Earls Court Exhibition Centre

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Earls Court Exhibition Centre is an exhibition, conference and events venue in London that originally opened in 1887, and was rebuilt in 1937. Its exterior features Art deco architecture. It is located within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and is the largest such venue in central London. It is served by two London Underground stations: Earl's Court and West Brompton, opposite its entrances on Warwick Road and Old Brompton Road respectively. The founder was John R. Whitley (1843-1922), and the first exhibition included performances by Buffalo Bill Cody [1846-1917] as part of the 'American Exhibition'. This was followed by 'Four National Exhibitions', the title of C. Lowe's book of 1892 about Earl's Court and its founder.

Earls Court and the nearby Olympia are in 2014 operated by EC&O Venues. Earls Court is widely known as serving as London's premier exhibition hall for many decades, hosting the Royal Tournament and Motor Show, the Ideal Home Show, the Brit Awards up to 2010 and a number of other more recent well-known events and concerts. It was also used as one of the venues for both the 1948 and 2012 Olympic Games.

In 2013, plans to demolish Earls Court were approved in order to make way for a new residential and retail estate on the site, which is expected to be completed in 2033, which has sparked an outcry from local residents.


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Aerial view of Earls Court, 2008

Before 1887 Earls Court was largely a waste ground. With the introduction of two Underground stations, it became a mass network of rail on derelict grounds. The idea of introducing entertainment to the area was brought about by Whitley, an entrepreneur who used the land as a show-ground for a few years from 1887. Whitley did not profit from his efforts, yet his desire had decided the future of Earls Court and its purpose in later years. In 1895 a huge observation/Ferris Wheel was created for Imre Kiralfy's 'Empire of India Exhibition'. A plaque in the press centre commemorates some of these facts and that Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor to the shows. Kiralfy (1845-1919) had rebuilt Earl's Court in the style of the 1893 Chicago White City for the Columbian Exposition, and went on to found nearby White City in 1908.

In 1935 Earl's court was sold and the new owners decided to construct a show centre to rival any other in the world and to dominate the nearby Olympia exhibition hall. The plan was to create Europe's largest structure by volume. The project did not go exactly to plan; it ran over budget and was late in completion. Designed by architect C. Howard Crane with over 40,000 sq m of space over two levels, Earls Court finally opened its doors to the public for the Chocolate and Confectionery Exhibition on 1 September 1937. The Motor Show and Commercial Vehicle show soon followed. In spite of all the problems in the latter part of construction, the project was eventually completed at a cost of £1.5 million.

Following the construction of Earls Court Two, this original building became known sometimes as Earls Court One.

Earls Court Two

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Entrance to Earls Court Two, 2009

In response to the drastic need to increase Earls Court's exhibition space, Earls Court Two was constructed at a cost of £100 million. The striking new barrel-roofed hall which links with Earls Court One via folding shutters is large enough to hold four jumbo jets, and the hall's 17,000 sq m floor is entirely column-free. The hall was opened by Princess Diana on 17 October 1991 for the Motorfair.

Earls Court Two is situated on part of the former Lillie Bridge.


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Exhibition inside Earls Court Two


These include:

American Exhibition, 1887. Italian Exhibition in London, 1888. The Spanish Exhibition, 1889. French Exhibition, 1890. German Exhibition, 1891. Captain Boynton's Water Show, 1893. Empire of India Exhibition, 1895. Empire of India & Ceylon Exhibition, 1896. International Universal Exhibition, 1898. Greater Britain Exhibition, 1899. Paris in London, 1902. International Fire Exhibition, 1903. Balkan States Exhibition, 1907. Old Japan, 1907. Shakespeare's England, 1912.

Earls Court continues to host shows and exhibitions throughout the year, including the Ideal Home Show and the BRIT Awards. The MPH Show, one of Britain's largest motoring exhibitions and shows, hosted by Jeremy Clarkson and other famous presenters takes place here each winter, alongside an earlier showing at the NEC, Birmingham. Each summer from 1950 to 1999 Earls Court Exhibition Centre was home to the Royal Tournament, the first, oldest and biggest military tattoo in the world. For this the area now occupied by Earls Court 2 became a massive stables, artillery and vehicle depot for some two months with several hundred military personnel from all three services billeted 'on site'.

The central area of the main hall conceals a massive pool area, formerly used for the London Boat Show before that transferred to Excel in the London Docks. The floor is supported on a combination of hydraulic jacks with lock-in rigid supports, enabling it to be used in its 'up position' for 'heavyweight' events such as the Royal Tournament, then lowered and flooded to give a 60 m long and 30 m wide pool between 2.5m and 3m deep (depending on usage). The 750 ton concrete exhibition floor can be removed and reinstated at the push of a button. When used it takes four days to fill and four days to empty and 2 1/4 million gallons of water are needed to fill it. These operations can only be accomplished at night, so as not to put undue strain on local services.

The Professional Lighting and Sound Association have their annual trade show, the PLASA Show, at Earls Court. It's usually held in early September and thousands of people from the entertainment and design industries come together to meet representatives from entertainment equipment companies, such as Martin, Midas Consoles, Avolites and Vari*Lite.

London Film and Comic Con is hosted at Earls Court 2, held every July. The convention holds autograph sessions, places to play games and buy collectables.


Earls Court hosted the volleyball competitions in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The volleyball events were scheduled for the multi-sport arenas in the Olympic Park. At the 1948 Summer Olympics, the venue hosted the boxing preliminaries, gymnastics, weightlifting, and wrestling events.

It housed two World Wrestling Entertainment Insurrextion shows in 2000 and 2001. These were initially shown on live pay-per-view exclusively to the United Kingdom on Sky Digital, then later released worldwide on DVD. Earls Court has also hosted WWE's worldwide TV shows, RAW, SmackDown! and ECW on 23 and 24 April 2007. On the RAW show former Chelsea football coach Jose Mourinho (who was shown on screen then booed loudly by the crowd) and former radio 1 DJ Tony Blackburn were in attendance. Both events were broadcast to a capacity crowd.

The London leg of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour was held at Earls Court Two on 11 March, with Wayne Rooney making an appearance with the trophy.

Musical events

It used to be one of the most popular arenas to play in the UK, with a capacity of around 19,000, including standing room, meaning it was often chosen over other venues by bands with a large fan base. However since the opening of the O2 arena, concert performances have been few and far between. With a capacity of around 19,000, including standing room, some acts with larger fan bases prefer it to other venues such as Wembley Arena.

Musicians who have played at the venue include:

Listed in chronological order, with name of artist and date of concert

  • Pink Floyd performed The Dark Side of the Moon suite on 18/19 May 1973 to two sell out gigs.
    • The band also played six nights 4–9 August 1980 for its performances of The Wall. The exercise was repeated one year later as the band played five nights 13–17 June 1981 for attempts at filming and recording the live Wall performances, which were later released on Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81; the last of these concerts would mark the final appearance of the classic lineup of Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason until their reunion at Live 8 in 2005.
    • In 1994 the band played on 14 October their first of a record-breaking 14 nights at this venue and was filmed and recorded on P•U•L•S•E (album) & P•U•L•S•E (1995 film). However, the 12 October concert was forced to be cancelled, after a section of seating in the arena collapsed during the show, injuring several people.
  • Slade performed to 19,000 on 1 July 1973. The show was filmed but has never been released. Thousands of Noddy Holder look-alikes with mirrored top hats and glitter were seen on the London Underground as Slade Mania reached its heights. They were no.1 in the Pop Charts with Skweeze Me Pleeze Me.
  • Led Zeppelin performed for five sold out nights in May 1975. Footage from the concerts was filmed and was released twenty eight years later on the Led Zeppelin DVD. The full concert was not released on the DVD. This series of concerts is widely considered by fans to be amongst the best of the band's career.
  • Queen performed 6–7 June 1977 and filmed footage has been widely bootlegged. These gigs ended their A Day At The Races Tour.
  • Genesis performed on 23–25 June 1977, six sold out shows in November 1992 (videoed for The Way We Walk DVD) and one show in 1998.
  • David Bowie performed, on three consecutive nights, on 29–30 June & 1 July 1978, these gigs ended the Euopean leg of his Isolar II Tour. The final night of the performance was recorded by the RCA mobile unit, with the live performance premiere of the song, Sound and Vision, later released on the 1995 compilation album, Rarestonebowie. The song was not performed live again until the 1990 Sound and Vision Tour.
  • Supertramp performed three nights in May 1983, on their Famous Last Words Tour, which was their final tour, with member Roger Hodgson.
  • Roger Waters performed, on two consecutive nights, during The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking Tour on 21–22 June 1984 & on two consecutive nights, during The Dark Side of the Moon Live Tour on 11–12 May 2007. On the 12th, Waters was joined by his former Pink Floyd bandmate Nick Mason.
  • Take That performed ten consecutive shows during their Nobody Else Tour from 20–31 August 1995.
  • Oasis performed on 4/5 November 1995; some of their performance was included in ...There and Then.
  • Celine Dion performed on 13/14 June 1997 at the end of her successful Falling into You Tour 8 months after the 15 day Sell Out UK tour in 1996. On completing these dates, she had sung to 200,000 fans in the UK.
  • The Spice Girls performed four nights in December 1999 as part of the Christmas in Spiceworld Tour, including their last concert as a group, until their reunion tour in 2007/08.
  • Morrissey performed 18 December 2004 and later released as Live at Earls Court.
  • Muse performed on 19–20 December 2004 and later released some of the video footage on their Absolution Tour DVD in 2005.
  • Kylie Minogue performed 7 sold-out consecutive dates between April 30 and May 7, 2005 as part of her Showgirl: The Greatest Hits Tour. Over 100,000 watched the concerts, and it grossed over $7 million. These were to be her last concerts before she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • The Give it a Name Festival was held at Earl's Court on 29–30 April 2006, 27–29 April 2007 and 10–11 May 2008.
  • Janet Jackson was supposed to perform two nights in a row at the venue on 11 and 12 December 2001 during her All for You Tour. Eventually, the entire European leg of the highly anticipated tour was cancelled, for security reasons, due to 9/11.
  • T4 Stars of 2010 and 2011 have also taken place at Earls Court.
  • Deadmau5 performed on 18 December 2010 and was the first Electronic music artist to sell out the venue.
  • Arctic Monkeys played 2 nights on the 25 and 26 October 2013 during the tour of their 5th studio album AM.
  • Arcade Fire will play the venue on the 6 and 7 June 2014. It is likely these will be the last ever concerts at the venue.

Brit Awards

The Brit Awards (stylised as the BRIT Awards; often simply called the Brits) are the British Phonographic Industry's annual pop music awards. The name was originally a shortened form of "British", "Britain" or "Britannia", but subsequently became a backronym for British Record Industry Trust. In addition, an equivalent awards ceremony for classical music, called the Classic BRIT Awards, is held each May.

First held at Earls Court in 1997, and then from 2000 to 2010. The awards show moved to the O2 Arena in 2011.

Redevelopment plans

The owner of the exhibition centres at Earls Court and Olympia is Capital & Counties Properties PLC, also known as Capco, which opened discussions in 2010 with the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea to demolish the existing centre and redevelop the area with up to 8,000 residential flats, retail outlets and possibly a new convention centre.

The demolition of Earls Court is opposed by the Earls Court Action Group, made up of local residents and interested parties who will be affected by the exhibition centre's destruction and subsequent 20 years of proposed redevelopment. The group has an ongoing petition hosted by 38 Degrees.

Nicky Gavron, a Labour party member of the London Assembly, argues that “losing Earls Court would be a huge setback for the London and UK economy. Earls Court brings in £1bn a year, provides a shop window for UK industries and sustains thousands of long-term jobs in the local area. This economic benefit cannot and will not be replaced by a one-off construction project. There is no evidence London needs less exhibition space. Britain’s competitors are currently expanding their own capacity because they understand the economic benefits these centres create.” Darren Johnson, a Green party member of the London Assembly, wrote to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and argued that “the Earls Court demolition plans are a recipe for a disaster, with massive economic, social and environmental consequences. The winners will be the wealthy developers and overseas property speculators while the losers will be the community, local businesses and Londoners who will lose one of the capital’s key exhibition centres.”

The Guardian's London blogger Dave Hill cited concerns over the number and relative affordability of the housing that will be constructed on the site after the proposed demolition of Earls Court, as well as concerns over the views of local residents.

Despite the opposition, on 3 July 2013 Johnson approved the redevelopment plans. He could have chosen to turn the scheme down or call for a public hearing when he met with his planning team, but gave the go-ahead for the demolition of the centre and construction of the proposed four "villages" and "high street" which could take 20 years to complete.

It is not yet known when the demolition work will commence.



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