The great days of the Ealing Blues Club came to a close towards the end of the 1960s. In fact, local press announced the end of the R & B and live music heyday in 1966 as the venue continued as the Broadway Casino Club as well as a disco under various names including Tabby’s, The Nutmeg, Chequers, Madocs and Club Azur. After a much-needed facelift it became The Red Room night club.
Having read about The Ealing Club in the Ronnie Wood & Alexis Korner biographies, and visited the Cyril Davies website, Alistair Young had become fascinated by the role of the venue and was astounded that despite Ealing’s renowned summer festivals, the rich musical heritage of the area was not evidently being curated and live music was seldom being supported throughout central Ealing venues and beyond. By late 2010, he had contacted Charlie, the manager of the Red Room to chat about arranging a gig and had already paved the way for an Ealing Club website to come into existence.
In 2011, there was a wider “zeitgeist”/feeling that more could be achieved locally in terms of Arts & Culture with local groups arguing for council buildings to be converted into Arts Centres that could benefit the local community. It was following an Ealing Arts & Leisure meeting held at Victoria Hall that Alistair introduced himself to Robert Salmons, the Artistic Director of the Ealing Blues Festival, asking if there were any plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Ealing Blues Club on the 17th March, 2012.
Following a pint at Questors Theatre bar, in the company of Ealing Jazz musician Keith Waithe, the initial plans began for an exhibition proposal and the first gig held in years at the basement bar that had sat between the ABC coffee shop & a jewellers, started to take shape.
As advertised in Ealing Today, on the 17th February 2011, a gig featuring Robert Hokum, The Artful Dodgers & Luge took place confirming that the acoustics of the disco bar were still adequate. (That remained the same until electrification of the neighbouring railway line…. )
In Spring 2011, plans progressed even though the local ‘arts & culture’ elite had advised that our campaign should be known as the Ealing Blues & Heritage Society (and not “The Ealing Club“) , as the latter, sounded to them like a strip joint. It was an indication of how far off the radar this important story was. Even so, the local press published article on the EBHS putting us in touch with a few veterans including Fery Asgari… the ex-manager of the 60s Ealing Club.
Alistair and Bob decided to apply for a Blue Plaque for the venue and set about raising the money to do it. They held a fundraiser in July 2011 which showed there was support for the project – link to concert video.
The Blue Plaque was produced privately as official support was not forthcoming and it was unveiled at a special 50th anniversary event at the club on 17 March 2012 attended by many people and local officials including – Charlie Watts, Whispering Bob Harris, Terry Marshall, Tom Robinson, and Harry Shapiro (Author) – link to video
Following the gig, The Ealing Club Community Interest Company was formalised as an entity to help curate the music heritage while stimulating a better live music opportunity for the future. The first of several successful exhibitions was held at Pitzhanger Manor in 2012 together with talks with the British Library and countless subsequent live music events.
The Ealing Blues Festival became a two-day event in 2012 and collaborations began with several local festivals. On 6th April 2013, celebrations continued with a plaque for Jim Marshall in Hanwell that accompanied the first ever Hanwell Hootie which has since become London’s biggest free festival and is led by the local traders association. Notable partnerships also included The Ealing Music & Film Festival and music curated for the West Ealing SoundBite Festival that featured the legendary Somali Musician Hudeyidi before his passing.
Thanks to backing from the likes of the Arts Council of England, Ealing Club Eclectic has brought performances from Ben Waters, Paul Jones and Chris Jagger back to grassroots venues creating more than 30,000 ticketed visits benefitting several local venues.
Alistair joined with a local filmmaker, Giorgio Guernier, to produce a feature film documentary ‘Suburban Steps to Rockland – The Story of The Ealing Club‘ which, following music licensing, has been screened at prestigious music documentary festivals and by national TV broadcasters in UK/Eire/NZ/Estonia/Belgium/Netherlands. In late 2022, the film reached Japan screening in 40 cinemas, entertaining moret than 2500 people. KLM Airlines has screened the story on their aircraft.
The Ealing Club CIC exhibition is currently on view in the Ealing Broadway Centre while more live music activity is in the pipeline following the successful Rock’s Diamond Year activities in 2022. Discussions on the future of the current club and the role of music venues in the future re-development of Ealing Broadway are on-going.
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