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The Good Ship to become building supplies shop

Venue owner writes how he fears for Kilburn's future

08 May, 2018 — By Richard Osley

The Good Ship closed last year

A VENUE owner who says he was forced to close due to restrictions on its opening hours lamented how the bar will be converted into a shop for building supplies.

John McCooke said he had faced “little choice” but to shut The Good Ship, a comedy and music venue in Kilburn High Road, and vacate the premises. But in a 3,000-word essay shared by a legion of loyal regulars, he said he wanted to set the record straight about its closure last October, and did so with a warning about how a tradition of entertainment venues in Kilburn is at risk. Mr McCooke said The Good Ship had always been in the black financially, despite the pressures on live entertainments venues going into 2016.

He said it ran into trouble when a “very dangerous gang started hanging around our door”. “We had constant changes on our security team because of death threats and, all in all, it was a diabolical time until the intervention of the local neighbourhood police team helped to clear this problem,” said Mr McCooke.

This coincided with a string of other venues closing, he said, leaving the area “a whole lot quieter generally”. He said his bar needed to retain its late licence to survive but later saw Brent Council, which oversees that side of the road, cut its weekend trading hours due to reports of fights. Nights which had a 4am finish were pulled back to 2am, and he said it had an immediate effect on finances.

Mr McCooke said: “I was born and bred in Kilburn and have always loved the diversity of the area and indeed London as a whole. I have always felt that London is like an experiment to see if people of different cultural and financial backgrounds can get on, and they largely do.”

He referenced how the Kilburn Ironworks bar suddenly closed in January, adding: “Most of the pubs will survive and some will benefit a small bit from others closing, but the fact remains that London is a big place and there are plenty of other neighbourhoods to go out in.” The Good Ship had been open since 2005 and played host to singer Adele in the early years of her career.

“In 1914 Kilburn had the largest purpose-built cinema in England with 2,000 seats, it did again in 1937 when The Gaumont State was built with 4,000 seats,” said Mr McCooke. “When cinema audiences dropped, those venues had the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, The Who, The Smiths and Nirvana play. Now, there is pretty much nothing, and I really cannot see why anyone would want to take a chance on Kilburn in the current environment.”

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