I was too young to have ever visited Malcolm Hardee‘s Tunnel Club, sadly. A generation of comics honed their acts in front of “lively” crowds at the venue, in the old Mitre pub by the Blackwall Tunnel entrance. You can trace a whole gang of entertainers through their links with this place, from Jools Holland and Squeeze through to the likes Vic Reeves and Jo Brand. Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer stayed in the area through their early days of success, working out of Jools Holland’s Helicon Mountain “railway station” studio above the platforms at Westcombe Park station – I remember bumping into them waiting for an afternoon train into town.
This could be my faulty memory playing up, but for some reason I’m sure I remember a night the police raided The Tunnel Club (around 1988?), possibly leading to its closure. It wasn’t exactly a softly-softly operation, from what I can remember, with sirens wailing everywhere. Malcolm moved on to Up The Creek, which continues to this day. The Mitre building remains, still as isolated as it always was, and is now a house music venue called That Club.
Brought up in Lewisham, Malcolm was a true south-east London legend – a frequent sight around Greenwich and Blackheath with his son, and a regular at the quiz night at Hardys Free House. Sadly, he died in 2005, drowning while trying to get to the houseboat he lived in at Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe. Without him, Greenwich would have been a far duller place.
So I’m indebted to Deptford’s Crosswhatfields for bringing news of a film that’s been made about the Tunnel Club, by Jody VandenBurg. The Tunnel is a 30-minute-long pilot for a new feature film to be made about Malcolm. It’s been nominated for Film London’s ‘best of borough’ awards (for Lambeth, mind), and you can watch it on the Film London website.