Beat Boxing in the Victorian Toilet

Last night I went to a show in a place called Ginglik, an old Victorian washroom in Shepard's Bush in London that has been converted to an art centre/bar. The night was called 'Best of the Buskers' and was a performance/advocacy event to raise awareness about stupid laws that have been enacted to make busking difficult. For example, buskers need to call ahead to book their spot in Tube stations. The catch is that the call is expensive, they charge by the minute and people often have to wait as long as an hour before they can get through and book their spot. It seems crazy that in a town as artful and dynamic as London these kind of barriers would be in place.

The talent was mostly hit with a little bit of miss built in. The first two acts were, by far the best. Steel Pan Sam was the first act and plays the steel drums. He introduced himself by remarking that most people think that all that steel drums are good for is calypso and then proceeded to wow us by playing Bach. It was amazing and at points sounded like he was playing a range of instruments, not just one. He was followed up by MC Xander (from the video above) who makes noises with his mouth, loops them and turns them into fully completed songs. He was by far my favourite act of the night and I would love to see him perform again.

The rest of the acts were kind of meh in my opinion. A man played a didgeridoo and really, I don't think there's a lot you can do with that instrument. Then there was a folk singer who reminded me a bit of Phoebe from Friends and finally a drummer who used a bike instead of a drum kit. He was pretty good and the crowd was really into him but after the Steel Pan Sam and MC Xander, he left me a little cold.

From their website:

"Ginglik is west London's premier suburban beat bunker, which has rapidly established a reputation as one of the finest alternative venues in the capital. Boasting a members base of over 16,000 it fuses some of the city's premier electronic and underground DJs , musicians and bands with comedy nights, film nights, exhibitions & video installations, with a friendly, pretension-free atmosphere; the club has become a focal point for artists, musicians and general connoisseurs of cool."

It is quite an experience to visit it as from the outside it really does look like one of those sidewalk bathrooms that you can find anywhere in London (but that you never, ever want to use). The only difference are the Christmas lights that are strung around the entry way. You go down a steep stair case and enter this teeny, warm little bar. It's really quite charming.

As is sadly the case with many cool, arty venues, Ginglik is having trouble with City Council who wants to shut them down so they can develop the space (Ginglik is located on the edge of a small urban park). It is always amazing to me that councils are often willing to give breaks to retail chains like Walmart but are so quick to try and destroy authentic, independent places.

Instead of the Council being upfront about their intentions, they are couching things in expensive repairs they want Ginglik to make. Again, from the Ginglik website:

"Due to the planned £3.3 redevelopment of the Common, which starts next year, the council have said that our roof will need to be stripped back and the corroded iron supports repaired. We also have damp walls, which has never really bothered us but apparently if the council were to offer us a new lease they would have to completely damp proof all walls too, which is a costly and time consuming process. The cost the council said of getting the property into this state would cost £300,000 more than the cost of filling the venue with concrete, which is what they've decided to do."

A North American might read this and think that it sounds reasonable. Damp walls are not OK, right? In the UK, damp walls and structural problems are an accepted fact of life. I would venture to guess that the majority of buildings over 50 years old (which is almost everything over here) have a problem with the damp. Hello! It's the UK! All it does is rain over here! It is interesting that city councils only get involved when they suddenly have an agenda for a particular building or space.

If you care at all about maintaining a very cool, unique venue you might want to join the mailing list and think about signing the petition. You can do that here:

Paris and my birthday were fab. More next week when I get back to Cardiff and have a chance to download some pictures.

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