Tunbridge Wells' Forum scores NME top music venue award

 

Royal Tunbridge Wells may be the traditional voice of Middle England’s morality but the busybodies are in danger of being drowned out after one of its nightspots was named the best small music venue in the UK.

 

Music industry bible NME today awarded the title of Britain’s best small venue for 2012 to Tunbridge Wells Forum. This site, which was once a public toilet and has hosted groups including Oasis and Coldplay, celebrates its 20th anniversary next year.

The Forum triumphed out of a shortlist of 10 venues from around the country, including Bristol Thekla, the Stoke Sugarmill, Norwich Arts Centre and the Belfast Limelight. Outgoing NME editor Krissi Murison said the Tunbridge venue's "excellent booking policy, esteemed national reputation and undeniable passion for music shone through".

Jason Dormon, who co-founded The Forum, said the award was it was testament “to all those who have put so much time and effort into making the venue what it is”. From those painting the walls and unblocking the toilets to those who bought tickets. 

Tunbridge’s reputation may even have helped. “It’s a bastion of middle class England in Tunbridge Wells. That helps as people can rebel here and really stand out,” Dormon said. “We hope this national recognition for the town reminds everybody locally just what an incredible asset The Forum has been and can continue to be if local people and organisations support it.”

The independent music venue, which can hold up to 250 people, was set up by Mr Dormon, Michael Oyarzabal, Peter Hoare and Mark Davyd. They secured the lease to the building and opened in January 1993

“It was an old magnolia toilet block that was being used for brass rubbings. It was actually a really good size for what we wanted,” Dormon said. 

The Forum had a “honeymoon period” of selling out for several years as the music scene at the time “was running high,” Dormon said. “Then we made it to five years, then ten. Our motto was ‘we’re still here’. Every year was an achievement.” He added: “For venues of this size it’s not about money but passion.”

It hosted a series of acts on the cusp of hitting mainstream recognition. Dormon said: “The bands would work really hard, they were learning their craft in these smaller venues. They needed to learn how to win over an audience of that size.”

Chart toppers including Muse, Biffy Clyro and Mumford & Sons have all played in the venue and Adele was a supporting act shortly before receiving mainstream recognition.

The historic town became synonymous with the moral middle class during the 1950s, when the sign off to newspaper correspondence “Disgusted, of Tunbridge Wells” became famous.

Residents and town councillors attempted to change the perception in 2009, and tried to introduce “Delighted, of Tunbridge Wells” instead. As a nod to its heritage, The Forum last year staged Disgusting in Tunbridge Wells, a punk music festival headlined by local band Anti-Nowhere League. Sid Vicious, bassist of the Sex Pistols, lived in the town as did Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan.

Dormon said the stereotype does occasionally ring true. “We still have to deal with middle class reactionaries; there will always be a bit of that. Every few years, you have to win over a new generation.”

Earlier this year, Tunbridge newspaper the Kent and Sussex Courier was moved to ask its readers “Forget the ‘posh’ tag are we cool?” The paper suggested it was an easy target for “reverse snobs, due to its large contingency of wealthy residents and the Royal prefix”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

The Jenrick Group: Resident Maintenance Manager

£50000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Resident Maintenance...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'