Mayor Can’t Appease Astoria Fans

London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s promise of a new city centre venue isn’t appeasing fans of The Astoria, which is due to get hit by a wrecking ball when work on the capital’s new Crossrail service starts.

"The construction of Crossrail means that The Astoria can’t be saved," Livingstone said, but his claim that "it wasn’t at the cutting edge of modern comfort" looks to have really stung some of the city’s concertgoers.

"It is cramped, sweaty and defiantly uncomfortable but no one lucky enough to see The Rolling Stones, Nirvana or Arctic Monkeys perform at The Astoria ever minded," wrote The Times’ arts reporter.

The 2,000-capacity opened as a cinema in 1927 and is one of the job-lot of venues Live Nation (then Clear Channel) and Denis Desmond’s Gaiety Investments bought from Mean Fiddler. It also has the support of 35,000 music fans who have signed the "Save The Astoria" petition.

"It’s literally eroding London’s cultural heritage," said Jade Dickinson, one of two students behind the campaign.

Acts including Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo Park, Jamie T, The Cribs and former Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey are also strong supporters of the venue.

"It’s an absolute disgrace. Livingstone just doesn’t get it. We don’t want a bigger or posher venue," wrote one irate Times reader, inviting Tory mayoral candidate Boris Johnson to give his take on the issue. "I go there regularly and it’s one of the best venues, in a great location and ideal for the smaller bands which are too big to play clubs but not big enough to do Wembley Arena or the O2."

Some artists believe the mayor’s promise of a new concert building as part of the new Tottenham Court Road development is proof that he’s missing the point.

"Venues should be dirty, they should be a bit smelly because smelly things happen in venues. Sweaty people had fun and The Astoria was always something you’d look forward to," Barry Hyde, the lead singer of The Futureheads, told the Times.

Nick Hodgson, the drummer for Kaiser Chiefs, said booking The Astoria was a big moment for him because "it was the venue to play."

Since it opened the historic auditorium has also been used as a theatre and a pickle factory, but for the last 32 years it’s been a must-play room for acts on the up.