England’s Dreaming #10
A year or so back I interviewed Adrian and Amanda who run the Corsica Studios. The interview was for DJ Mag, as part of a piece on independent clubs, and how much better a venue can be when its run by a committed lunatic rather than a faceless corporate entity. Because of the constraints of space, I had to edit out a lot of the interview in the original piece, something I always thought sad. Both Amanda and Adrian are great characters, genuine music lovers and all too rare in Londons clubland. Its probably why the venue is so rated. Their journey to own the Corsica has been a long, slightly crazy one, featuring secret raves, doomed art experiments and severed body parts. Here are the bits of interview and write up Ive managed to salvage from my hard drive, Ill add more if I can find the original recordings. Nb some of these parts may have appeared in the original piece, but Ive left them in to make sense of the words.
Adrian: Weve literally built this space with our hands. Weve come from a DIY perspective, and put the whole thing together from scratch, so we know how every little thing works. Im concerned with every aspect – I take it personally if things arent working properly, or if someone doesnt have a good time. Its not anonymous, if theres ever a problem in the place Amanda or I will be here to sort it out. People know what weve put into the Corsica, and know that weve been obstinate, and stuck to our guns. We havent made any obvious choices. Its more interesting being outside of the norm its challenging, but its also much more creative trying to make something work thats a bit more leftfield. Weve never wanted to be part of any commercial scene.
Amanda Weve had to reign it in a bit if anything..
Adrian We try not to make any bookings that are too obviously commercial, and in terms of our location, its still a challenging place for people to come to, which can put off people who arent that committed. The reason we moved here was we didnt have that many options, but it fulfilled the criteria of having good transport links, but its South of the river which is another planet for a lot of people. Its so much harder for us to make things work here, but when they do work, they work better than anywhere else,
He has the frontier attitude common to the independent club owners. These are people who have carved venues out of nothing, staying afloat in a cut throat business that leaves no room for error. Jones and Moss started running arts venues in the 90s, signing limited leases on condemned buildings and turning them into semi-legal party spots. Londons eye watering rents meant they, like anyone without hefty cash backing, would inevitably find themselves located on the wrong side of the tracks. A charismatic couple, they have countless hair-raising tales of running clubs in parts of town mostly populated by the mad and the bad. Talking of the early days, Amanda tells me that
In the mid 90s we ran a venue behind the Scala in Kings X, which at that point was kind of a blind spot, there were loads of things going down around us, loads of crack basically. At one point we left the space and found ourselves in the middle of a police raid, because all the prostitutes would bring their clients down there. Meanwhile we were running theatre workshops, rehearsal spaces, club nights and gigs, all while this was going on
Adrian takes up the history,
I always think its funny to think of the different places weve been in – we went from a German gymnasium, to a former porn studio, to a mental health drop-in centre, to, finally, this railway arch.
And when we first came to Elephant & Castle it was literally like the Wild West. We couldnt let people leave because thered be fights going on outside. Thered be gunfire and wed have to lock people in.One time we were having an event and we couldnt get here because the police had put tape up. We couldnt actually get into the venue because you couldnt cross the police line Someone had found a dismembered finger outside our front door.
Thankfully, severed body parts have been consigned to the long distant past, but the ability to react to any situation life throws up is one of the key skills in running a venue, and Jones and Moss could write the manual on turning bad situations good.
We had a very bad start with the Corsica Amanda confides We had everything boxed up in our flat, waiting to move into the venue, and we got robbed. We had to fight the burglars in our flat. Adrian got stabbed in his arm three times. He heard a noise and went out, naked, to find this guy unloading our stuff through the window, and this big scuffle occurred. Saying that weve always turned these things around We were able to use that very bad situation to get the insurance money for all our stuff that got taken, and put that ready cash into getting this place up and running.
Adrian We tried a lot of systems over the years, and about 2005 or so someone mentioned we should look into getting some Function 1s and very few people had that at the time Plastic People, and I think 93 Feet East, and people were divided on it live engineers still hate it, but for club purposes it rules. Weve always wanted to provide the best environment for the people who come here to play on 0- bands who come here, DJs who play here, we want them to have the best equipment possible, we want to just deliver the best experience possible for the artist and the audience its a community spirit. Its not just about the audience that are coming, its also about the people who are playing here and it is about that like-minded spirit.
Amanda We have bands who play from all over the world, and we want them to feel at home here. Places where you hear music should be places where your connecting with your tribe. There are parts of it there are sacred in a way. So when people come here they need to know that they can find us and sort it out. Everyone who works here really cares.