It was both a jubilant and poignant event held at the Coronet on New Year's eve and morning, 2017-18. Breakin Science put on a festive spirit of drum and bass, jungle and garage acts across 5 arenas. They rocked the sold out house with around 2,800 party goers in attendance. The Coronet, after 146 distinguished years of theatre, cinema and latterly music and club events, was closing its doors for the final time at this event. This section of the Elephant and Castle, that takes in the shopping centre, is scheduled for demolition and regeneration over the coming years.
I arrived at the venue around 11pm, pacing myself for the morning ahead as the event would finish at 6pm. Samantha Porter, the General Manager of the Coronet, kindly added me to the house list and as we greeted each other at the walkthrough metal detector, I asked her if she would be free at all, for a quick interview. Probably not. She was focused on all the dynamic tasks at hand in running the venue. We got a full sense of this in an interview recorded with Sam in June 2017. In fact, it seemed fitting, given the theatrical origins of the building, that the last time I would see Sam at the Coronet, was around 3am, when I went out to the railway arches section of the venue and entered a space that was curtained off. I wasn't sure whether this was being used as another of the music spaces. I saw Sam kneeling over a man who was prostrate and with two paramedics in attendance. She ushered me away.
I attended the event as both party goer, film maker and also dressed as I was in 1940s suit, overcoat and trilby, almost as a performance artist in my own right. I wanted to connect back to the melodramatic origins of the theatre and the recent Arts Council funded project about the first actress-manageress of the theatre, Marie Henderson. She ended her life in Bedlam, the mental hospital, after she lost all her theatrical costumes when the theatre burnt down in 1878. My clothing went down a storm, although there were one or two niggly moments with young men. One in particular, for perhaps understandable reasons, demanded that I delete any footage of him. Did he think I was a not so undercover Sam Spade or a film making gangster in-yer-face? He grabbed my hat in a threatening manner, but after we chatted and I took a photo of him on his mobile wearing my hat, the respectful fist bump followed.
While I enjoyed listening to all the talented musicians, it was Nu Elementz with Grima and Azza who caught my attention. I suspect that was partly due to the emotional quality of their work, including heartfelt tributes to the Coronet and DJ Dominator who had passed away earlier in the year.
In the quieter zones away from the main arena, especially in the VIP lounge, there was a lot of fine dancing taking place. The new kids on the block were showing me the electro shuffle steps that I might be able to incorporate into a dance project I have in mind for my art residency at Silchester Estate.
The Coronet will always live in the memory of those who connected with this unique cavernous space that has provided entertainment and art for many generations. This film record of the last night will be deposited in Southwark Archives with other material so that future generations can make a connection with the legacy of the Coronet.