Steve Coxshall is in the Music management business. He used to manage boy band Blue and then worked with Ray Quinn (West End Legally Blond, Chicago). He set up Rabbit Hole Management to bring an “affordable venue for artists, musicians and the next big talents”. In a lovely location its already hosted an amazing number of acoustic artists including Ryan Keen and Ed Sheeran and it’s fast developing as a theatre venue.
It’s an affordable non-profit venue which makes it attractive for start-ups but its far more than that. It has an incredibly rich history with global film and theatre stars including acting icon Oliver Reed who used to drink here every day. Add Richard Burton and Peter O-Toole (lots of locals still remember them); how cool is it that its now a venue where you can check out the latest talents and rising stars.
The venue is a creative hub with lots of people coming in and out, giving a buzzy feel. “It’s a different twist, looking at different formats.” Steve loves a classic text with a new twist. He is also passionate about new writing, working with emerging playwright and companies that devise their own work. He wants to feature “dark stuff as well, as it really works in the space – especially with a modern current twist”. Elephant Man and Lolita in 2016 both achieved excellent critical acclaim. The space helps to bring something new to the brew.
Owner/manager Steve is also genuinely passionate about this space and what it can achieve. He bought the pub six years ago after working as a stock broker for 20 years. He wanted to pursue his deep love for music. The music he’s managing in the space is of international class. Mainly jazz, it includes such greats as Sara Mitra, Kate Mullins, Emelia Martesson, Peter Churchill and Will Bartlett. He thinks the pub itself has a “simple old fashioned theatrical feel”. It’s one of the only pubs in London that is independently run and managed. “The sound system is the best of everything even a bit OTT for theatre”.
Steve says that “when Kara Tointon saw Elephant man, it was so intense she actually cried”. He continues: “It can really move you. I didn’t realise how magical it was until we started doing some things down there. They’ve been getting really great reviews.”
It’s Steve view that: “A lot of theatres are very greedy in what they do. I haven’t compromised on quality. When you have artists like Mullins who is one of the backing vocalists for Michael Buble, you’ve got to look after them.” He continues: “You surround yourself with people who are better than you, put people in the right places, reward them, it’s an incentive, everyone has an interest.”
Steve wants to have a pub full of great people and actors that have respect for what he’s doing: “You enjoy things; you enjoy doing it well. You do get some money back. Some people take the short term vision. Create the right opportunity and that’s a business model.” Steve concludes that it’s a “proper pub, with great theatre, and West End quality.”
“Get out and do something real” says Steve. He just wants to get “bloody kids off their phones”. He worries that: “No one seems to go out and socialise anymore and even older people. Elton John said the best talent before they got famous they’d go to pubs to talk, to network. So as a country, we have a duty to support pubs and the theatre and music they host. With 38 pubs closing a week, its important that we keep this pub culture alive as money over the bar funds the venue; i.e. no pub, no theatre.”
In truth technology’s been a bad thing for the arts business with cheap or free Music download, film and video. Steve is: “Proud of owning a pub that’s still doing something old fashioned”. And another thing. After his dad died of Parkinsons he became a fund raiser. He took a Victorian chair form one of his houses. It attracts a lot of attention because it is flamboyantly eccentric. Sit in here and you have to pay a fine. “People often sit in the chair without realising but once they know all the money goes to charities, most people are pleased to pay. It’s raised quite a lot of money to date.”
Steve is also developing the space for Corporate events. He is offering something unique and tailor made. “Most try formula one or wine tastings.” He can offer bespoke entertainment nights. “Music and acting take in a different world, instead of entering the very stereotypical entertainments of golf or football”. Having worked in the stock market for 20 years, he knows that “neither can touch your heart”. He has taken city guys downstairs for his jazz nights and they have been “blown away”. He’s creating an experience they “weren’t expecting”. He believes “companies are probably paying £100 per person but for £10-15 they can get a great experience close up”.
THE RABBIT HOLE THEATRE
Duke of Hamilton
23-25 New End,
London NW3 1JD
IN A NUTSHELL …
Quintessentially English but be prepared to go down the RABBIT HOLE into another world. Downstairs in the basement of The Duke of Hamilton, there’s an eclectic mix of top drawer music, theatre and comedy. Already, thriving with an excellent reputation as a music venue, the theatre is adding value to the area. A destination venue gaining a strong reputation.
A place to relax in a quality neighbourhood, with Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery on the doorstep. Don’t expect to see chains, and supermarkets. It’s retained a kind of quirkiness, a genuine authenticity; an affluent area with a distinct bohemian vibe. Today, neighbours include Ricky Gervais, Sam Mendes, Lisa Stansfield, Helena Bonham Carter as well as lots more successful globally recognised names.
Part of Camden Fringe each August.
They also aim to programe an eclectic mix of new shows from visiting companies throughout the year. Past productions at the theatre include: Macbeth, Lolita, The Elephant Man and Sid which went on tour and was produced in the West End.
They host corporate events, themed nights and bespoke events.
Rabbit Hole Theatre is proud to be a host venue for the annual Camden Fringe Festival of Theatre
It also hosts the best live music, including live jazz and they are proud to be part of the annual London Jazz Festival.
The pub dates from 1721, one of the oldest in London. It is a 5 star rated CAMRA pub, the only pub in Hampstead in the good beer guide. There’s a quirkiness to this pub you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a proper old fashioned boozer with carpets. It’s vehemently keeping hold of its heritage as a place where actors (the famous and the not so famous) like to hang out.
The Landlord runs a tight-ship; it’s his pub, so he makes the rules. For starters he frowns on mobile phones because he likes to see people socialising.
Pay attention to the flamboyant, eccentric chair on display. It dates back to Victorian times. If you decide to sit in this chair be prepared to pay a fine.
All the money goes to charity and quite a lot has been raised to date.
Did you know …
The Duke of Hamilton is one of the oldest pubs in London dating back to 1721, a pub with much history.
More recently it was the local pub where the late Oliver Reed was seen every day. Many other film stars also drank here including Richard Burton and Peter O-Toole.
Duke of Hamilton pub was winner of best pub 2011 in the FANCY A PINT awards and it has appeared in the best beer guide for over 20 years.
A whole host of stars have visited the venue:
Kara Tointon: 'Fantastic venue, perfect for that intimate feeling'
Matt Evers: 'Truly blown away by the intimacy of the space. Love the narrow staircase leading down to the venue If only they could fit an ice rink in there'
Kyran Bracken MBE: 'People should definitely check it out, superb little spot.'
Anthony Costa: 'Awesome place, awesome people, just a perfect venue.'
Duncan James ‘What struck me was how simple yet effect the space is, it gives the audience a real experience. Well worth a visit'
Suzanne Shaw 'Fantastic little venue'
Linda Lewis 'The space really works, it's something of a rarity to find a space that complements music and theatre so well'
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