Friday, April 25, 2008

GUARDIAN PIECE

**UPDATED BELOW**

The Guardian kindly asked me to reveal one of my secret London haunts, as part of its blog by blog guide to London. Never one to pass up a chance to big up south east London, I of course chose the incredible Rivoli Ballroom. (And trust me, wandering around a deserted Rivoli Ballroom - haunt would be the right word.)


Read it here.

I've got so much more to say about the Rivoli, but right now, left over Phad Thai and episode 12 of Gossip Girl on youtube beckons...

...Some time later:
So, there were a few things that got cut from the little piece in the Guardian and more besides that I didn't have space for. The Rivoli is honestly the most amazing place. It is constantly used as a location for major films, music videos and photo shoots - basically if you've seen any of the above featuring a ballroom, that's The Rivoli you're looking at. I first found out about it when I was there assisting on a photo shoot ooh, about nine years ago now. It was before I lived in the area and everyone was like, where the hell are we? I wandered around into the bars off the main ballroom and got chatting to Bill, who has been running the place with his wife Jeannie for 30 years. Wandering around there on your own is a little like that scene in The Shining where Jack Nicholson sees all the ghosts of people dancing in the ballroom. All I know is every time I go near that main bar all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I feel so cold my nose starts running. I always remembered that day and now that I live not far away, each time I drive past and see location vans outside I always have a quick look in case I catch a glimpse of Kate Moss or Kylie or Brad Pitt or Arctic Monkeys or (insert name of celebrity here). Although I of course found out about the intimate White Stripes gig the day after it happened. I blogged my disappointment here.

The other thing that got cut was that The Rivoli is currently up for sale. Last December they were offered 10 million quid for the place by property developers who would have, yes, flattened it and built a hideous new development of flats on the site. English Heritage swooped in within about 30 seconds and listed The Rivoli, meaning that no one can make major changes, or even minor ones without permission. At the time I thought thank God, good old English Heritage. I still think it would be a huge shame to lose the ballroom, as it's constantly in use not just as a location, but for ballroom dancing, functions and parties. But having spent a fair bit of time chatting to Bill and Jeannie, who are quite lovely and let me snoop around there and ask questions they've probably been asked a million times the other day, I can totally see the other side. They are both nearing 70, their health is failing and they now have a ballroom that will be very difficult to sell. They asked English Heritage for help to maintain the building a few years ago and EH didn't give them a penny. Bill and Jeannie have used the profits from running it to keep it in pristine condition with all the original features intact and cared for. So I kind of feel sorry for them. They are proper old school characters who've seen it all. I'd love someone to make a documentary about them and the Rivoli. I'm surprised someone hasn't already (have they??). I have actually never been there to dance, but I'm certainly going to now. We have plans involving swishy dresses and bouffant hair. We'll probably go to this. I wouldn't miss the chance for anything.

{pic by me}

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

wow congrats! gotta love the guardian (it's my home page!) and love the word "insalubrious"...
nancy

Stephanie said...

The RIVOLI! Its gorgeous... Thanks for sharing some of your haunts. I'm making it a point to read all your GS posts before I leave for London. I keep doing the same-old same-old when I go, but I want to do what the (cool) locals do!

Anonymous said...

... and, of course, congratulations!!!
xxx
Mia

the fashion assistant and her camera said...

Went there in winter 2007 to film 'MEASM2' for channel 5, the place and the interiors were amazing!!!

K

Bombay Beauty said...

Brilliant! Well done! BB

On Track said...

Ive never been to London, but this place looks AMAZING! I am off to read more of your work right now :)

Anonymous said...

Such an interesting piece, dear Lola. Like yourself, I thought thah the EH intervention was great, and then I was extremely disappointed when I read that they are not giving a penny to help the owners. Those people should be rewarded for their brilliant job so far. And yes, you should start going there to actually dance, and make as many people do the same! I'm coming as well! :)
Mia

lottie said...

saw it, loved it - well done you! x