From 2004 – 2007, August bank holiday manoeuvres wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the crumbling old goods depot behind King’s Cross station.
Although the area was an established destination for clubbers year round, (from roadblocked glam house events at The Cross to underground nights at The Key or mega raves at Bagley’s) bank holiday was the only time not just the clubs, but the entire site was opened up into a full-throttle multi-arena festival.
That meant you’d find outdoor stages set amongst old coal drop arches and could enjoy dancing on the cobbles in the shadow of the area’s neglected gas holders and abandoned railway viaducts.
As festival locations go, it had grit and atmosphere in spades. It also had a refreshingly diverse line-up, mixing the traditional DJ sets the area was known for with live shows and some peachy headliners too.
Director of music and media of the TDK Cross Central events, Richard Garrow Newport, explains how it all started.
“I’d curated a new small one-day music festival in 2003, which was due to take place across the main hall of the Truman Brewery, plus 93 Feet East and the car park across Brick Lane,” he explains. “Two weeks before, the venue lost its licence and pulled the show. So I immediately called Billy Reilly.”
Billy was the former Goods Yard haulage firm owner who had gone on to become a successful nightclub owner when he launched The Cross in a couple of the arches. He’d recently taken over the running of Bagley’s Warehouse too, rechristening it Canvas.
“I’d been friends with Billy for years of doing parties at The Cross, and he agreed to move the festival to Kings Cross using Canvas, The Terrace and an outdoor stage within the Freight Depot.
“He knew we had sold out and the hype and press around the festival was huge, so the show proved a great success. Straight after that he asked if I’d like to curate something similar using the whole freight depot for a two-day festival the following year.”
Creating a festival site out of a Victorian goods terminus was a huge challenge initially, although it eventually turned into the event’s greatest asset.
“Our ready-made urban landscape, combined with forward-thinking musical programming, was eventually the key to our success – we sat apart from everyone else.”
2005 saw things blow up for the event, which not only scored the first appearance from Grace Jones after a ten year hiatus from the UK, but also saw Goldfrapp performing on the very weekend they had a number one hit single.
Sponsorship from large Japanese cassette manufacturer TDK, (desperate to keep consumer-relevant in an increasingly digital age), helped the event return annually, while the clock ticked towards the eventual redevelopment of the site, now more likely to play host to opera or flamenco in its new public performances spaces.
“By our last year in 2007 we had nine stages of music indoors and outdoors running from 3pm – 6am,” remembers Richard, proudly. “That would never be able to happen in London again.”
They were also able to take risks with the line-ups, knowing that London’s tribes could all find something to appeal to them (ahead of ducking down to Notting Hill for some jerk chicken the next day).
“We were purposefully blurring the lines between scenes which had never been done to that level before,” says Rich, “mixing musical legends with tomorrow heroes, alongside stages put on by some of best club nights and labels in Europe. It was truly mind-blowing.”
In fact, with little to lose on that final blowout for London’s most unlikely, unrepeatable festival site, the Secretsundaze stage was still going strong at 6pm on the August Bank Holiday Monday night, a full twelve hours after its curfew.
Remember having fun at TDK Cross Central? Share your stories below (if they are repeatable…)