Camden’s Green Note is officially London’s favourite music venue
- Credit: Archant
Alex Bellotti finds out how the small music cafe bested the Royal Albert Hall, Roundhouse and Union Chapel to a prestigious award.
While it may have lost ground to east London recently, Camden Town remains a leading light in the capital’s music scene.
With institutions such as the Roundhouse, the Jazz Café and the Dublin Castle, the area’s hardly short of iconic venues.
But a surprise winner at the London Music Awards last month proved it has another jewel to add to its crown.
Two months short of its tenth anniversary, Parkway’s Green Note collected the award for London’s Favourite Music Venue, fending off competition from the Union Chapel, the Royal Albert Hall and Brixton Academy. Set up in 2005 by Risa Tabatznik and Immy Doman, the music café has quickly gained an international reputation for its intimate atmosphere, close-knit community and folksy charm akin to New York’s Greenwich Village scene in the 1960s.
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Its owners, both 36, have been friends since attending Hampstead Garden Suburb’s Henrietta Barnett School. Bonding over a shared love of singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, it was here they conceived the “dream” of setting up a music venue, but it wasn’t until years later that they acted on their ambitions.
“We went off to university to study completely unrelated subjects,” says Doman. “We thought this would happen, but perhaps later in our lives; it was a dream out there for the future.”
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Tabatznik continues: “I think because we were moving back to London and we were looking for the kind of place we would want to go to, we saw this niche in the market that just wasn’t there. We thought, ‘Well maybe we should just create this place we’ve always talked about. It seems to have worked because other people seem to like it too.”
After several work placements, internships and business courses, the pair found a place in their favoured location of Camden Town to set up the Green Note’s rustic, cozy aesthetic. Their roster of acts, unlike other nearby venues, favours folk, blues and world music rather than rock or indie. Over the years, the venue has caught stars such as Amy Winehouse and Ed Sheeran early in their careers, and Tabatznik, who lives in Swiss Cottage, admits its reputation has grown so much thy receive scores of offers from bands each week.
A famous night in the venue’s history occurred when Leonard Cohen appeared unexpectedly at the request of his fan club. But perhaps the most amusing celebrity tale came through Blur’s Graham Coxon, an regular who Donan initially failed to recognise.
The Kentish Town resident explains: “He approached me saying he loved this place and would really like to play here, so how would he go about it? I said, ‘Well you’d have to give us a demo.’ He was quite confused; I don’t think he’d ever had to go through that process of submitting a demo, so he ended up making a mix CD. He put loads of thought into it and gave it to me, and then I realised who he was. I felt a bit stupid, but I just knew him as the guy who came in every Sunday!”
Donan and Tabatznik’s friendship is a large part of why the venue continues to thrive.. With a habit of finishing each other’s sentences, Donan explains: “That’s why we work so well together. Such an underlying part of the foundation to friendship was based on music.”
For a list of the Green Note’s upcoming events, visit greennote.co.uk