Meanwhile, through another visually compelling screen-filled tunnel beyond the main space, the heart of the project is revealed to actually be round the back, on a slowly re-emerging Denmark Street. “If you talk to the Denmark Street retailers they’ll tell you that the lasty few years have been a royal pain in arse,” says Philip. “But now there’s hope. We’re basically making the area the new centre of British music. We’re launching a free-to-use recording studio and session rooms known as Chateau Denmark. The famous 12 Bar club, based in an old forge, was underpinned, moved, and has now been restored pretty much as any artist who has ever performed there would remember it. We’ve kept the heritage frontage and put in clauses that all retailers must be music related. Ultimately, this project will be judged on history, and that means creating a future as well as a past for music here.”
With Covid delaying the opening of the main space, known as the Now Building, and disrupting the entire fabric of high street, of which Oxford Street is the UK’s flagship, perhaps the arrival of Outernet here may point towards how city centres re-establish themselves around big ticket public experiences in years to come. The prospect of 2,000 music fans returning to enjoy live shows in the ghost shadow of the old Astoria is certainly cause for celebration. A reimagined Tin Pan Alley is surely an improvement on a historic street in terminal decline.
Urban environments don’t stand still, and the long-term impact of Covid is already being likened to that of World War 2. While its often hard to see institutions ripped down, as long we imagine ambitious new cultural spaces, we may even enjoy the process.
“We’re in the entertainment business,” says Philip. “If we get that right here, then everything else should work.”