16th Jul, 2019

Prince wanted to hold album launch at the Assembly - but council would not let his helicopter land

Ian Hughes 19th Jun, 2019

PRINCE was one big name who never made it to The Assembly – but only because council chiefs would not let his helicopter land.

Nigel Dally, the Leamington born and bred entrepreneur whose brainchild the music venue was, has spoken of his sadness at its shock closure a fortnight ago, and how the late superstar singer-songwriter almost took to The Assembly stage.

Nigel said: “We had arranged for Prince to do an album launch at the venue about five or six years ago – and were actually going to give tickets away.

“He was obviously busy so did not want to spend driving up from London so insisted on coming by helicopter, but the council would not allow it to land in Victoria Park. We then asked if he could land at Eagle Rec, but they were not having it and would not let it land anywhere.”

It is one of many stories Nigel has to tell about The Assembly – the reins of which he had to pass on three years ago after another of his firms hit financial difficulties, having reached a point where the Spencer Street venue was breaking even.

The MJR Group took over but made the shock announcement it was to close with immediate effect on June 5 citing the cost of the rent and rates, together with maintaining the grade II listed building.

Within hours photographs emerged on social media showing a trail of destruction inside, including smashed stair and balcony rails, and the bar ripped apart.

The MJR Group blamed an “overzealous contractor” and promised to get the damage repaired asap, but as the building is of historic importance Warwick District Council has launched an investigation.

Celebrity designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen was responsible for the £3million redevelopment back in 2008.

Nigel said: “I haven’t spoken to Lawrence but he will be really upset. He was really proud of the transformation.”

The closure has revealed just how important a part The Assembly played in Leamington life during its 11 year history.

“The reaction of people has been overwhelming,” said Nigel. “People loved the venue.”

“I’ve been amazed at the hundreds of people who met their partners there, and so many have been in touch to say thank you – and I’ve not even been involved with the running of it for the past three years!”

“I’ve also had agents (for performers) get in touch to say how sad they are.

“One guy got in touch to say he had met some people in China, and when he said he was from Leamington, they said the place where The Assembly is!”

But Nigel fears the music’s over for good at The Assembly.

“I can’t see any way back,” was his sad conclusion.

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