We don’t want to dwell on the past but…
The Kilburn High Road , not so long ago, used to be known in London as the “Music Mile”. Progressively most live entertainment venues have disappeared. To name just a few, The Luminaire, nationally acclaimed as a stepping stone for new musical talents, the Gaumont State where acts as famous as Sinatra and the Beatles performed, The National where the Who and many others played, the Powers Bar, again an important live venue owned by the founder of Mean Fiddlers….It is sad to report that the Gaumont State became a Church although Andrew Lloyd Webber wanted to use the building as a school for Musical artists and as a performance venue. It did not happen because some local groups opposed the move on the basis of parking disturbances. Pubs, serving locals and attracting visitors to the area, have also disappeared, e.g. Biddy Mulligan’s, now a bookmaker, the Ironworks, the Betsy Smith, the McGoverns, the Red Lion and the list goes on.
The Demise of the High Road, why?
Kilburn High Road is classified as one of the 35 Major Town Centres by the London plan. As a result, business rates are disproportionally high compared to other parts of London. Maybe that explains why Dalston (low business rates) is thriving and not Kilburn for example, by attracting new start up businesses. Councils have powers to intervene on business rates, but we do not think they have in Kilburn.
Because the Kilburn High Road lies at the border of Brent and Camden (facing north the left side of the road is Brent, right side is Camden) it has not been given the attention it deserves by both Boroughs. There has not been a unified voice for Kilburn, defending its businesses and residents interests and any attempt has not succeeded as dealing with the bureaucracy of 2 boroughs is very challenging. Additionally, it is the home of a large proportion of social housing tenants and private renters who probably do not generally invest themselves in the neighbourhood as much as in others which have more permanent private residents such as West Hampstead or Belsize Park for example.
With driving, being the preferred mode of transport in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, the High Road was at a disadvantage as no parking provision for visitors were readily available. Our High Road is 1 mile long, (1.8 Kms) and thus walking top to bottom is not the preferred option for many especially with the state of pavements and also the cluttered and narrow footpaths.
So the High Road became a row of Chicken shops, betting shops, cash lenders and Kebab places. We are lucky to have retained some large retailers but when will they go?
What makes a High Road lively and prosperous?
Let’s look at the future… High roads will remain lively and prosperous if they provide a mix of experiences, attract local workers, local residents and visitors in a pleasant setting.
Through the lack of investment from both boroughs one would definitely state that the High Road does not provide a pleasant setting. A traffic dominated road, with nowhere to stop and rest, dirty, narrow, cluttered and neglected pavements and shop fronts… and poorly maintained Kilburn square and its “market”.
Local workers have all but disappeared, with the wholesale conversion of office spaces to residential units. The only workers that remain are the shop staff and the self employed.
Visitors are not attracted to the high road as it does not offer anything that other places do not offer. The Tricycle (Kiln) used to bring in large number of external visitors but has been closed for more than two years. The Luminaire, the Good Ship and the Powers Bar, also attracted significant outside crowds when they existed. Even the football fans of Wembley rarely come to Kilburn nowadays pre-match, as the few remaining drinking establishments are expensive and the street scene is not pleasant (source Twitter). We have Primark, the first in England, and that attracted numerous visitors, but Primark is everywhere in London now.
We still have a varied mix of experiences and are lucky to have retained banks, post offices and some solicitors. We haveÂ lost our Job Centre Plus, our Citizen’s Advice Bureau, our Sure start centre though….Oh and we have lost North West London College but there is a glimpse of hope… We have the ICMP (Institute of Contemporary Music and Performance). A great source of emerging talents who currently have to perform in venues in East London as Kilburn has lost all of its Music venues.
The Good Ship Site and its role in the high street economy
The Good Ship site is the only vacant site that could continue to accommodate Live Music and Comedy, bringing the local community and external visitors together. It could regain its status as a venue for emerging talents (ICMP next door anyone?). Venues, like the Red Lion at the bottom of the High Road are too far from the hustle and bustle of the High Road and are surrounded by new developments with no character.Â The Good Ship site is ideal as there are very few residential properties surrounding it,Â it has brilliant transport links (Brondesbury overground, Kilburn tube station and a bus stop right opposite) and is opposite a Park.
Making the top of Kilburn High Road, from Willesden Lane to Kilburn station the night economy centre and the entertainment centre is certainly possible if there is a will. So let’s keep the Good Ship as a venue for Live Music and Comedy, improve the pavements and the road amenities by removing obstructions such as signs, fly tipping and illegal shop structures. Make the walk from the top of Kilburn High Road to Willesden Lane a pleasant experience by improving lighting and optimising policing (6 Safer Neighbourhoor Policing teams cover this area).
One of the reasons the Good Ship closed was the presence of a gang, that led to a reduction in their licensing hours so better policing is critical. Councils have forgotten that users of Night time venues do not drive any more and that thus a good and safe pedestrian environment is crucial.
If the Good Ship changes to D1 (medical which includes optometrists, doctors, dentists,) then Kilburn’s night life will die off and subsequently the High Road will continue its decline. We already have plenty of D1 facilities at the top of the High Road that do not bring in visitors that will make the high road flourish and encourage better businesses to open. We will be left with the betting facilities, pawnbrokers, chicken shops, kebab shops and religious meeting spaces. The Kiln theatre and cinema will not survive and would be the next victim moving to the Wembley Towers. Oh and do you think the Kingdom Bar, rumoured to become a music venue, would succeed? We do not think so if it is isolated.
What you need to do now…..yes now not tomorrow…..
Object to the redevelopment of the Good ShipÂ Â Click here
HelpÂ with the work of the very under-represented and under-staffed Kilburn Neighbourhood Plan Forum Click Here
Report frequently and relentlessly on street issues using either the Clean Camden or Cleaner Brent apps (both work in both Boroughs as are run by lovecleanstreets)
Let us know what you think we could do to start a campaign to improve the High Road environment and what your priorities are.
Use the High Road…There are still some great restaurants and shops. Promote it to your friends, family and neighbours and spread the word by asking them to subscribe to our newsletter.
We are two individuals living in Kilburn, who want to highlight what is good about Kilburn and keep other locals informed of what is happening in the area. We want to provide an apolitical platform to help improve our neighbourhood. We do not have any commercial objective.