS'
The video incudes circus performances from the girls at Monster Cirque in the first release from the album 'Fight The System'...

black state highway THE DEBUT ALBUM FROM BLACK STATE HIGHWAY IS OUT ON 18TH AUGUST
The highly anticipated release is packed full of heavy riff-based rock...

helmet HELMET ANNOUNCE 'BETTY' 20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR OF EUROPE FOR AUTUMN 2014
UK dates in Glasgow, Manchester, London now added due to popular demand ...

wacken LIVE AT WACKEN 2013 TO BE RELEASED AS DVD/ BluRay / 2 CD
Experience the world's biggest Metal Festival at home and be in with a chance to win a Lifetime Membership...

uncle rust UNCLE RUST ANNOUNCE AUGUST UK TOUR
The recently formed London based rock/Metal band will undertake a set of UK dates in August 2014...

blitzkreig BLITZKRIEG ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN TOUR FOR SEPTEMBER 2014
The band will visit five countries on their only tour this year...

sonisphere LATE NIGHT ENTERTAINMENT AT SONISPHERE ANNOUNCED
Only two weeks away - get ready to continue the party after the headliners leave the stage...

finntroll FINNTROLL REVEAL LIVE FOOTAGE OF SEMINAL TRACK 'TROLLHAMMAREN', FILMED AT THEIR LIVE ALBUM RECORDING SHOW IN AMSTERDAM
"Lock up your daughters, kegs of rum and men of God, for The Trolls from Up North are coming for you...live!..."

dragonforce DRAGONFORCE REVEAL NEW VIDEO 'THE GAME' (FEAT. MATT HEAFY OF TRIVIUM)
The track is taken from the album 'Maximum Overload', which will be released in August...

motorhead aftershock MOTÖRHEAD RELEASE 'AFTERSHOCK - TOUR EDITION' ON 7TH JULY
The album is released with a live CD. It proves one major thing no-one should ever forget...they are Motörhead, and they play rock'n'roll!...

grave GRAVE REISSUE 'SOULLESS' ON VINYL ON JULY 14
The limited editions of the third album by the Swedish Death Metal act are issued in several colours...

wolf WOLF ANNOUNCE DETAILS FOR NEW ALBUM 'DEVIL SEED'
All the elements are aligned for this fierce slab of pure Heavy Metal mayhem...

darkest era DARKEST ERA RELEASE VIDEO FOR 'BEYOND THE GREY VEIL'
Watch the thematic centerpiece for the album 'Severance' right here...

hordes of belial DEF CON ONE ANNOUNCED AS HEADLINERS FOR HORDES OF BELIAL V: A 2014 SCOTTISH EXCLUSIVE
The Geordie quartet will play the Dundee event along with other high quality Metal bands...

sikth SIKTH ANNOUNCE HEADLINE TOUR OF THE UK
"We decided we had to do a full UK tour, just one show was never gonna be enough for us... Also we aim to add some 'never played before live songs' too"...

tankard TANKARD ANNOUNCE HILARIOUS NEW ANIMATED VIDEO FOR 'FOOLED BY YOUR GUTS'
The latest track from 'R.I.B.' (Rest In Beer) has been created by producers from The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology...

dead daisies THE DEAD DAISIES ANNOUNCE US SUMMER DATES WITH KISS & DEF LEPPARD
The band are ready to "bring some some kick ass, analog rock and roll music to all of you with the legendary KISS and Def Leppard and help make your summer as memorable as possible"...

suicide silence SUICIDE SILENCE ANNOUNCE ONE-OFF INTIMATE UK SHOW AT THE BORDERLINE, LONDON
The Borderline show is on 27th June. The Metal heavyweights will also headline Yorkshire's Ghostfest on 28th June...

Eluveitie ELUVEITIE RELEASE FIRST SINGLE 'KING' ONLINE, TAKEN FROM THEIR FORTHCOMING ALBUM 'ORIGINS'
The Swiss Folk-Metallers release a mighty tale of the historical figure Ambicatus...

sikth UK TECH-FEST WELCOMES THE GODFATHERS OF UK TECH-METAL SIKTH TO THE BILL
Djent monsters Monuments and acoustic guitar master Jon Gomm also join the line up...

escape the fate ESCAPE THE FATE ANNOUNCE UK TOUR FOR OCTOBER 2014
Now it is time for UK audiences to get their first look at the new look Escape The Fate...

anthrax ANTHRAX ANNOUNCE LIMITED EDITION COLOURED VINYLS AS PART OF THRASH BACK CAMPAIGN
Celebrate 30 years of Thrash with reissues from Anthrax and other classic bands...

gatecreeper GATECREEPER RELEASE VIDEO FOR THEIR SELF TITLED EP
'Force Fed' is available as one of the tracks on the pay what you want download...

jonny morelli JONNY MORELLI, DRAUGR DRUMMER DIES IN CAR ACCIDENT
Condolences start to pour in for the musician, tattoo artist and writer...

at the gates AT THE GATES ANNOUNCE FIRST EVER IRISH SHOW, BLOODSHOT DAWN TO SUPPORT
Swedish Melodic Death Metal pioneers to play Dublin in January 2015...

nita strauss ALICE COOPER ADDS NEW GUITARIST NITA STRAUSS TO LINEUP FOR 2014 SUMMER/FALL TOURS
The LA guitar wiz will join the tour in Michigan on June 26...

whitechapel WHITECHAPEL PREMIERE NEW VIDEO 'WORSHIP THE DIGITAL AGE'
The clip is the first full performance video from 'Our Endless War' and was directed by acclaimed director David Brodsky...

behemoth BEHEMOTH, DECAPITATED & GRAND MAGUS ANNOUNCED FOR DECEMBER TOUR
A chance for the UK to see 'The Satanist' performed in all its hellish glory...

steel panther STEEL PANTHER ANNOUNCE THEIR BIGGEST EVER UK TOUR
The dates include a night at the legendary Wembley arena in March 2015...

alestorm ALESTORM UNVEIL NEW MUSIC VIDEO FOR 'DRINK'
If you need a new anthem of the summer then look no further...

rik mayall RIK MAYALL'S 'NOBLE ENGLAND' SONG HEADING FOR NUMBER ONE SPOT AS ENGLAND'S WORLD CUP ANTHEM
The beloved late comedian looks set to storm the UK Top 10 with his lost anthem...

red dragon cartel EXCLUSIVE: RED DRAGON CARTEL GIGS BACK ON - BAND TO PLAY MANCHESTER AND BUCKLEY THURSDAY AND FRIDAY
Tickets for both shows will be at the special price of £10 as a gesture to fans who were inconvenienced by last weekend's events...

brutal truth DAN LILKER OF BRUTAL TRUTH INVITES YOU TO OBSCENE EXTREME FESTIVAL
This will most likely be the very last chance fans will get to see Danny and Brutal Truth live in Europe...

belphegor BELPHEGOR PUT THE FIRST 'CONJURING THE DEAD' STUDIO TRAILER ONLINE
The Black Metal giants are gearing up to unleash their tenth album ...

ill nino ILL NIÑO RELEASE ALBUM TITLE AND NEW SINGLE
Every pre-order for Till Death, La Familia will receive an instant download of 'Live Like There's No Tomorrow' and will automatically be entered to win an ESP guitar autographed by Ill Niño. ...

kobra and the lotus KOBRA AND THE LOTUS WILL BE OPENING ACT FOR KISS AND DEF LEPPARD THIS SUMMER
The new album 'High Priestess' will be released in September...

triaxis becky TRIAXIS ANNOUNCE NEW BASSIST & NEW ALBUM PLANS
Outstanding bassist Becky Baldwin joins the Welsh Metallers for third studio album...

rival sons tour RIVAL SONS ANNOUNCE DECEMBER UK TOUR
Following their current run of sold-out dates, the Californians return this winter with their unmissable live show...

spike frankie miller SPIKE ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF '100% PURE FRANKIE MILLER' IN SEPTEMBER 2014
The celebratory album features Ronnie Wood, Andy Fraser, Simon Kirke, Ian Hunter and more...

arch enemy ARCH ENEMY REVEAL NEW VIDEO FOR 'NO MORE REGRETS'
The album 'War Eternal' is out now worldwide and the band hit the road from July to December...

sanctuary SANCTUARY FINISH RECORDING NEW ALBUM AND ANNOUNCE THE RELEASE DATE
'The Year The Sun Died' will be out on September 29th in Europe...

rock metal circus ROCK AND METAL CIRCUS ANNOUNCE NEW VENUE FOR 2015
Roll up to Northants for Voodoo Six, Tygers of Pan Tang, Wolf plus some of the hottest new acts around...

aor 3 NIGHT RANGER TO HEADLINE HRH AOR 3
Adrenaline-fuleed rock and roll is the latest addition to the bill...

alz grinder ALZ-GRINDERS PLAN GRINDING FOR A CURE VOL 4
Over 300 extreme bands have contributed to the fundraising albums so far...

cambridge rock festival LINE-UP FOR CAMBRIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL ALMOST COMPLETE
The main stage is booked and stages 2 and 3 are filling up fast...

headbangers open air ANVIL REPLACE DEATH ANGEL FOR HEADBANGERS OPEN AIR
After Death Angel cancelled their entire European tour, Anvil step in with a special "best of" set...

uli jon roth ULI JON ROTH CANCELS GUITAR GODS DATES IN NORTH AMERICA
It's official - this guitar god has been grounded by visa problems...

joe bonamassa JOE BONAMASSA ANNOUNCES NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'DIFFERENT SHADES OF BLUE'
The new album of all original material lands on 22nd September...

red dragon cartel BREAKING NEWS: RED DRAGON CARTEL ISSUE STATEMENT OVER WOLVERHAMPTON GIG CANCELLATION
The band made a barbed official statement denying the reasons for the cancellation made by the promoter without actually addressing the main issue...

red dragon cartel BREAKING NEWS: RED DRAGON CARTEL CANCEL WOLVERHAMPTON SHOW, REST OF UK TOUR IS OFF, DOWNLOAD IN JEOPARDY
An argument broke out between the band and promoter Denise Dale who was representing Metal Music Bookings and Management...

uli jon roth ULI JON ROTH FACES CANCELLATION OF HIS PARTICIPATION IN GUITAR GODS TOUR
"The tour is in jeopardy...this has never happened in over thirty years of visas"...

les fest wiston LES-FEST ANNOUNCES MAIN STAGE TIMES
Get the latest from Scotland's premier Metal festival right here...

beermageddon METAL FEST BEERMAGEDDON STRENGTHEN THE LINE UP YET AGAIN...WITH EVEN MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED
Jaldaboath, Monumentomb and Furyborn are among the latest additions...

blues pills DORIAN SORRIAUX FROM BLUES PILLS PERFORMS A GUITAR PLAY-THROUGH OF THE BAND'S NEW TRACK
Watch and learn as Dorian deconstructs 'High Class Woman'...

cj wildheart CJ WILDHEART RELEASES FIRST SOLO ALBUM IN SEVEN YEARS
'Mable' is available for pre-order now via Pledgemusic. CJ will also be releasing his own brand of hot sauces this year...

hrh aor3 HRH AOR ANNOUNCE FIRST 10 BANDS
FM, Dare, The Poodles and Starz lead the charge for March 2015...

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