From public toilet to best small music venue in UK
A TUNBRIDGE Wells nightspot has been named the best small music venue in the UK.
The Forum, on the Common by London Road, fended off competition from nine other short-listed sites to be given the crown by industry bible NME on Tuesday.
The venue, which was once a public toilet, has proved a hotspot for up and coming talent in its 19 years, hosting such megastars as Oasis, Coldplay and Adele before they were famous.
But delighted co-owner Mark Davyd said it was not all about the big names.
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"As well as having the opportunity to say 'we may have the next big name acts play here', what we do is all about local musicians and people who love music," he said.
The independent, 250-capacity venue was voted the UK's best by a judging panel consisting of music producer Geoff Ellis, festival organiser Melvin Benn, head of UK Music Jo Dipple, Radio 1's Huw Stephens and NME's Krissi Murison, Mike Williams and Luke Lewis.
And those it beat included the Bristol Thekla, the Stoke Sugarmill, Norwich Arts Centre and the Belfast Limelight.
"We're really, really happy about it and incredibly proud of everybody that's made it happen," said Mr Davyd.
"It's a tough time for venues and for everybody in town economically, but this reward is about Tunbridge Wells music-lovers actually making something happen in the town.
"It's a great reward for the town and reflects well on everybody here and for us personally."
Mr Davyd co-founded the venue with three friends, Jason Dormon, Michael Oyarzabal and Peter Hoare, in January 1993.
Of the four, Mr Davyd and Mr Dormon have remained, with countless helpers along the way.
"The list of people we need to thank is far too long – there have been so many who have helped promote us in various ways over the years," said Mr Davyd.
Asked why it has gone on to be such a success from its humble beginnings, he said: "It was all started by four friends 20 years ago with a very limited budget.
"I think it's got a very special team of people around it and it always has," said the 47-year-old. "It was really a question of keeping that atmosphere. It's not a money machine, it's a thing where people can enjoy good music in the town.
"It's about the special atmosphere which comes from people who just want something good to happen to the town.
"Not everybody wants to go to London for a gig – and The Forum's become part of Tunbridge Wells life."
A special gig headlined by rock band Enter Shikari will take place on June 5 to celebrate the achievement. Details of how to get tickets will be revealed soon.
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