Sunday, 31 January 2016

Kilburn National Club

This popular music venue was at 234 Kilburn High Road, on the corner of Messina Avenue. Many famous musicians including Johnny Cash and David Bowie played there. We look at the original building which was the Grange Cinema, and what happened when the National closed and was taken over by two different church groups.

Grange Cinema
The Grange was a large mansion standing in grounds of nine and a half acres and with a frontage to Kilburn High Road. It was the home of Ada Peters the widow of a wealthy coach builder who made coaches for Queen Victoria. Following Ada’s death in 1910, the property was sold. The new owner was Oswald Stoll, a major name in the entertainment world who had already built the London Coliseum in St Martin’s Lane, near Leicester Square. Stoll wanted to erect another Coliseum theatre in Kilburn. In fact, progress overtook him and instead of a theatre, the 2,028 seat Grange cinema opened on 30 July 1914. This remained the biggest cinema in Kilburn until the huge Gaumont State opened in December 1937 with over 4,000 seats making it the largest cinema in Europe. The Grange cinema finally closed on 14 June 1975.

Grange Cinema in the 1930s

Butty’s Club and Dance Hall
Michael ‘Butty’ Sugrue, who ran the Admiral Nelson pub in Carlton Vale Kilburn and the Wellington in Shepherd’s Bush, opened his club in the old Grange Cinema on 23 Feb 1976. As a Kerry man he particularly catered for the Irish community. He was a wrestler, circus performer and was known as ‘Ireland’s Strongest Man’, able to lift four 56lb weights attached to a cart axle and dragging a cart filled with ten men using a rope clenched between his teeth. Butty was also an entrepreneur and a great publicist, and he persuaded Muhammad Ali to go to Dublin to fight his sparring partner, Alvin ‘Blue’ Lewis in July 1972. Closer to home, he persuaded Mick Meaney a barman at the Admiral Nelson, to break the world record for being buried alive. In April 1968 journalists joined huge crowds to watch as Mick emerged after 61 days underground. There are video clips of Butty on YouTube:

Butty’s club ran until at least 1980 and so overlapped with the National Club.

Kilburn National Ballroom or the Kilburn National Club
The cinema became the Kilburn National Club which ran from 15 Dec 1976 until 1999. It was owned by the Wembley building firm of Patrick, John and Tom Carey. The Carey Brothers came from Tipperary. It was an ideal venue for bands and many important groups played there.

In July 1991 an application to demolish the Grange was turned down by Camden Council as earlier that year, English Heritage had protected the building by awarding it Grade 2 listed status. When the owners wanted to replace it with a new leisure complex in 1993, this was again refused.

The director Ian Softly, used the National for his film about the Beatles called ‘Backbeat’ (1994). The venue was used to show the Beatles in the Star Club in Hamburg.

The Kilburn National was closed in 1999 and the building remained empty for a few years.

Victory Christian Centre
The VCC, an evangelical group moved into the building in July 2001. They had previously been in 339 Finchley Road but needed larger premises as the congregation grew. The site in Finchley Road was the old International College building, which has since been demolished.

When Douglas Goodman and his wife Erica, took over VCC in 1996 it had fewer than 100 members. They started a new church in Wembley and increased the congregation to 3,000. Footballer John Fashanu and his family were among the worshipers. Members contributed 10% of their income and the annual income of the VCC was £3.5M. Pastor Goodman, who preached in an American evangelical style, was a former bus driver. He spent lavishly on Mercedes and Porsche cars and expensive holidays and had a large house in Collingtree Northants.

After a complaint, the Charity Commission carried out an investigation and closed the church for financial mismanagement in December 2002. In May 2004 Douglas Goodman appeared at the Old Bailey, charged with indecently assaulting young women members of the church. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG).
The building remained empty until a second evangelical group took over the site in 2003. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God began in Rio in 1977 and spread out across the world. Currently the old cinema is home to a UCKG Help Centre and the Church also has a large centre in the old Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park.

Some of the Bands who played at the Kilburn National

Aug 24
Mungo Jerry

July 24
The Bothy Band, a ‘BBC Live in Concert’ recording

August 7
Dexys Midnight Runners

April 28
Killing Joke

Feb 18
Inspiral Carpets

May 25
New Order

August 16
The Alarm

The Undertones

Dec 17
Echo and the Bunnymen

March 13
Psychic TV

March 19
Sigue Sigue Spuknik 

March 20

May 8
Big Audio Dynamite

Oct 23
The Smiths, recorded as the live album ‘Rank’

November 18
Cocteau Twins

Nov 25
The Mission

Dec 4
The Pogues

Dec 16
Jesus and Mary Chain

April 1
Simply Red

April 29
Spear of Destiny recorded for the ‘BBC In Concert’

Sept 17
Stiff Little Fingers

1988 and 1990
The Wolfe Tones, a very popular Irish band, regularly played at The National

April 29
Spear of Destiny

May 3
Happy Mondays

May 13
The Alarm

Oct 6
That Petrol Emotion

Nov 12
Ghost Dance

July 14
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Oct 2
The Alarm

14 December
The Sugarcubes, with Bjork
John McCooke, now of the 'Good Ship' in Kilburn High Road, said he was there standing next to Sinead O'Connor
Feb 20-22
The Waterboys

March 23
Sonic Youth

May 9
Pop Will Eat Itself

May 18
Killing Joke

June 28
Throwing Muses

June 29
Tin Machine, formed in 1988 and fronted by David Bowie

July 5
The Pixies

Oct 3
The The

Dec 20
The Jesus and Mary Chain
Primal Scream

Feb 20
The Mission

March 21
The Fall

March 26
The House of Love

June 30

September 19

October 24
Johnny Cash

Nov 1 and Nov 20
The Wedding Present

Nov 7-8
The Charlatans

Nov 27

March 6

May 12 and August 15

June 5
The Shamen

Oct 3

Oct 4
The Orb

Oct 24

Nov 1
James Taylor Quartet

Nov 7
Carter and the Unstoppable Sex Machine

Dec 5
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana

Dec 28
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin

May 3
The Cure

May 12
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana

Sept 9
The Young Gods

Oct 26
The Happy Mondays

Dec 11
Manic Street Preachers

Dec 13

April 5

March 7
The Lightning Seeds

May 16
Super Furry Animals

July 10

Sept 12
Boo Radleys

Oct 9
Kula Shaker

Oct 11

Nov 20

Dec 10

March 2

April 26
Johnny Cash

April 25

Oct 24

Nov 28
Black Grape

Dec 18
Paul Weller

The National Club closed in the Spring of 1999.

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