Here’s an image sure to bring a fond tear to the misty eye of electronic music lovers of a certain age. These cleared-out arches used to be a little slice of Ibiza found in the industrial wastelands above King’s Cross.
Yes, this is The Cross in 2012. Nearly four years after the last record was played at the intimate club space – which always attracted the most glamorous of crowds – it lies quiet, a hollow shell.
In that time, the creation and restoration work of Granary Square has proceeded apace just in front. It’s difficult to lament the changes to the area as they are genuinely exciting and have proved so respectful of preserving its industrial beauty.
Yet as Graham Hudson – artist in residence here at the world’s largest urban regeneration project –has pointed out, we are busy celebrating the history of the building’s original uses, while ignoring their cultural and musical importance in the 90s and 00s. (See his video about Bagley’s Warehouse, but be warned, if like me you were a regular, you’ll wince at some of the historical inaccuracies, particularly from Alexis Petridis, who as usual should really know better.)
Here among abandoned, crumbling Victorian warehouses, where railway previously met canal, thousands of people had some of the times of their lives every weekend during the height of the dance music culture explosion.
King’s Cross haulage firm owner Billy Reilly opened The Cross as a wine bar to mop up pre-club trade when the derelict Bagley’s warehouse opposite started hosting wildly popular enormo-raves in 1991. But The Cross quickly became a bijous dance destination all of its own, with a selective door policy and increasingly lush décor both under the arches and out on the terrace (hence those Ibiza comparisons).
Reilly went on to acquire Bagley’s too, then opened the flashing dancefloored The Key club, as the area became London’s edgy nightlife epicentre, a carefree world away from the licencing restrictions and VIP bottle service nonsense blighting the West End and later Shoreditch. (Reilly continues to own clubs in London today and was recently behind the Meribel Brasserie, now sadly closed and morphing into a café, it seems).
Those who danced as the sun rose over the King’s Cross gas burners will never forget the industrial scale of the fun that was had here. Calling this part of King’s Cross neglected pre-regeneration is inaccurate, it was much loved and teeming with life.
But all the best parties thrive on the uncertainty of the moment, literally demanding we party like there’s no tomorrow. The only reason the clubs were here in the first place is that the area was always eventually going to be redeveloped. Therefore we should celebrate rather than mourn when we see the hollow arches today.
Nevertheless, just because all that was produced in that glorious era were hedonistic memories and repetitive beats shouldn’t mean we value that history any less. We await some well-placed plaques. And let’s hope that whichever boutique inevitably finds a home in the former Cross arches, they pay homage to the recent past too. That was a most hallowed dancefloor right there, don’tcha know.
Words & Pics: Tom Kihl
Do you have memories of glam yet ravey club nights misspent in the arches in our picture? Events like Renaissance, Type, Fiction, Prologue, Kidology, Azuli and Vertigo? Leave us a misty-eyed comment…