Wonderful Wilton's

Wilton's Music Hall is just off Cable Street, near Aldgate, and has the distinction of being the oldest surviving music hall building in the world. It is also rather unusual in that it appears to have the ability to make everyone who goes there cooler and better looking merely by association (which could be useful if you're looking for somewhere to go on a date).

I realised this when I visited last Friday, to see a band called The Destroyers, which I wrote about in my other - music - blog.

With its stripped down walls, delicately moulded plasterwork and niagra of fairy lights, it has a glamour that creeps up on you. The place is magical, dramatic, apparently awash with the dreams of its many thousands of performers and audiences. It also seems to be in a bit of a state of disrepair.

I've been hearing for years about attempts to find funding for refurbishment, reading about it in newspapers, hearing about it on the local TV news. I even heard about it in person once, when I was lucky enough to be invited to a book launch there: they hire it out for functions. And yet somehow, despite lots of publicity and support from the media, the funding seems never to have materialised.

One could speculate about how well-organised the bids for money have been. Or one could wonder how sensible it is to attempt to maintain a building that appears not to have been built to last in the first place. After all, it's only 160 years old...

And yet the place is staggeringly beautiful and somehow its ephemerality is inseparable from that. It has a faded (and fading) grandeur that brings to mind Venice underwater, or BioShock, the video game based on Ayn Rand's philosophy that takes place in a submerged Utopia gone bad.

Kate Mitchell, Wilton's development director, explained that the place is once more engaged in a fundraising process. "We've raised a certain amount of money and we're able to go ahead and do some emergency work on the building. In particular there is some subsidence in the basement.

"Our architect has looked at it and broken the work into three phases. The first phase was the music hall itself: keeping it structurally sound. And phases two and three are about working on the houses. Everything that isn't the auditorium was originally five houses knocked together. I include the foyer and bar area in that.

"We have a top floor of rooms that we can't open up to the public at the moment. But we're talking to the Heritage Lottery Fund again, now we have our architect's plans." But surely there must be someone out there who's made money through the entertainment business who'd be interested in chipping in?

I urge you to visit, if only for a drink in its charming bar.

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