Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on May 7th 2010 9:00AM by Barnaby Smith
Come to See: There are some misguided souls out there who think Colchester is a humdrum, tired place in the middle of Essex. But there's more to this garrison town than that -- not only was it once the capital of the nation during Roman rule (they named it Camulodunum), but it also boasts this terrific hub of art and music. It also gave the world a certain Britpop four-piece, more of whom in a minute ...
Much beloved by local residents, the Arts Centre is a converted church near the middle of town and has been a refreshing home of culture for the community since opening in 1980. In recent times, there has been a renewed emphasis on music, and in the last six months alone, British Sea Power, Robots in Disguise, Gallows, Idlewild and Hadouken! have all visited, although poetry, theatre and comedy also feature in the listings. And, as you would expect from the building's previous incarnation, it hosts folk-tinged music very well, as Fairport Convention, Scott Matthews and Glenn Tilbrook will tell you, while psychedelic medieval troupe Circulus played a memorable show here last October. Through the Arts Centre alone, Colchester nearly local rivals Southend-on-Sea as Essex's most vibrant musical town.
The Atmosphere: The Church of St Mary's at the Wall, as was, is a Grade II listed building, while parts of the structure date back to the 15th century. It retains its stained glass windows and marble inscriptions on the wall, meaning an air of solemn contemplation can pervade depending on who's playing. However, the variety of acts which perform here -- from reggae to jazz to electro-punk -- ensures that any mood dictated by the architecture and decor is not fixed.
As with most former places of worship that hosts gigs, the sound is superb, and as a result, is well-liked by bands. However, a regular curfew time of 10:30PM means that any true abandon, spontaneity and delirium is a rare thing.
You Saw Them Here First: The story goes that in 1988, a 20-year-old Damon Albarn played a solo gig at the Arts Centre. In the meagre audience were drummer Dave Rowntree, and his friend Graham Coxon, who had known Albarn when they both attended the local sixth form. Rowntree and Albarn went for a drink after the show, and not too long after, the three formed the band Circus, renamed themselves Seymour, recruited bassist Alex James and eventually became Blur.
Claim to Fame: It is widely believed that the church gave rise to the 'Humpty Dumpty' nursery rhyme. Legend has it that Humpty Dumpty was the name of a cannon placed on a wall next to the building by Royalists to defend Colchester from marauding Parliamentarians in 1648, during the English Civil War. The Royalists failed and Humpty Dumpty was destroyed, with the defenders of the crown seemingly unable to put Humpty together again.
You Should Also Know: It would probably enrage the ecclesiastical founders of the place, but the deconsecrated church also hosts the Colchester Beer Festival. This year's takes place June 1-5.
Booking now: Smudge, Klaxons, Juliette Lewis, 65 Days of Static.