Dateline: Streatham Hill, Friday 10th 2010
All emperors must die, and empires fall. And so it has come to pass that the reign of Caesars [sic] nightclub over Streatham Hill is finally drawing to a close. The effigy of a charioteer and four horses has probably been the most salient local feature for a couple of decades, best observed from the left side of the top deck of a northbound bus along the High Road. I use the term ‘charioteer’ because Caesar was a scout; a soldier’s soldier, who often ventured ahead of his army on foot. Although there are records of him on horseback I doubt very much that he ever drove a four-horse chariot.
Residents have waited for years for the end of this particular empire. In the Thirties Streatham was called the West End of South London for its entertainment venues, and my house sits behind what was London’s largest theatre. Caesars nightclub and the ten-pin bowling alley were the bastard children of more their more genteel forebears; thorns in our side. Situated next to the main bus stops, the latter was a magnet for trouble between gangs of youths, and closed a couple of years ago. The former attracted their elder siblings, occasionally being the starting point for shooting incidents and car-chases to Peckham via Brixton.
Unfortunately I didn’t get a shot of pigeon-beshat Caesar leaving his lofty perch because I had a life to get on with. As I took the photograph below later, a man trapped in traffic, apparently belonging to that legion of dispossed Caesars-members, angrily asked how much the effigy was being sold for.
In fact, the entire block has been sold to a property developer, as has the back half of the block further north. I understand that Caesars nightclub was costing the owners an inordinate amount in payments to the Metropolitan Police. None of us local residents have shed a tear or raised a cheer over the closure, but that’s because we’re weary from the next war – that against the plans of the developer, which plans to squeeze profits out by pushing the height of the new development up to what we believe are unreasonable flats. Night-time noise has gone, but to be replaced by the day-time disturbance of trucks and construction. And in an area of inner London where car-parking is a problem, for over 250 dwellings, just 91 parking spaces are planned. I don’t own a car, but I’ve seen more than a few fights between angry motorists in my neighbourhood. Which goes to show: you can change the ruler, but unless you take away the reasons for conflict, the subjects will continue to fight.