The India Club, an iconic venue in the heart of London on The Strand, was established over 50 years ago by Krishna Menon, India's first High Commissioner to the UK, and has been dubbed a “home away from home” in Britain for many Indians over the years.
The venue had won a battle to prevent its historic building from demolition a few years ago. It has now launched a new fight for survival, after being served notice by the landlords to make way for a more modernised hotel. The “Save India Club” online appeal has already raised over £30,500 on the UK’s Crowdfunder platform within weeks, with the money intended to meet legal costs and any surplus raised to go towards rent costs as a much-needed financial lifeline.
Phiroza Marker, the manager of India Club whose family has been associated with its running for over 23 years, said: “As an Indo-British institution which has survived for over half a century, this is a tragedy. It is also particularly painful as it comes at a time when we have worked tirelessly to survive the pandemic, like many other local independent businesses.”
The Club, which functions as an and hangout run by Goldsand Hotels on The Strand near the Indian High Commission in London, is located on the first floor of the 26-room Strand Continental hotel.
Many who have backed the to prevent its closure left messages of fond memories of the “quirky” little hub for in central London, with saying “The Strand without the India Club is unthinkable”. The club also counts actress , novelists David Nicholls and Will Self, restaurant critics Jay Rayner and Marina O'Loughlin, and Masterchef critic William Sitwell among its many celebrity supporters.
“Krishna Menon intended the India Club to be a place where young Indian professionals living on a shoestring could afford to eat, discuss politics, and plan their futures,” reflects Parvathi Raman, Founding Chair of the Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), who worked on the exhibition ‘A Home Away from Away: The India Club’ in 2019, curated by the UK’s conservation charity National Trust.
“The India Club holds a special place in the hearts of many people, and remains a vibrant hub for Anglo-Indian communities to come together,” said Nicola Briggs, 's Regional Director for London and the South East.
The freeholder of the building, Marston Properties, had earlier put in an application with Westminster City Council for a “partial demolition" to create a new hotel, which was turned down by the council in August 2018 noting the venue's importance as a cultural institution.
The company said that for some time now, it has been concerned about the viability and condition of the building and many options have been explored over the last few years to resolve these issues, including seeking planning permission for two different redevelopment schemes.
A spokesperson for Marston Properties said: “Marston Properties is proud to have been investing in buildings in London for over 125 years. We have owned an interest in the building since 1981 and originally purchased it with the intention of running the hotel one day.
“We have had many discussions with Goldsand Hotels but have been unable to achieve a mutually agreeable solution with them. As the landlord we are entitled, following the expiry of Goldsand Hotels’ lease, to regain possession to occupy the building for our own business use and therefore notice was served on Goldsand Hotels in August 2020.
“It will be for the courts to determine our entitlement to regain possession and occupy the building for our own use.
“Marston Properties and Goldsand Hotels are engaging in the court process and therefore further comment from Marston Properties is not appropriate.”