Folklore Boomtown Rats play Central Hall

The folklore at York is that the Boomtown Rats were the last band to play Central Hall. It is said that the audience, jumping up and down in time to the music, caused structural damage to the hall; this is why bands are no longer allowed in Central Hall. In this case, the folklore is not far away from the truth, so here is a rough guide to what happens when Bob and Band hit campus:

First a bit of history - Central Hall was not designed for dancing, so the music licence has always excluded it. This didn't stop the SU using it for concerts, but often caused problems. In 1976, there was violence at the `Poco' concert, and more fighting between stewards and audience at the `Man' gig later in the year. (There were also allegations that the band had encouraged dancing.) The exact reasons for the ban on dancing are unclear, but factors include the lack of fire exits at the front, and the weak and steeply-graded tiered seating.

The Boomtown Rats were booked to play as part of Rag Week 1985 - the concert was on February. Unfortunately, the student media seems to have been going through a disorganised patch and there are no back issues available from that time in the library. From later reports, it is fairly certain that a large number of people in the audience got up to dance to the music, and they were encouraged by Bob Geldof, who shouted ``get up and dance'' during a song. (The full quote was allegedly ``get up and dance, the University is worried about the hall sinking, but what the hell it's not like its bloody Venice''!) There was certainly some damage to seating and the floor, and presumably fighting between audience and stewards.

Vision in a later article, say the `cover to the orchestra pit on the main floor' was damaged. Nouse said that a chair had been pushed through it, other stories mention a collapse of the boards caused by lots of people on it. (The orchestra pit is at the front of the stage, about 4 feet deep, and covered by a cover which looks like the floor. Not many people know it is there [I certainly didn't, Ed.] although G&S use it, and the boards are at least 4" thick.)

An indefinite ban on pop concerts was put into place in May `by the University'. It's not clear if this was imposed by the local authority (which was Selby District Council in those days) or was just the University acting. Nouse said that the Council revoked the licence, but if there wasn't one for dancing then it couldn't be, (unless the music licence was revoked and subsequently re-instated). As a result of this, the SU lost their only large venue, albeit a seats-only one.

Legal Moves

The SU, understandably miffed, decided to sue Bob Geldof for loss of earnings. Their contract with him had stated that the venue did not allow dancing, so if he had encouraged the audience to dance then he had broken his contract. After taking legal advice, the SU started proceedings in 1985/86(?).

In 1986 there was not much progress to report. Nouse said that the action was at a stalemate. Part of the problem was that after Live Aid, many within the SU did not want to pursue a claim against Bob.

In 1987, it was not looking good for the SU. Vision reported in March that the final settlement would probably involve the SU paying £1,183 in costs. Although the NUS might have been able to help, most of the money would have to come from the SU budget.

By May, however, things had swung again. It was said that the SU would finally take Geldof to court for breach of contract, probably in October.

And then... It all goes quiet, nothing in the campus media (in the library archive) about it. The speculation is that the matter was settled out of court, but who paid who we're not quite sure.

Central Hall Reinstatement?

By 1987, Vision were reporting moves to reinstate the dancing licence. Chris Davies, SU Ents officer, drew up a plan to just use the bottom floor for dancing, with the first tier of seating rolled back and [unspecified] barriers installed. This was `positively received' by Selby District Council. The scheme was said to allow an audience of 300, some seated, but was estimated to cost £2,000. The University's Central Hall Committee put this expenditure `at the bottom of the list'.

There seems to have been a trial run of `pop' music later that year, but with no bar and lots of stewards. Not many people bothered to turn up, so the event was not exactly a success. One concert which did go ahead were the `Bogus Brothers' in February 1988 - just the bottom section of the auditorium was used, limiting capacity.

Until the 1997/8 year, the SU seemed to ignore Central Hall as a venue. Now people of vision are once again looking to it's potential for YUSU Ents.

Comments, additions and corrections welcome.

Related pages:

* Bands that played campus
* Marianne Faithful
* Jimi Hendrix

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