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  CHRIS DALE'S METAL MELTDOWN
LONDON VENUE'S NAZI PAST?
1st March 2012


chris dale

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The London HMV Forum (or Town And Country Club as it was) is a great rock venue in North London. I've seen tons of top gigs there including Dio, Anthrax, Queensryche, Mr Big, Living Colour, W.A.S.P and Motörhead. It's a great venue with a lot of history, and it's one particular aspect of this history that especially started to interest me.


The Kentish Town HMV Forum

One of the rumours that has been doing the rounds for a while (I've heard at least half a dozen variations of it, one from Scott Ian of Anthrax onstage at the Forum) is that the venue was built in the 1930s for Oswald Mosley's British Fascists. Sometimes it is said that the venue was built for Adolf Hitler himself. Here's one version of the story I found posted anonymously online:

"The true reason why the Forum in Kentish Town was actually built. It is quite common knowledge that not only is it one of the greatest music venues in London but it was built by Nazi facists, though this information is quite well hidden, and was originally built for the final destination of Adolf Hitler's tour. If you have ever been inside it is plainly obvious by the decor of huge eagles and the depiction of Roman battle scenes which were associated with the Third Reich.

"Also I have been informed that it wasn't that long ago that the swastikas that lined the walls either side of stage were removed but the whereabouts of them now are unknown. As well as this it has been said Moseley had a bit to do with its building. There is a sister building to it in south London.

"I do not have a great deal of information on the whole building's association with its reason for being built and the information I do have is quite patchy as this piece of history has seemed to be well buried. If anyone has anymore information on this subject please post it on this site and stop them from turning this valuable information into an urban myth and making the people believe it was originally built as a cinema."

Despite his occasional typo error, he is right about some things at least. There are certainly neo-Roman columns and big eagles on the inside of the venue.


The interior of the Forum. Note the Roman Eagles on the left

And as the blogger says, some people are trying to make us believe the venue was built as a cinema. The Forum's official website says: "The Forum was originally built as an art deco cinema in 1934 by Herbert Yapp... the architect was J Stanley Beard and the interior design was by his partner WR Bennett. The Forum was launched with a grand opening ceremony of music and films, conducted by the star Sydney Howard, on 17th December 1934."

So which is true? Has there been an official cover-up of the venue's sinister past? Was it built for Blackshirts or for black and white movies? The first point to look at is, was this "the final venue for Hitler's tour?"

Reading around a bit, we find that unlike modern Heavy Metal bands, Hitler didn't do 'tours'. No, he stayed in Germany hatching evil plans. When he met with foreign leaders, such as the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938, they came to him, not him to them.

He never travelled outside his conquered or closely allied territories and wouldn't have done very well as an orator in North London anyway because he didn't speak English.


Adolf Hitler and the Nazis

Besides, in early 1934 when the foundations for the Forum were being laid, Hitler was not yet the German head of state, nor was he an ambassador, foreign minister or in any other position that might warrant a trip abroad. From 1933 he held the title of Chancellor. He only became Führer (or leader) on the death of President Hindenburg in August 1934, and then became suddenly very busy at home silencing political opponents and persecuting minorities.

He did not plan a visit to Britain in the mid 1930s.

But what about the "decor of huge eagles and the depiction of Roman battle scenes which were associated with the Third Reich".

He's right that there are huge Roman eagles adorning the walls. But looking into Third Reich or Nazi German artwork we don't tend to see any Roman style figures. This is because Nazism, as a form of extreme nationalism, focused on the glories of the master race (i.e. themselves) rather than that of their neighbours. Mussolini's Fascists in Italy made the most out of Roman glories but not Hitler's Nazis.

The Nazis loved Wagner's Germanic heroes- Lohengrin, Tannhäuser and Walther von Stolzing. There are no Wagnerian themes in the Forum.

Our online source says that "it wasn't that long ago that the swastikas that lined the walls either side of stage were removed but the whereabouts of them now are unknown". I have to doubt that bit. I find it hard to believe that during the Second World War, Londoners put up with Swastikas on the wall of their weekly Saturday morning cinema while they were being subjected to the Blitz air raids from Nazi Germany.

There's also no reference to these swastikas in any other sources I've found and you really would think that large Swastikas in public would provoke some comment from somebody.

I think we're going to have to dismiss the Hitler story both from lack of firm evidence and general implausibility. It just wasn't his style or that of Londoners.

But maybe as our anonymous online source says there was a Blackshirt connection and that is how the Hitler story started. For those of you who don't know, back in the 1930s politics was a little more extreme than today's middle of the road squabblers. Rather than battling for the centre ground as our Eurocrats and US political candidates do, back in the 1930s the cool thing to do was align oneself with extremists in the left and right.

Stalin's Russia was extreme left, Mussolini's Italy was extreme right and both were effectively violent dictatorships. Spain had a civil war between extreme right and extreme left. The right won.

Most countries had legitimate Communist and Fascist political parties. Britain had the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and Sir Oswald Mosley's Fascists, or Blackshirts as they were known after the colour of their uniforms. Both were seen as threats to the country's stability by the mainstream parties.


Oswald Mosley and the Blackshirts

Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats, had been the youngest member of Parliament to take his seat in 1918, standing for the Conservative Party. After several terms in Parliament, first as a Conservative, then an Independent and then in the Labour Party he grew disillusioned with mainstream politics and formed his own party which became the British Union of Fascists.

The BUF advocated ideas such as eliminating the existing British class system, promoting pacifism, keeping closer ties with Europe and forcing an end to party political bickering. These enlightened ideas hid a darker side and though the party was not openly anti-Semitic like the Nazis in Germany, violence and intimidation followed the movement from the very beginning.

Mosley's sympathies with Nazi Germany were well known. His second marriage was conducted at Goebbels' house in Berlin in 1936 and his first marriage in 1920 was attended by the Kings of Britain and Belgium. It is often forgotten that he was a very popular character at the time. Had he come to power however, we in Britain would undoubtedly have been under the grip of a totalitarian one party state allied to Hitler and Mussolini.

So was the Forum built as a Fascist meeting house thus inspiring a Nazi element to be added to the story? If this were the case, it would not be surprising that the venue would not want it mentioned on their official website. It's nothing to be proud of. But is it true?

Reading through several histories of Mosley's movement I can find no mention of the Forum at all. You would think if he'd built the place and given speeches there that it would turn up in his extensive biographies. The more I read into Moseley, the less it seemed likely that he would have built the place and this was for a very simple reason. He was just too popular for it.


A London BUF Rally in the 1930s

By the mid-1930s Mosley's Blackshirt meetings were held at much bigger venues such as the Olympia Exhibition Centre and the Royal Albert Hall. Sometimes he held rallies at large outdoor spaces like Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park. In 1934 Mosley had no need for a 2,000 capacity venue like the Forum.

So it seems from a lack of evidence to the contrary, that the official story of the Forum being built as a cinema is true. Indeed, this version is backed up by several cinematographic and local histories. Before televisions became common household items people flocked regularly to cinemas to catch the latest black and white blockbuster or just to see the Pathe news.

There was a great demand for new cinemas in the suburbs in the 1930s and Herbert Yapp was the man to provide them. He owned several cinemas already and commissioned architect J Stanley Beard and interior designer WR Bennett to build two new cinemas in Kentish Town and Ealing (West London not South London as our blogger heard). Beard was a well known architect, especially known for building cinemas. In all he designed over twenty cinemas and theatres in the London area. The Kentish Town Forum was opened with a night of music and films, conducted by Sydney Howard on 17th December 1934.


Programme for the opening night

The cinemas of the 1920s and 30s were places of fantasy. Before modern technology transformed our lives, these were the only places audiences could be transported in their imaginations to the Wild West, deepest Africa or Ancient Rome (as in the popular 1925 silent film, 'Ben Hur').

The interior of these cinemas, courtesy of Walter Bennett and other designers like him, were usually given beautifully imaginative decor forest scenes, fake pipe organs, battlements or in the case of the Kentish Town Forum, pillars and eagles, evocative of the glory days of Rome. Perhaps the very title Forum (the Latin name for an open square or meeting place) partially inspired the particular classical theme.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about decorating a cinema with fantasy themes in the 1930s. Next time you're at the Brixton Academy, ignore the band and have a good look around. That one's really spectacular.

But these rumours don't just start themselves. There must be some grain of truth, some tiny spark that the story sprung from. And I think I've found it.

After the Battle of Cable Street in October 1936 (immortalised by the Men They Couldn't Hang on their 1985 track, 'The Ghosts of Cable Street') in which the Blackshirts openly fought with protestors and the police, Moseley's fascists were banned from marching in East London. For their next march in July 1937 they chose a different starting point - Kentish Town. I wonder if it was outside the newly built Forum?

Could it be that the story of the Forum being a meeting place for Fascists started life simply as the Fascists met somewhere near the Forum? Add that to some decorative classical architecture and you've got the story that the Forum was made specially for the Fascists. From there its only a short step to Adolf Hitler himself turning up. It just goes to show what a bit of Chinese whispers can do to a small story.

I've listed my main online sources here:

Forum and Cinema History

http://venues.meanfiddler.com/the-forum/this-venue/history
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMV_Forum
http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/6293
http://www.tnunn.co.uk/forum.htm
http://www.flickr.com/photos/woody1969/sets/72157602046085964/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stanley_Coombe_Beard

Hitler and Nazi History and Architecture

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/hitler.html
http://www.thirdreichruins.com/
http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/
http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERhitler.htm
http://forum.axishistory.com/index.php

Moseley and Blackshirt History

http://www.oswaldmosley.com/british-union.htm
http://www.20thcenturylondon.org.uk
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oswald_Mosley
http://www.battleofcablestreet.org.uk/index.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzKv5gjOzTA

The Anonymous Blogger

http://www.knowhere.co.uk/Kentish-Town/Greater-London/London-and-inside-M25/info/musicvenues


I think his claim about HMV trading arms with the IRA to buy the Forum probably also has to be taken with a pinch of salt but as he admits, he's "been unable to confirm this as being true".

MORE CHRIS DALE'S METAL MELTDOWN COLUMNS HERE...

April 2015: Undiscovered Kisstory: The Kiss Drummer Auditions Of 1980
March 2015: Matthew Trippe RIP - The strange case of the man who would be Nikki Sixx
November 2014: Kiss: 'Love Gun' Deluxe Edition
October 2014: Mr. Big – Live Review at Koko, London
September 2014: Mr. Big: 'The Stories We Could Tell' album review
September 2013: Intensive Bass Course with Billy Sheehan
August 2013: Booking Agents vs Promoters
July 2013: Rock and Metal Pub Quiz
June 2013: Communication Tips For European Festivals, Or How To Learn A Language In An Evening
May 2013: Storm Thorgerson (1944-2013) RIP
April 2013: Daily Mail Columnist Richard Littlejohn Sinks To New Low With Anti-Heavy Metal Article
April 2013: The Future Of Classic Bands
March 2013: Smashing Pumpkins Video Shoot
Febuary 2013: Ten Years On Total Rock
January 2013: Kiss Follow Up To Monster 2013
December 2012: Kiss Reformation Magick
November 2012: Exclusive Interview With Geoff Tate
November 2012: Morally Worrying Session
October 2012: Kiss 'Monster' Review
October 2012: The Best Invention Of All Time
September 2012: A Conversation With Rudy Sarzo
August 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 3
July 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 2
June 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 1
May 2012: Managers v Producers
April 2012: Kiss 'Monster' Album Preview
March 2012: London Venue's Nazi Past?
February 2012: How Not to Join the Ozzy Osbourne Band
January 2012: Metal Evilution
December 2011: Take Your Pick Competition
November 2011: The Pandora's Box Of Pop
October 2011: Tank Tour Diary 2011
September 2011: Festival Stage Collapses
August 2011: Bruce Air, The Early Days
July 2011: European Festival Round-Up
June 2011: Bernie Torme Proud To Be Part Of MT Ozzy Article
June 2011: Who's Your Favourite Ozzy Guitarist?
May 2011: Japanese Tsunami Disaster
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March 2011: Death Metal Session!
6th February 2011: Gary Moore (4th April 1952 - 6th February 2011)
February 2011: Recording Bass at Steve Harris'
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As exclusively predicted by MetalTalk last week, guitarist Alex Dickson has re-joined Scottish rockers Gun...

cockney rejects WEST HAM UNITED TRIBUTE 'GOODBYE UPTON PARK' TO BE RELEASED BY COCKNEY REJECTS
"We were all born within a mile or so from the hallowed Boleyn ground and have all stood on the terraces through snow, rain and sunshine from a very early age."

ac/dc AC/DC RELEASE TICKET REFUND DETAILS FOR MOST EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
If you don't want a refund, then we'll see you at The Olympic Stadium in London as we think we're about to witness a major piece of rock history...

deep purple IAN PAICE AND DON AIREY SCHEDULE SOLO EUROPEAN DATES AS 2016 DEEP PURPLE TOUR APPROACHES
Deep Purple are kicking off their 2016 tour next month in Japan, before heading to Israel, Russia and Europe in June and July.

steve hackett STEVE HACKETT TO RELEASE 'THE TOTAL EXPERIENCE LIVE IN LIVERPOOL', HIS ACOLYTE TO 'WOLFLIGHT' WITH GENESIS REVISITED TOUR
"Besides, it's not as if Liverpool is known for having any good music – there's never been a good band from there. Ha!"

lacuna coil LACUNA COIL LAUNCH NEW ALBUM TITLE TRACK 'DELIRIUM'
Lacuna Coil will be making their much-anticipated return to North America as part of the 'Delirium Worldwide' tour starting in San Francisco on May 7th

bibeau YOUNG, PROGRESSIVE BAND BIBEAU OFFER THEIR FIRST SINGLE/VIDEO, 'MARK THIS'
"We were also hoping to convey the look, feel and flow of some of the classic, timeless rock and metal videos from the height of MTV's popularity..."

virginmarys THE VIRGINMARYS ANNOUNCE HEADLINE UK TOUR FOR JUNE 2016
"It's going to be so great to get back in front of our home fans again, and really important to us to play some of the towns we've been wanting to come back to..."

weapon uk WEAPON UK TO HEADLINE THE RETRIBUTION ALIVE ROAD TRIP IN MAY
"They toured with Motörhead in the 80s, including four sold out shows at the Hammersmith Odean and I have to say, we're pretty excited about this!"

headbangers ball ICED EARTH AND ENSIFERUM TO HEADLINE MTV HEADBANGERS BALL TOUR 2016: FULL DATES HERE
"So brace yourselves for the ultimate Metal experience of a lifetime! See you in front row!"

bloodstock BLOODSTOCK ADDS MORE BANDS, DETAILS METAL 2 THE MASSES FINALS AND ANNOUNCES FIRST NEW BLOOD STAGE WINNERS
Bloodstock HQ is readying to send Team M2TM out on the road for the finals, but in the meantime, there's a few more band additions to the August bill

dead daisies THE DEAD DAISIES ANNOUNCE UK AND EUROPEAN DATES FOR JULY/AUGUST IN SUPPORT OF NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'MAKE SOME NOISE'
The Dead Daisies, the biggest new name in Rock, have just recently announced the addition of Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio) as their new lead guitar player

wolf hoffmann WOLF HOFFMANN TO RELEASE SOLO ALBUM 'HEADBANGERS SYMPHONY' ON JULY 1st
"I have always incorporated classical music in my song writing with Accept, especially with 'Metal Heart', but I constantly felt there was so much more that I could do..."

jaegermeister JÄGERMEISTER RELEASE FULL DOCUMENTARY OF WORLD'S FIRST MUSIC GIG ON AIR, SEA AND LAND
"We go bigger every year and because of the nature of this world first this gig was not only a test of friendship but one of supporting each other too..."

john otway JOHN OTWAY PLANNING ON BEING FIRST ARTIST SINCE THE ROLLING STONES TO RECORD IN MONTSERRAT
"Although the old Air Studios are now derelict the studio in the basement of Sir George Martin's house is sound – it just needs rebuilding..."

fates warning FATES WARNING - NEW STUDIO ALBUM 'THEORIES OF FLIGHT' ANNOUNCED, ARTWORK UNVEILED
"There's a loose theme running through a lot of the lyrics, and this developed organically and separately..."

amon amarth RAISE YOUR HORNS AND BE IN AMON AMARTH'S NEW MUSIC VIDEO
Swedish Heavy Metal goliaths Amon Amarth are inviting their fans around the globe to be a part of their forthcoming video...

sixx am SIXX:A.M. ANNOUNCE THE "#REASONTORISE" CAMPAIGN, TOUR DATES AND 'VOL.1 PRAYERS FOR THE DAMNED' DETAILS
"It is our duty as citizens of this world to come together, communicate with one another and rise up to demand more of ourselves and our leaders."

armored saint ARMORED SAINT ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN FESTIVAL AND CLUB APPEARANCES
"For our first time in Spain, it's gonna be sick! And as if this wasn't enough - Saint is playing for the first time ever in Japan..."

black country communion BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION TO REFORM IN 2017
"Preparing BCC Rocket Ship Re-launch for 2017 - all systems go."

tarja TARJA PREMIERES OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO OF HER NEW SINGLE 'NO BITTER END'
'No Bitter End', the opening track of the prequel album 'The Brightest Void', is the first glimpse of Tarja's new work – her heaviest to date...

stratovarius STRATOVARIUS RELEASE LYRIC VIDEO FOR 'UNTIL THE END OF DAYS'
"To me it's a testament to the fact that paying attention to song writing and production was expensive, but so worth it..."

brian johnson EXCLUSIVE: PROMINENT AC/DC CREW MEMBER GIVES REMARKABLE INSIGHT INTO AXL ROSE APPOINTMENT
AC/DC are covering themselves in case Axl's poor reputation for unprofessionalism manifests itself...

brian johnson THE DARKEST DAY OF MY PROFESSIONAL LIFE: BRIAN JOHNSON ISSUES PERSONAL STATEMENT ON AC/DC DEPARTURE
"I wish to assure our fans that I am not retiring. My doctors have told me that I can continue to record in studios and I intend to do that..."

thin lizzy THIN LIZZY ANNOUNCE BASS PLAYER AND NEW DRUMMER FOR 2016/17 ANNIVERSARY SHOWS
Thin Lizzy are undisputed legends and to be a small part of their lineage is a humble honor for me...

ian gillan IAN GILLAN TO PERFORM UNIQUE SOLO SHOW OF DEEP PURPLE CLASSICS IN BULGARIA
There is a possibility that Ian will also play some material from his catalogue outside of Deep Purple...

don airey DEEP PURPLE'S DON AIREY AND FRIENDS ADDED TO CAMBRIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL PLUS ATOMIC ROOSTER
Expect to hear many classics from Airey's illustrious past which includes time spent with Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne as well as his current job with Deep Purple...

wildfire festival WILDFIRE FESTIVAL 2016 ANNOUNCE SUNDAY NIGHT HEADLINERS AND FIVE MORE ACTS
With June creeping ever closer, Wildfire Festival's impressive main stages line-up is all but finalised...

whitesnake THE END OF WHITESNAKE: DAVID COVERDALE TO RETIRE IN 2017
Whitesnake headline the UK's Ramblin Man Festival in July in what could be their final ever UK appearance...

axl rose AXL ROSE CONFIRMED AS AC/DC SINGER FOR THE REMAINING ROCK OR BUST DATES
The worst kept secret in rock is now official...

aerosmith THE END OF AEROSMITH?: NO FAREWELL TOUR CONFIRMED AT THE MOMENT
"A farewell tour is something we've talked about doing for years, let's say roughly in the last five years..."

hrh united ALESTORM, HAMMERFALL, FINSTERFORST, NAPALM DEATH, ARMORED SAINT, VENOM INC. AND EVIL SCARECROW ANNOUNCED FOR HRH UNITED
HRH United 3 will be an exclusive upgraded Metal Edition taking over the entire site @ Camp HRH, Pwllheli, North Wales...

rolling stones PROUD GALLERIES PLAYING HOST TO FABULOUS ROLLING STONES PHOTO EXHIBITION: TERRY O'NEILL TO ATTEND SIGNING SESSION
It's a wonderful book by photographer Terry O'Neill of Rolling Stones images from 1963 to 1965, an era when the Stones were just "breaking through"...

between the buried and me BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME ANNOUNCE EUROPEAN SUMMER DATES
As well as the European tour dates, BTBAM have launched a live video for 'The Ectopic Stroll' whih you can see here...

jade vine LONDON BASED ALTERNATIVE PROG ROCKERS JADE VINE ANNOUNCE ALBUM LAUNCH SHOW
Jade Vine's music has been influenced by artists such as Pink Floyd, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Anathema and Pain Of Salvation...
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