The Flamingo Club

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The opening scene of our production of A Mad World My Masters takes place in the Flamingo Club, Soho, one of London's most popular and infamous music venues in the 1950s.

The Flamingo opens
Designed as a comfortable place for Londoners to sit back and enjoy the growing British jazz scene, the Flamingo Club opened on Coventry Street in 1952 by father and son Sam and Jeffrey Kruger.

Famous faces
Experimenting with and popularising genres such as jazz, R&B, ska and early British rock the Flamingo hosted stars ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Black Sabbath.

John Lennon, Billie Holiday, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix visited and performed, resulting in a mixture of musical styles and fashions reflecting London's increasing multiculturalism.

The Flamingo moves
In 1957 the club moved from Coventry Street to 33-37 Wardour Street. Soon after it came under new management from ex-boxer Rik Gunnell and his brother, Johnny.

The new owners encouraged the 'All Nighters', for which the Flamingo Club became famous. These saw the club stay open on Friday and Saturday nights until 6am.

Change in atmosphere
In the early 1960s the Flamingo Club became an infamous hang out for gangsters and prostitutes.

In 1962, a fight began at the club between two lovers of the model, Christine Keeler. This fight would go on to reveal one of the 60s biggest political scandals, the Profumo Affair.

The Flamingo once again became the centre for musical fusion it had been in the 50s with the arrival of the mod subculture, the rise of ska and R&B and later, British rock. But the club's recovery would not last forever.

The end of the Flamingo
In 1967 the doors of the Flamingo Club closed for the last time. Changing tastes in music and culture had seen it become less popular up until its closure.

After 15 years as a melting pot for London's changing music scene; having gone from jazz club, to a hang out for gangsters and prostitutes, through mod haven to a home for British rock, the famous Flamingo Club was gone for good.

Photo: 33 Wardour Street, the site of the Flamingo Club from 1957.

A Mad World My Masters

by Thomas Middleton

Swan Theatre
6 June - 25 October 2013

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