Looking back at Hemel Hempstead Pavilion - 15 years on from closure

Hemel Hempstead Pavilion pictured in 1965
Hemel Hempstead Pavilion pictured in 1965
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It played host to some of the biggest names of rock’n’roll – and for many, the memories of the acts they saw at the Hemel Hempstead Pavilion live on.

While older residents of the area may find it hard to believe that a number of acts who graced the stage such as David Bowie and Freddie Mercury are no longer with us, it has also been 15 years this week that the Pavilion closed its doors for the final time.

Closing for good on June 30, 2002, it was demolished soon after. The site is now occupied by the new £15million council building The Forum.

The venue seemed to catch all the up and coming bands as they made their way towards London, with many fond memories for Hemelites.

Chris Terry said: “I saw Elton John, Genesis, Status Quo, Rod Stewart and the Faces, and Electric Light Orchestra to name a few!

“I also remember the Bay City Rollers there – their tour bus broke down on the magic roundabout afterwards.

“They were all standing on the roadside waiting for a lift. Fantastic times!”

It wasn’t only the stars of music that played there too, recalls Paula Thomas.

“My best memories were the times going to watch the wrestling as a child,” she said.

And Trina Thompson added: “I remember watching a ballet show as a kid and then joining that ballet school and dancing on that stage myself for many years.

“There was also kickboxing in the ring, bar work and misbehaving at the teenage disco ‘Coconut Club’. I miss that place!”

Many residents remembered The Pavilion not just as an arts venue, but as one of the key fabrics of the cultural scene when they were growing up in the town.

And for many, the stories from the Pavilion are incredibly personal.

Jackie Hart said: “I met my husband in the Pavilion, it was the New Year’s Eve disco of 1968. I was 15 and he was 18.

“We’ve now been married for 46 years, have three children and five grandchildren.”

Upon being bulldozed, the residents of Hemel were promised that there would be a replacement venue, but more than a decade down the line, it has yet to materialise.

The action group AViD (Arts Venue In Dacorum) was set up 18 months ago to lead the bid for a replacement venue.

Its chairman, Mike Ridley, told the Gazette: “The Pavilion was a very important social scene, and we are still campaigning for a new venue.

“We would very much like to see such a venue as part of an arts scene in Hemel.

“There should be an integrated approach for such a scene that could produced a viable venue where arts, photography, music – the whole of the cultural scene – could be under one roof.”

How do you think the Pavilion should be replaced? Email your views to thegazette@jpress.co.uk