Rock music venue to be run by fresh firm

THE TOWN & Country Club in north London will stay open for music - but under new management and with a new name, writes Giles Smith.

The present tenants, Ollie Smith and John Wallace, were told last autumn that they would have to leave the club when their lease expires next month. It was widely assumed the landlord had other plans for the site.

But now the lease has been handed to their chief rivals, the Mean Fiddler Organisation, which will take over on 24 March. The venue will be known as the Forum, reverting to the name it held until 1978, before Mr Smith and Mr Wallace converted the former dance hall into one of London's most popular music venues.

The building, in Kentish Town, is Grade II listed and was never in danger of demolition. But the landlord, Folgate Estates, whose chief shareholder is John Murphy, the building trade millionaire, has not until now issued a statement about the site's future, leading to speculation about closure.

A campaign was mounted to save the venue. Several hundred fans protested outside the building last month. Even Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones spoke up for the club on stage during his concert there in December.

The Town & Country holds 1,800 people and represents for many rock bands an attractive mid-station between the small clubs and the giant venues like the Hammersmith Apollo.

The Mean Fiddler Organisation, run by Vince Power, now controls five London venues - the Forum, the Grand, the Powerhaus, Subterania, and the Jazz Cafe.