Farsight Music Venue

EXCLUSIVE: First look at the new club venue aiming to revive the West End’s music scene

An extraordinary new community arts, events and music space is being proposed just of Tottenham Court Rd

For decades London’s West End was renowned for its role incubating and showcasing all manner of music, producing the sounds and the artists that went on to conquer the world. From the jazz and swing dives of the 30s to the house and techno explosion of the 90s, the basements and ballrooms in and around Soho were the natural home for people looking to enjoy – or perhaps even carve a career from – this epicentre of musical innovation.

But if you’re looking for a cutting edge night of music and dancing right now, the West End is sadly a shadow of any of its former selves. The reasons for this are complex, plentiful and hopefully finally being addressed (see today’s other big story on Camden’s new approach to nightlife), and the recent successful 4am license extensions at HERE and The Lower Third) but the result has been the loss of seminal grassroots live venues and nightclubs, and the incongruous situation that the centre of our great global city really has very little to offer after midnight.

Thankfully, a group of nighttime professionals with masses of skin in the game between them have come together to proactively address the rot, and they’ve given Camdenist an exclusive first look at their plans.

The Farsight Collective have taken on a truly phenomenal space. It’s tucked away just behind the once legendary musical strip of Denmark Street, and is made up from a connected series of historic buildings and brand new areas. They have just announced comprehensive plans to turn the whole thing into a multi-storey, multifaceted music venue; a place fit to lead the rebirth of a thriving new West End scene for the 21st century.

entrance to Flitcroft
Entrance to the exhibition and event space at 4 Flitcroft St, opposite St Giles in the Fields church

Plans include a large ground floor gallery, event and exhibition space, two speakeasy-style music bars and an acoustically contained subterranean club space, set to host live music on weeknights (remember them?!) and DJ line-ups at the weekends.

“We’re trying to create a new space where young people from all over the city can create the genres and scenes of the future,” Farsight told Camdenist, “where culture and community – especially the local community here in Camden and Soho – come first. We hope that working with a blank canvas means we can take the lessons and spirit of the past and combine them with a modern, accessible and diverse approach to truly create a space for everyone.”

Innovation certainly is going to be key to the project, making sure the venue is not simply a pastiche of Soho’s former glories (the West End was always wild and dynamic, but could also be unsafe and antisocial, which is ultimately unsustainable). That means introducing some groundbreaking ideas, such as the club’s ‘decompression area’, a purpose-designed welfare-focused courtyard, where guests will find comfy seating, phone chargers, travel info and soft drinks, minimising the issues that can be encountered when venues tip out hundreds of people into the streets at once.

Provisional bookings for the gallery space include the launch event for Irvine Welsh’s next book, an exhibition focusing on local resident Derek Jarman, and a show with the Museum of Contemporary Youth Culture.

The bars, set beneath the guitar shops on Denmark Street, and will hark back to this location’s amazing lost history as one of London’s first LGBT watering holes, while the club venue will be all about discovering and nurturing new talent, while a partnership with leading event and festival promoters LWE will ensure new careers of all kinds are forged from this cultural petri dish.

The esteemed names behind the Farsight Collective include CEO Euan Johnston, (previously behind London venues including SEOne, Cable and Steelyard), Artistic Director Sean McLusky, (who launched Soho’s Brain Club in the late 80s, then oversaw the success of many more including The Leisure Lounge, The Complex and transforming King’s Cross’ Scala cinema into a live gig venue), and the venue’s Culture/Content Director Duncan J Dick (formerly the editor of leading music monthly Mixmag).

Flitcroft Street Exploded Axonometric
Plans for each floor of the as-yet-unnamed music venue (click to zoom)

“A lot of people know the heritage of Denmark Street from the 60s and 70s,” they tell Camdenist as we have a sneak peek at the space. “That Bowie met Bolan here for the first time at number 9, that the Rolling Stones recorded their first album at Regent Sounds Studio, that Hipgnosis designed record sleeves for Pink Floyd at number 6, and of course the Sex Pistols had their office in an outhouse behind the same number. But looking further back, this is where the great British songbook was written and composed from the 1900s onward. During the jazz age this was an epicentre for the underground queer nightlife scene (and also the site of London’s first ‘Little Tokyo’). The West End as a whole has always been a place for outsider-fuelled creativity: from Big Band to Skiffle to Goth to Britpop to Electroclash, so many music genres have been forged in this melting pot down the years.”

Not only have the forces chipping away at all this left a gaping missed opportunity for our local economy, but the current status quo deprives younger generations of their place in a living musical heritage, and is an unfathomably huge loss to an integral pipeline in the UK’s world-beating cultural production.

“This isn’t about building a monument to Denmark Street’s illustrious past though,” say the Collective. “This is our manifesto for what London could be. Should be.”

As ever, Camdenist is 100% pro the nighttime (we even dedicated a whole magazine to it back in the post-Covid days of 2022), as after all, after dark is when culture is forged. The existential crises that venues all over the country have suffered during and since the pandemic mean that anyone who enjoys music and the vibrant culture around it should be as excited as we are about the prospect of this as-yet-unnamed venue.

It will be a vital addition to Camden’s increasingly reinvigorated scene, and pick up a long and rich local musical thread that has existed throughout the neighbouring streets from the Marquee Club to the Astoria and The End. Now the huge disruption for Crossrail and the redevelopment of St Giles is largely complete, the next chapter of the area’s history is waiting to be written.

As Farsight rightly point out: “with the best after-dark transport links in the city, and a musical heritage unmatched perhaps anywhere in the world, if this isn’t the ideal spot for an amazing new grassroots music venue for London, then the question is: where?”

We’ll be bringing you more in the project in the coming weeks, including the first video from inside the venue, and the story behind historic LGBT venue Billie’s that once operated here, too.

The team at Farsight Collective are keen to interact with the local community, so to you can sign up for more info at www.farsightcollective.com/local

You can also attend one of the upcoming consultation sessions for locals, to be held in the gallery space at 4 Flitcroft Street WC2H 8DJ on Thursday 14th March (6pm-9pm) or Saturday 16th (12pm-6pm), or if you can’t make those you can arrange a visit by emailing local@farsightcollective.com

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