As a child coming up occasionally from the suburban home counties for a day out in London, the Trocadero was the most exciting place imaginable. It was shiny and bright, full of neon lights and attractions sponsored by massive corporations. The Pepsi Max Drop Ride. Segaworld. I think Nickelodeon broadcast from it for a while. It felt like the Future, or at the very least, like America.
I stumbled back into it as an adult only because I had an evening to kill and the Cineworld inside was the only place showing whatever it was I was going see. That Cineworld must have been the most strangely depressing cinema in all of London, but the Trocadero itself was something else.
There were corridors that lead only to metal shutters. Escalators blocked off by unpainted chipboard hoardings. Unlit neon signs that whimpered ‘Welcome to Funland’. Even Star Command, a laser tag attraction that would have been so at home in such post-apocalyptic surroundings, had shut down and moved elsewhere. The only signs of life were a few stalls selling mobile phone covers, and the odd lost tourist, presumably led there by a decades old guidebook.
Going to the Trocadero felt like walking into the shopping district of a Judge Dredd city block, only quieter. It was the metropolitan equivalent of a failed seaside town. It was glorious. I went back a couple of times with a camera, and meant to go back again, because I knew it couldn’t last - thousands of square feet of what must be some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and it was being used more or less just to house a few dusty air hockey tables.
It didn’t last. Most of the entrances are now boarded up as it begins its new life a budget hotel. Part of it has already reopened as the flashy new Picturehouse Central, which I don’t doubt provides a better cinema going experience than the Cineworld it replaced, but I still feel something’s lost. Specifically, Gerald Moira’s bizarrely out of place Arthurian murals, but something else as well.
It’s some pathetic kind of nostalgia: maybe as the genuine, glamorous seediness of Soho comes ever closer to extinction, the sad, ersatz seediness of Piccadilly’s tourist tat becomes something to cling to. I’ve started feeling a sad affection for the Cool Britannia store and the worn fibreglass crocodiles in Rainforest Cafe. Maybe I’ll start a walking tour of the last surviving Angus Steakhouses.