‘We Didn’t Go Wild, But We Did Go Ape’: London’s Iconic Troxy Turns 85

Troxy London
– Troxy London
Art deco meets high-end audio
One of London’s most iconic venues, the Troxy, just turned 85. Pollstar took a look at its rich history and spoke with general manger Tom Sutton-Roberts. 
The Troxy was built in 1932, and opened on Sept. 11, 1933, as a cinema. With a capacity of 3,520, it was the largest cinema in England at the time.
The building was designed by George Coles for Hyams & Gale Kinemas, and cost £250,000, which would amount to some £16.5 million ($21.6 million) today.
All in all, 2.5 million bricks, 10,000 tons of sand, 24,000 tons of ballast, 10,000 electric light bulbs and 90,000 yards of wiring went into the original construction.
The 110-foot main girder for the balcony, which remains the largest single structural element in the building, was transported by road, accompanied by a police escort, from Barrow-in-Furness, which lies around 300 miles to the northwest of London.
When Germany bombed England in 1940 during World War Two, Maurice Cheepen, the venue’s manager at the time, reportedly led his audience in singing. 
An excerpt from Philip Ziegler’s book “London at War 1939-1945” reads: “In the Troxy Cinema, the audience was trapped by the raid. The manager called on them to sing ‘There’ll Always Be An England’. As he spoke, a bomb fell nearby. ‘I’m not so sure of that!’ shouted a joker. There was much laughter and the sing-song went on till after midnight.”
Miraculously, the Troxy never got hit, although all of East London suffered badly during the raids.
Even during its time as a cinema, the venue hosted performances of various kinds, including by people such as Vera Lynn, Earl Cameron, Clarke Gable, Gracie Fields, Cliff Richard, Petula Clarke and the Andrews sisters.
Lita Roza (“How Much is that Doggie in the Window?”), the first British artist to top the UK solo charts, played the Troxy in 1953.
The Troxy screened its last ever film (“The Siege of Sydney Street”) as a full-fledged cinema in 1960. The history section on the venue’s website reads: “The damage inflicted on the East End of London by the Blitz in World War Two and the clearance of local slums robbed us of much of our original audience and we closed our doors.”
The building remained unused until 1963, when the Royal Opera House took over and created the London Opera Centre. Troxy was used for rehearsals on an extended stage which was an exact size of the Royal Opera House stage. 
Because the Royal Opera House did not extend the lease in 1977, the London Opera Centre had to close.
In 1991, the building received Grade II Listed status with English Heritage. Shortly after Top Rank, which is now known as Mecca Bingo, turned it into a bingo hall.
The venue was still going strong as a bingo hall in 1998, at the age of 65. 
In 2005, the building was put back onto the market, and Ashburn Estates Ltd. bought it. It was refurbished and opened as a live events space the year after.
The first major public concert took place Nov. 29, 2008: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds played to a sold out audience.
In 2012, Troxy hosted its first corporate event in the form of the Artist and Manager Awards. It also began a 18-month renovation project in order to restore the venue’s original art deco glamour.
A year later, when Troxy turned 80, it hosted the NME Awards, the Kerrang Awards, as well as Google’s annual Christmas party in the UK.
In 2014, the renovations were completed. The facade had been fitted with a sign that matches the art deco style of the original era, and the outside was treated with substance paint in order create the illusion of stone and finish off the vintage look.
Inside, a new carpet was specially designed to complement the internal original grade II listed features.
The Troxy
– The Troxy
Has been entertaining East London, and he world, for 85 years
In 2016, Troxy hosted an intimate concert with Robbie Williams in honor of his winning the BRITs Icon Award. The production in the sold-out 3,100-standing-capacity venue was nothing short of what one would expect in an arena, with PRG taking care of lights, and Britannia Row being responsible for the sound.
The Robbie Williams concert marked the biggest production in Troxy to date.
While not an official cinema any more, the venue still plays close to its roots by hosting film nights in regular intervals. In 2017, it hosted the beloved Secret Cinema screening, an immersive movie going experience, where the entire venue is decorated in the film’s theme (“The Handmaiden”), and visitors dress up accordingly.
On Sept. 7, Troxy hosted an immersive cinematic screening of the iconic 2016 Rolling Stones “Havana Moon” concert in Cuba. London-based immersive cinema specialists Revive at Studio 5 recreated the atmosphere of that iconic day for the occasion, including large-scale set design, immersive method actors, dancers, Cuban-themed food, cocktails and more.
Most recently, on Aug. 30, Troxy announced that it has partnered with Dice Tickets from London to become the world’s biggest mobile-only venue. What is more, the venue received a brand new JBL VTX A12 loudspeaker system earlier this year – the first of its kind in a UK venue.

Tom Sutton-Roberts
– Tom Sutton-Roberts
Troxy’s captain

Pollstar asked the venue’s GM, Tom Robert-Sutton, a couple of questions.

You’ve just witnessed the venue’s 85th birthday. Can you describe how that feels?
I’m very proud to be the captain of Troxy – a stalwart of East London for 85 years. I feel very connected with the building, having learnt so much about its history over the three years I’ve been here. It’s immensely satisfying sitting in a beautiful art-deco venue that is still standing, despite all of the adversities it has been subjected to over the years. 
So many London landmarks have been lost through demolishment or change of use. The fact we’re still very much here and still going very strong, is something that puts a smile on my face.
Did you have a party? What was that like?
We didn’t go wild, but we did Go Ape. We had a few cupcakes and a swig of non-alcoholic wine on our actual birthday and then went out as a team a couple of days later.
I conquered my fear of heights and we got the team together by doing some monkeying around, honoring the fact that Troxy screened King Kong as its first ever film back in 1933. It was a great day out, followed by beers and a meal in our favourite dining establishment near the venue. 
What are the current hot topics/trends in venue management? What points on your agenda take up most of your time at the moment?
A huge amount of my time over the past six months has been taken up working through two major projects. The first is that we are now partnered with DICE to become the world’s biggest mobile-first venue. Yes, we’re anti-tout, but we’ve enabled people to buy tickets through a beautiful app with a fraction of the friction experienced elsewhere. 
We’ve also just started installing a brand new JBL VTX A12 loudspeaker system. It sounds incredible. The room really has come alive with a whole new depth of frequency and high clarity. It’s goosebumps stuff and a great step forward for the live experience at Troxy.
What’s next? Where do you want to take the venue going forward?
Music is my passion. We do gigs so well here, so I want to do more of them. Customer experience is key – we’ve now got beer on tap that people actually want to drink, decent pies by Pieminister on offer, and a great all round experience.
Bands love to play us and tour reps tell us we make it so easy for them thanks to the flexibility of the team. So, that’s the plan: more great parties. Hanging out with your best mates, listening to your favourite bands, all in a beautiful room in London’s East End.