Fiddler’s Elbow fears for future amid virus crisis
Long wait looks likely for live music performances to return
14 May, 2020 — By Dan Carrier
Licensees Nancy Wild and Dan Maiden
IT has had performers cross its floorboards since the Victorian period – but now a legendary venue in Kentish Town fears its entertainment days are numbered.
The Fiddler’s Elbow pub and music venue, on the corner of Malden Road and Prince of Wales Road, faces an uncertain future as this week’s easing of lockdown rules gave no clues as to when live music performances would be up and running again.
Licensees Dan Maiden and Nancy Wild said that if pubs were allowed to open again with social distancing rules in place then a suspension of rent by brewery Stonegate would come to an end. But the venue’s main source of income comes from gigs, which would still not be allowed.
Mr Maiden said: “The landlords have given us rent relief but when pubs reopen in July or August, we will have a rent bill. We have to find £6,000 a month before we pay any wages and we have zero passing trade – we sell four pints a day when we do not have a band playing. This isn’t a pub, it is a music venue. When the rent kicks in again, we will be in massive trouble.”
The stage at the Fiddler’s Elbow where Madness, Blur and The Pogues all played in their early days
Now the publicans hope to raise £15,000 in a crowd-funding campaign to ensure they can survive until bands and performers are allowed back on stage.
Mr Maiden has been involved with the pub as a promoter for decades and has poured his efforts in to helping it maintain its spot as a leading gig venue.
With partner Ms Wild, he took on the lease 10 years ago. Music ranges from Irish sessions to ska and reggae, dance music nights and rap battles. The Grade-II listed building, originally called the Old Mother Shipton, dates from 1845 and first earned a theatre licence in Victorian times.
Fabled club nights such as Crawdaddy and Weirdsville have made the Fiddler’s their home, while bands such as The Pogues have appeared.
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Singer Shane MacGowan once did an impromptu concert there in aid of a New Journal appeal to help young victims of fires in South African townships. The list of up and coming bands who have gone on to make their names reads like a roster of British rock and pop – ranging from Madness to Blur, The Specials to The Clash.
Mr Maiden says the crisis could lead to him losing everything – his livelihood and his savings – and Camden will lose a venue that has played host to seminal musical moments.
He said: “How do you put in place social distancing in a gig venue that holds 150 people? We can’t have one person at our bar without breaking social distancing guidelines.”
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Supported by the Music Venues Trust, which campaigns to save live venues, Mr Maiden said another effect would be on bands relying on spaces like the Fiddler’s. He said: “We have 28 performers and bands here each week. That’s a lot of musicians needing somewhere else to play.”
Mr Maiden added he feared if they could not raise funds to cover the rent, the pub would be repossessed and turned into housing.
He said: “No one would buy the lease from us in these circumstances, and we fear the landlords see the Fiddler’s as any other pub. We believe the Fiddler’s would simply close and never reopen, and then be used for posh housing.”
l To donate, go to: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-fiddlers-elbow-camden