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100 Club’s new lease of life

31 January, 2020 — By The Xtra Diary

DESCENDING the darkened stairs into the cavernous depths of 100 Oxford Street has always been a thrill for Diary, and this week, walking into the world famous 100 Club at the unusual hour of 10am on Wednesday, was no exception.

Usually there to catch a band or DJ, it was interesting to see the place in the cold light of sobriety and to attend the press conference called by its owner Jeff Horton.

As our news story shows, the 100 Club has been given a special designation by Westminster Council, wiping out its business rates bill and safeguarding its future.

And while its tomorrows are now safe, it’s worth remembering its past: its walls are covered in scores of incredible photos of those who have graced its stage. From Lemmy and Motorhead to Humphrey Lyttelton, the Sex Pistols to Chuck Berry, The Libertines to Toots and The Maytals, The Stones and Paul McCartney (with and without the Beatles, we are told)… the list goes on and on.

With such a pedigree, it is hardly surprising performers reacted with joy to the news that the club has been placed on a sounder footing.

Singer Billy Bragg said the news that this venue – now run as a not-for-profit company – could look to a rosier future was obviously welcome: “The 100 Club has played host to some of the most dynamic pop music that the UK has produced during its eight decades of existence,” he said. “It was the crucible of trad jazz, played host to the skiffle boom and made room for 60s beat groups. In 1976, its storied stage saw British punk take its first baby steps.

“Very few venues have survived from the dawn of British pop and it is fitting that the tenacity of those who run the 100 Club has been rewarded in this way.”

His views were echoed by others: Sleaford Mods singer Jason Williamson remembered seeing black and white photos of the Sex Pistols in all their grimy glory on stage there.

“The 100 Club sign behind them hasn’t changed,” he remarked.

“I always touch that sign when we play.”

Joining on stage were Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust, the London mayor’s night czar Amy Lamé, and Westminster councillor Timothy Barnes, who has the title of “lead member for Soho”.

It was Cllr Barnes who showed a good sense of humour and a self-deprecation for a politician. He pointed out that he had worked tirelessly to help get the rate rebate plans through and, having poked his head into the 100 Club’s dressing room, he could see by the graffiti scribbled on the walls that perhaps the Conservative Party were not the most popular political group among those who have played the 100.

“There are some rather unsavoury messages written on the walls and ceilings about Tories,” he joked with Diary. “I don’t think my party could be described as popular, going on what has been scrawled here and there…”

Diary is too well-mannered and well-spoken to repeat some of the juicier requests telling the party in government where to go and what to do when they get there; but it shows music and politics are never too far from one another.

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