|Save The Starlite Ballroom|
Albertina McNeil writes about this historic venue facing demolition
More than twenty years ago a friend told me that Pink Floyd had played gigs somewhere in the leafy suburb of Greenford where he lived. At the time I put it down to wishful thinking (he was an ardent Floyd fan) but it seems that he was right.
The Starlite Ballroom, a forgotten piece of the UK’s music history, is right under our noses in the London Borough of Ealing and is now at risk of demolition.
During the 1960s this former Odeon cinema in Allendale Road became a venue for bands that now have a global following. The Who, David Bowie, Cream and the Small Faces all played there, alongside Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours and the Gods, on the circuit of small local venues.
The cinema had closed in 1956, after twenty-one years, and its interior and external appearance were changed radically, although parts of the original building, designed by Arthur Starkey, were retained.
Eventually the Starlite became a bingo hall, then a snooker hall, and then it closed altogether. It has been empty and derelict for years.
At the moment it is difficult to believe that this was the place where Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck strutted their stuff, even harder to think of a cinema audience of over a thousand watching “The Bride of Frankenstein”, but it could be cleaned up and turned into something useful and relevant for the local community, as well as becoming a draw for tourists.
It has been proposed that the building should be demolished, along with the adjoining flats and shops, and replaced with another block of flats. From what I’ve seen of the plan the new building is unlikely to enhance the area.
There are other considerations – a concentration of new residents means increased pressure on the local water supply and an undoubted increase in the number of cars parked in the vicinity. Twenty-first century human nature dictates that every adult resident in that block with a driving licence will also be a car owner.
Local shopkeepers have made positive noises about the proposed development, failing to recognise that new residents will drive to the nearest supermarket rather than patronising small local shops.
There is also the issue of the loss of heritage. Greenford had two other music venues that are worthy of note , the Granada cinema (now a Tesco supermarket)
and the Oldfield Tavern (now a block of flats), both in Greenford Road.
The Granada was played by the Rolling Stones and the Everly Brothers, while the Oldfield was the place where a young local band asked a drummer called Keith Moon to join them. They became the Who. Both these places are a walk, cycle or bus ride away from the London Motorcycle Museum which gets visitors from around the world. People visit Sudbury Town station just to look at the architecture so why not get them to walk a short distance to the Starlite Ballroom, reused as an exhibition space? Why not create a walk based on the borough’s music history? We have the Ealing Blues Club – why not save the Starlite as well?
My hope is that this issue will bring out the imagination and resourcefulness of local residents.
We have an opportunity to do something that would benefit all of us and put Greenford on the map.
Please take a look at the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/SaveTheStarliteGreenford
16th May 2012