And now for news just in. It’s just been announced that the Bull & Gate, our much loved K-Town bastion of indie rock, will cease operating as a live venue on May 4th. The entire building has been sold to the Young’s chain and will be closed for refurbishment, to reopen as a “pub restaurant” later in the summer. Young’s, incidentally, also own Geronimo, the chain that comprises two other gastropubs in NW5 – The Lion & Unicorn and Lord Palmerston.
From Blur to the Manic Street Preachers, Carter USM to Coldplay, zillions of bands have trooped through its doors. In fact, some people even reckon Nirvana supported L7 there. Says Andy Macleod of current promoters Club Fandango: “Since 1980 a small, slightly smelly, part of the Kentish Town Road has been a home-from-home for hundreds of young hopefuls seeking to make their way in the musical world. Consider that for a while in the ‘80s the Camden Falcon, Finsbury Park’s Sir George Robey and the Bull & Gate were the cool places to play in North London. Then consider that neither of those other venues exist any more. And then consider that the Bull & Gate has bullishly spent the past three decades just being…the Bull & Gate. Happily, this means that it never went out of fashion because, for the people who loved going there, it was never in fashion.
“And, in a way, just as important as the bands were the punters. At its very best the Bull & Gate was a meeting point for the fraggle rockers, the indie shysters, the gothic dreamers, the popstarship troopers; it gave the loners a home and the hopeless a cause, because these people were part of Generation Vexed. And now the music industry is littered with those dreamers as the fraggle rockers and indie shysters grew up to become record company bosses, radio DJs, live agents, press officers, journalists and, of course, gig promoters.”
We’ve certainly seen our fair share of gigs there in the last twenty years. Not to mention a slew of nights more recently at Club Fandango, who took over the diary back in June 2010. The irony, says Andy, is that “having weathered the storm of free gigs and hipster swinging out of East London, having battled through five years of recession and having fought against the tide of depression rolling over the guitar-gripping side of the music industry throughout this decade the venue is going to be taken down by a gastropub.”
The last gig will be Sat 4th May and Fandango are planning a month long Spanish-style funeral through April so people can come, raise a glass and pay their respects. “We might see if Coldplay want to play on the roof as the bulldozer comes in,” says Andy. Metaphorically speaking, of course. The building is Grade II-listed, after all.
What do you think of the news? Is it really too late? And why not leave your memories of the Bull & Gate below.
Just having a nostalgia moment and checking out the London venues where my band Surreal Madrid played in the early 90's. Sad to see they're all closed (Camden Falcon, Rock Garden Covent Garden, The Robey etc)
Fond memories of a great summer evening gig at the Bull & Gate supporting the mighty Woodchildren and a bunch of Canadian nutters called the Baby Snakes.
These days I suppose the yoof get off on crap like X Factor rather than leaving their parents house and exploring proper live music... assuming they can find it.
Sad to hear this news. This pub belonged to my great (four times) grandparents, Thomas and Elizabeth Greenwood, in the 1700s. I'm glad I made the trip from Australia and saw it in 2011.
Wait until all the Forum punters go in there before a gig and are squashed into the half that's not a restaurant... going to look mental. Such a shame. Exactly what the area doesn't need.
It is definitely sad all of those old venues have closed or are closing, I have fond memories of playing the Bull & Gate, the Camden Falcon and the Sir George Robey (and more) with my old band Nutmeg back in the late 80's and early 90's. If you're feeling nostalgic check out this Facebook group if you haven't already... http://www.facebook.com/groups/125551254127044!
I agree with previous comment, don't need another gastro pub, don't need another cafe....This is very sad news indeed. That corner of KT has always been a highlight of the area. Such a beautiful pub, not too salubrious, played pool with a few pints in past times and enjoyed pre-forum warm-ups. Always fun to see who was pitched up spilling outside over the summer months, checking out punter's garb to guess which band/music was playing at the forum. I guess KT is truly getting gentrified. Hang in there O'Neil's, you'll be the last bastion of old-fashioned pubdom on the Road!
Haven't the owners wanted to sell for a while? The venue (not the bar) was closed for a little while a year or two ago I think, but the owners couldn't sell it because of the recession, so they reopened the venue bit. Real shame that they have decided to sell it - as per lots of other comments, KT really doesn't need yet another pub-restaurant.
Its sad to hear of any iconic venue in London closing down, and losing itself to yet another £13 sunday lunch outlet, but despite what it is to become, its not really surprising. The Bull and Gate comes across as venue which for years has been resting on the success of its history, which is why the somewhat characterful interior has not changed, and now appears outdated, and the promoters think they can get away with extortionate entry fee's of £8 per head for bands parading about the stage singing crap tunes about post break up sex. This is not to say there hasn't been a few decent shows, worth going to in recent years because there has but not many.
Went to some amazing gigs there as a teen and beyond...Sea Nymphs particularly spring to mind. What a sad loss to the London Music Scene the Bull & Gate will be.....
Oh, The Bull and Gate. A constant in my social life for the last 25 years. I was there just last month for 'For the Benefit of Mr Smith Too'- the fundraising 'disco' in honour of Cardiacs frontman and musical genius Tim Smith. But over the years I've attended so many events there and love the teeny tiny nature of it. Teeny. Tiny. Nice. I will miss it.
More of Londons musical heritage being stripped away by greedy accountants looking for the extra buck. I have been to some legendary shows at the B+G over the last 25 years, and this is a sad loss indeed. Should we start worrying about the Unicorn as well?
That's terrible news. What are Geronimo thinking? They've already got the Lion and Unicorn, and the Palmerston - and there's plenty of great competition to them. Why would they shut down an iconic and much loved venue that gives great pleasure to people across north london just to serve more posh burgers that no-one really gives a monkeys about?
At least it's not getting turned into flats but is there really a need for another gastro boozer? The spit and sawdust boozers are so few and far between in the area now as to be an endangered species.
The much vaunted diversity that is frequently mentioned on Kentishtowner is slowly being eroded.
You beat me to it Dean.
I was in there on Saturday, I like the fact you can go in in the afternoon and there's just a handful of old boys, then you go back in the evening and it's rammed full of 20-something music fans.
It was an essential venue in the 1980s but although I still go to loads of small gigs I haven;t been there for ages