O2 Forum Kentish Town is one of London’s major live entertainment venues. It is located in Kentish Town, North London and is one of the UK’s best-preserved original theatres.
O2 Forum Kentish Town was originally built as an art deco cinema in 1934 by Herbert Yapp, a cinema magnate who also owned the Forum cinemas in Ealing and Fulham. The architect was J. Stanley Beard and the interior design was by his partner W.R. Bennett.
It had a 35 foot tall proscenium (the part of the stage between the front of the curtain and the orchestra pit) and a 25 foot deep stage. It had six dressing rooms, a Compton organ and a safety curtain weighing 5 tons. It seated 2,175 in stalls and a single balcony. The first floor accommodated a large tea room and dance hall where tea dances took place; there was even a cosmetics room for the lady patrons.
O2 Forum Kentish Town was launched with a grand opening ceremony of music and films, conducted by the star Sydney Howard, on 17th December 1934.
It was taken over in March 1935 by Associated British Cinemas (ABC) along with the other Forum cinemas but it didn’t change its name to the ABC until 1963, 28 years later.
The ABC cinema closed in 1970 and became first a bingo hall and then a dance hall. In the 1980s the name was changed to The Town & Country Club and it became a music venue. It became one of the must-play venues on the indie circuit for up and coming bands as well as established ones. Throughout the late ‘80s, bands that played there included The Velvet Underground, Pixies, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine and The Wedding Present.
The venue was bought in 1993 by The Mean Fiddler Music Group and was returned to its original name O2 Forum Kentish Town. It also became a Grade II Listed building.
In 2007, O2 Forum Kentish Town was purchased by the MAMA & Company (formerly MAMA Group) , a UK based entertainment company who own a number of music venues and festivals (see here), artist management companies and other music-related businesses such as the UK’s most widely circulated music magazine, The Fly.
MAMA & Company spent £1.5 million refurbishing it. It still has standing downstairs but now boasts a fully seated option as well as a new pa and light system. The refurbishment also created a new bar and increased the capacity to 2300.