Rock veterans fight to save Electric Ballroom

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The Independent Culture

It started life during the Second World War as an Irish dance hall, became a "monument to rock 'n' roll" as the Carousel club and, in the1970s, opened as the Electric Ballroom.

The era that followed, one of the most exciting and innovative in British music, saw the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Ian Dury and U2 perform there.

Now fans of "indie" music, including Ballroom veterans such as Bob Geldof, Madness and Nick Cave, have united in opposition to plans to bulldoze it.

They say plans by London Underground to build a seven-storey block as part of the £100m redevelopment of the Tube station will tear the heart out of Camden Town, one of the most popular tourist attractions in London. At the opening of a public inquiry this week, London Underground said the Tube project was necessary to cope with the 23 million people that use the station each year. Weekends are the busiest period. But locals people, emboldened when Ken Livingstone, the London Mayor, vetoed plans for a 14-storey scheme, are holding out. They say the project would also threaten Buck Street market, one of six in the area. The plans were being considered by Camden Council until the Government stepped in, arguing that the area's popularity with overseas tourists meant the project had"repercussions beyond the local area".Observers say that the inquiry, which is expected to last six to eight weeks, is a test case for London Underground which could go on to claim "above-ground rights" in proposed developments in Covent Garden, Leicester Square and South Kensington.

Opponents of the scheme fear that the project will attract more chain operators to the area, replacing the independent retailers that are the main attraction for tourists.

Suggs, the lead singer of the pop group Madness, said: "It's been difficult watching the transformation of Camden Town because progress must run its course. But when does it stop and where? They are proposing a monstrous new Tube station which will obliterate the Ballroom."

The singer Boy George said: "The Electric Ballroom is a monument to rock 'n' roll ... it will be very sad to see that go."

The Electric Ballroom was bought in 1938 by Bill Fuller and is now run by his daughter Kate, who says the scheme is "excessive".

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