The rise and fall of Earls Court…
Many of us will remember the Earls Court Boat Show. Emerging from the Warwick Road entrance the iconic sight of the Earls Court Exhibition Centre always caused a frisson of excitement and anticipation. The knowledge of what was within was always exciting for any boat owner or any aspiring boat owner. But what was Earls Court? Earls Court Exhibition Centre was an art moderne structure built between 1935 and 1937. it was designed by an American architect – Howard Crane. As an exhibition centre it was used for a variety of events. Possibly the best known (apart from the Boat Show of course!) were the Ideal Home Exhibition, the Earls Court Motor Show and the Brit Awards. It was also used each summer from 1950 to 1999, Earls Court was home to the Royal Tournament, the first, oldest and biggest military tattoo in the world.
Perhaps less known (unless you attended them) were some of the concerts which took place at Earls Court. Notable bands who played there were Led Zeppelin (who performed five sell-out shows in May 1975), Slade and David Bowie.
Earls Court also has a history of hosting the Olympics as a venue. At the 1948 Summer Olympics, the venue hosted the boxing preliminaries, gymnastics, weightlifting, and wrestling events. Then in 2012 the centre was used as a venue for the volleyball at the London Olympics.
The owner of Earls Court and Olympia (Capco), opened discussions in 2010 with the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea to demolish the existing landmark centre and redevelop the area with up to 8,000 residential flats, retail outlets and, possibly, a new convention centre. Despite significant local opposition, Boris Johnson approved the redevelopment plans on 3 July 2013. However, the development has still not taken place and is still the subject of much debate.
The UK Boat Show in January 2021 will bring back the buzz that accompanied the annual pilgrimage to Earls Court – the chance to chat to all the exhibitors. The only thing missing will be the iconic pool at the centre of Earls Court.