Tunbridge Wells’ legendary music venue The Forum, which has welcomed acts as diverse as Oasis, Tom Chaplin, Slaves, Wolf Alice and Adele, turns 25 this year. Here, owners Jason and Isobel Dormon reveal what they have planned to celebrate the music mecca’s big birthday at the iconic building on the Common and elsewhere…

AFTER much debate, The Forum’s 25th birthday party spread from taking place on just one day, to a weekend, a month, then to a whole year. So although it’s officially our quarter of a century anniversary this month, we’ve decided that we’re going to put on lots of special events during 2018 and we will be looking both backwards, and forwards.

Keen to continue nurturing future talent, the first thing we have done is to relaunch The
Stable. This band showcase ran for several years in the past and we’ve decided to revive it for 2018. It’s not a Battle of the Bands as such, more of a chance for The Forum’s staff to see new, original acts playing in a live environment in front of their existing fans.

The Stable’s new run of gigs starts next Wednesday [January 24], and the idea is that
each week there will be a show which consists of acts of similar musical genres. So if you alreadylike one of the acts performing then you’ll probably like the others on the bill, too.

It’s also a way for us at The Forum to identify bands who might have the talent to support
touring bands at the venue in the future. Another range of shows running through the year will be those curated by bands featured on our 25th Anniversary Compilation Album ‘25 Years and Beyond’. Funded by The Forum and the PRS Open Fund, it’s a collection of new tracks from 11 bands who represent the diverse and exciting talent that plays at The Forum to a regular and dedicated crowd.

to the past is Joeyfat, the first band to play when The Forum opened its doors in January 1993. Also on the album are artists such as Ladybird, Dead Ceremony, The Bay Rays and Lectures, who first played here as relative unknowns but who are now being recognised and appreciated on a more national platform.

Throughout the year we’ll be keeping the birthday celebrations going courtesy of other top acts who’ll be returning here to play gigs. These include The Wedding Present, who’ll be

performing next month, and Frank Turner, who plays tomorrow night [January 18]. We also continue to take a punt on new, up-and-coming acts like Pale Waves and Shame. And we’ll carry on with other popular music events, which include Local Legends and Indie Disco nights, which will have everyone reminiscing over the early 90s – do you still have your baggy smiley T-shirt?

But it’s not just music that The Forum is passionate about. We also run theatre nights here, and comedy evenings at our sister venue, The Sussex Arms, and we plan to continue the Sunday Sessions throughout the summer as the themed afternoons we ran in 2017 were particularly popular. We’ll have a variety of tribute acts playing, so if you can’t make it to a festival, come along to The Forum and have a sing-a-long inside where it’s dry!

Aside from celebrating our big birthday with a wealth of musical events, work is also underway to publish a book of memories, and we’re therefore asking any Times readers and fans of The Forum to send us old posters, tickets, photos, cuttings or any short written review pieces they have which we’ll hope to include in it.

The book will be launched in the summer as part of a bigger celebration. And at our annual festival Unfest, which takes place over late May Bank Holiday, you’ll find a range of 25th anniversary merchandise to buy. Finally, we’ll be asking both regular customers and those from the past who still retain an affinity with the venue to join The Forum as members of a new patronage scheme in exchange for a voluntary fee.

This will help raise funds to pay for improvements to the building – the first thing on the agenda is a good heating and cooling system – and also contribute to our artistic programme of music festivals, the relaunch of The Stable, and supporting more album releases to ensure another successful 25 years of investing in and supporting independent live music. For more information, see www.twforum.co.uk

 

MUSICAL YOUTH

If you have any pictures, posters or paraphernalia from the past 25 years of The Forum that you would like to see included in their new book, please send them with your details to the following address: Forum 25th Anniversary c/o The George 29 Mount Ephraim Tunbridge Wells TN4 8AA