This is a review of the VENUE that is known as
the Harrow Arts Centre.
Date of visit- 3rd October 2009
Band seen- Elvis Tribute Act
Admission cost- £10
Number in (Saturday evening) around 180
Lets start at the very beginning - Harrow Arts Centre is NOT in Harrow - so do not all rush there to start with!!! The Harrow Arts Centre is in Hatch End, around 800 yards from Hatch End Station (London Overground) where you should leave the station, turn left, go over the bridge and it is after Morrison's on your right.
Driving in you access via the roundabout for the Morrison's store in towards the store car park and then go off to the left before you get to it. Be warned the venue car park is not large and the car park in Morrison's is, apparently, locked at 10.30 (helpfully this was announced during the gig I was at at about 10.00) although when I left at 11.30 the gates to it were still open. I ended up having to park on the grass just off the car park for the venue.
Situated in the main hall of the former Royal Commercial Travellers School the building it is in is both impressive and substantial. The main room is called Elliott Hall and was the main school hall, and is some size!! With its church like feeling (accentuated by the large organ at one end) and internally around three stories high and having a Tudor vaulted roof one cannot fail to be impressed. This room has around it in a rectangular arrangement corridors, so you can walk around it and enter from either side, off it are the toilets (school type!) and in one corner are a number of photographs of artists who have played there in the past, everyone from Rick Wakeman to Bernie Clifton! Strangely the dates on them stop in about 1995, so either they have stopped putting them up or now do not book any big names.
Internally there are freestanding seats on the level at the front of the auditorium and then raked fixed seating (albeit on a removable structure) towards the rear. The view of the stage is excellent from any point where the stage itself is large and raised by around four feet. Overall the seating area is quoted at 450. Be warned, the leg room in the raked seats is dreadful, and if you want to dance you will struggle as there is only the side aisles. I suspect that depending on the event the seats either all or partially removed.
Suspended from the vaulted ceiling are coloured lights and there is also a roaming spot light, on the night I visited these were used to good effect, but producing static coloured effects, no chasing of lights was in evidence.
In the "quadrangle of corridors" around the main auditorium, front right of the stage is the "bar", such as it is, where everything is sold in tins or bottles and served in plastic glasses, and all prices it seems are rounded up to the nearest £1, so a can of John Smiths or Fosters will probably be £3, I was driving so on Coke at £1, or aJ20 at £2.
The sound quality in the auditorium was a bit of a strain, nothing wrong with the PA but in such a cavernous arena in tended to boom in to the roof void, during the show I moved towards the back for the second half, as opposed to just up in the raised seating, and it either was acoustically better or I had got used to it, as it did not seem so bad.
So to sum up, The Harrow Arts Centre, or harrowarts as it is called online, is a large, venue with good public transport links (but not on the tube) housed in a substantial building but on the downside it lacks atmosphere and the sound struggles with the very (very!) high ceiling, and the bar....well what it is what it is; tinned!!
Review by Philip -