Bunhill: Rock in a hard place

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The Independent Online
The battle is on for London's premier rock venue, the Town & Country in Kentish Town. The club and its twin T&C 2, a few miles east in rather less trendy Holloway Road, are threatened with closure - or conversion into bingo halls. The owner of both venues, Folgate Estates, is refusing to renew their leases.

The possibility of closure has sent the rock world into a spin. The Town & Country was an Irish dance hall called the Forum a mere seven years ago, but since then rock and pop artists and groups, from Tom Jones to the Eurythmics, have played the club. Megastars such as Lionel Ritchie have preferred to perform there, although they could easily have filled far larger venues.

The Irish connection has remained, however, with the Pogues celebrating St Patrick's Day at the club.

This is a trifle ironic, because among the directors of Folgate Estates, a private company with assets of more than pounds 21m, is 86-year-old John Murphy Snr - known to Londoners as the contractor responsible for most of the holes dug in their roads these past couple of decades and apparently widely revered in the Irish community as a generous father figure.

The rock battle goes back to 1989, when fashion-conscious Camden Council not only refused Folgate planning permission to redevelop the Town & Country site but also listed the building. The club was granted a three-year extension to its lease, but the new contract included an unusual clause preventing the club operators from talking to the press. This reflected a Murphy tradition of not talking to the press - indeed, a voice on the telephone told me as early as Tuesday morning that the company was shut for the holidays, which seemed to start early in Ireland.

Camden is still fighting the T&C cause. Even if it fails, the lessees are sworn to continue the good work - although they are not sure where. They are just sorry that they may have to leave a venue where they have managed to win over the police and initially sceptical neighbours and have attracted a thriving group of pubs, late- night grocers and bistros of all nationalities, all of which would fade if T&C closed down.

(Photograph omitted)