I‘d love to say that we chose Tottenham as the place to open Bally Studios after investigating the whole of London and taking all factors into account; that we were more than a decade ahead of the current influx of new residents due to our uncanny ability to spot a vastly underrated part of London – but that wouldn’t be the truth.
Backtrack twelve years ago. I was living near Highbury Corner at the time, £29,000 in debt and my partner and I had just made the first nightly profit from our music venue in seven weeks. In celebrating we ended up – somehow – smashing a window in our flat. The next day, while waiting for a replacement pane to be cut, we got chatting to an estate agent on his cigarette break who told us that we could get four times the space in Tottenham as we had now, for less than we were currently paying.
A year after moving here, I found a sign for a rehearsal studio nearby. I called up and asked if I could rent a room and was told the owner was trying to sell the whole business. Six weeks later and the keys were ours. The bookings in the diary barely made a dent on the rent, our debt had nearly doubled, and we found a dead mouse in one of the rooms. The place didn’t even have a kettle to make tea.
Since then, however, the studios have grown so much in popularity that we don’t even need to advertise and we regularly have to turn down bands, despite having grown from two studios to five in a few short years.
I genuinely believe that there is nowhere else in the whole of London that we could have grown so rapidly. Much of it was down to an immense amount of hard work, with 70-hour weeks as standard, taking on any bookings no matter what the profit margin, and drawing no wages at all for the first three years. But a lot of it was also down to our location, and it is no surprise to us to see many other businesses move into the area and thrive, places like Beavertown Brewery and Craving Coffee
Tottenham is a fantastic place to open a new business. It’s cheaper than any comparable area, yet has incredibly quick access to central London. Despite its transport links it’s an area that not many people go out of their way to visit, which is an incredible shame for them since they are missing out on a microcosm of London. While central London has the Thames, Tottenham has the Lee.
We have the Tottenham Marshes to rival Hampstead Heath, and our own Buckingham Palace in Bruce Castle. We have the historic Ferry Boat Inn, the capitalists’ wet dream that is Tottenham Hale retail park, art galleries, breweries, and a sports stadium. But more than anything we also have a closely knit community here.
For many years I walked a blue trolley down to the shops to buy stock for our tuck shop, and a friend who lived in Tottenham was once asked, if he knew ‘the guy with the long beard and crazy hair with the blue folding trolley piled high with soft drinks?’.
That’s me; I’m the ‘long-beard-crazy-hair-trolley guy’. There’s an elderly Cypriot guy who is known as the ‘alright boss’ man, due to his greeting for nearly everyone he meets whilst riding about on a bike all day, seemingly not actually going anywhere.
When Tiny Iron became known for his part in 2011 film Anuvahood, it allowed us locals to finally put a name to the guy with – officially – the UK’s biggest biceps, who used to walk around in whatever t shirt would show them off the most. Our landlord is a Cypriot ex-World Champion Wrestler who used to work in Las Vegas. Tottenham is full of characters.
Since setting up here we have had well on the way to 20,000 sessions in ten years, and we genuinely feel that we are just getting started. We’ve had bands that were preparing to play major slots at Glastonbury and other major festivals sitting in the nearby greasy spoon cafe alongside car mechanics and assembly line workers.
Coldplay, Keane and Snow Patrol are all past clients, at one point three of the biggest acts in Europe. These bands all came to the studios, located on a backstreet industrial estate in Tottenham.
One Saturday morning we welcomed a bunch of teenagers barely into their sixth form year, a local band named Bombay Bicycle Club. For many months got to see them grow in confidence and musical cohesiveness.They’d bring their cups back to the room washed, thank us for their sessions, and sometimes chat to their uncle who worked with one of our neighbours. In August 2012 we were in the crowd watching Bombay Bicycle Club play to a packed Hyde Park audience in the Olympic Games closing ceremony.
If you see someone with a guitar in Tottenham Hale, there’s a high chance they’re on their way to or from us, and that makes us so proud, to have them as customers and to introduce them to the area. We personally know of at least 26 people who have moved to Tottenham after discovering the area through coming here to use the studios.
We hope to continue to welcome the next generation of the best British acts through our doors, we’re going to do everything that we can to make that happen, and there’s nowhere else we would rather do it than here in Tottenham.
Words: Jimmy Mulvihill