FAQ / HISTORY
We get asked a lot about where The Bear Club came from. After nearly 4 years of answering in person, here are some questions and answers and some history.
What was this place before?
It was a photography studio for about 25 years, a big white box for shooting cars, products and people. Before then, it was a garage of sorts. Before that, we’re not sure… but go back some more to the dawn of the building around 1900 and it was part of The Great North Steam Company and then the whole yard was a large milliners for many decades, with the old rail line running out the back going to the (now gone) Bute Street Station.
Why is it called The Bear Club?
Some things are just serendipitous, and whilst building the club over 9 months, in the dust and the varnish, ‘The Bear Club’ emerged… through a combination of things; I wanted a name that would feel like a classic club name of old, a name people could adopt… who doesn’t like a bear? The solitary days of building sometimes felt very ‘cabin in the woods’ and a friendly bear would have been very welcome. And finally, it came to mind about and a much-loved book I’d been given by 33 Records owner Paul Jolly called ‘The Bear Comes Home’ about a jazz-playing bear trying to live the dream.
Why is it in Luton?
This is the Bear’s hometown, and in his humble opinion, there’s no place better for it. Not only have we a rich, though oft-overlooked history of supporting emerging artists, Luton has been home to one of the few surviving independent jazz record labels for 40 years. And let’s not forget, Jazz and Blues were born and thrived in industrial working towns and cities in the USA, where hard working people came to play, listen and drink. Sounds pretty familiar to these furry ears.
"It's like London..."
Sure. If that’s what you see. We see Luton, through and through between the walls. And Luton and the people have made it what it is. So to us, it is Luton… in vibe, spirit and drink price.
Is "If You Build It He Will Come" on the t-shirts from the film 'Field of Dreams'?
Yes. Yes it is. (And Wayne’s World 2 if you want to get picky). If you have seen them, you will know why. If not, we’ll talk once you’ve seen either.
Do you serve food?
Crisps only. Sorry. We don’t have the space for a kitchen, otherwise we would have happily cooked up a storm for you. Don't mind you bringing some in, if you don't mess up the place.
How can I play at The Bear Club?
You need to send an email, preferably with some links. And please be patient. We get inundated and have a very long list. That’s a great problem to have, and it doesn’t mean first come first served, but it does mean it takes time to listen to everything whilst planning the 92 slots of the year. It is worth looking at our programme… we are jazz, blues and then sometimes a little country/folk and Americana. If you fall outside this, the more of a long shot it is, as we try not to sway too far from our identity.
Can I shoot a music video here?
You can. It’s not free though, sorry. When the room is not The Bear Club, it still operates commercially in its old guise as a photography and film studio. Get in touch.
Do you hire it out for private parties?
Sometimes. But we never private hire it out on the nights we are normally open, as we want the club to be open and accessible all the time. There are exceptions, in January when we are hibernating…. and there are a few golden Sundays in the year before Bank Holidays when it is a great time to have a private party. There is a scramble for these dates... but we are always open to talk. We generally only hire it out to people we know well… either as members or Bear regulars. This is just because we’ve been bitten in the past, and if the nights are not friendly and fun, we are not interested. So get to know us.
Weren't you shut down? Is everything ok now?
Yep. We had to shut for a couple of months in 2015 to carry out some sound insulation work. The people of Luton rose up to help and we’ve been open ever since, and so far so good. But we do stick to some rules, and try and keep the outside noise to a minimum. So thanks for helpin’ out with that.
As much as he’d like to, he can’t be there every night. There’s a baby bear to take care of, and there’s the matter of the other full-time job he has to occasionally see to, and as proven time and again by his amazing staff, things don’t fall apart without him. A life lesson for his ego.
What’s on this weekend? What time?
You are literally on the website which tells you this! I get several emails a week asking this. Please save us all time and have a click and a read. I’ll love you for it.
Can I bring under 18s?
On most nights, yeah. Drop us an email to let us know. We love young people to have exposure to live music. But please… ’Know Your Kid’… if they can’t sit through it, maybe it’s not time yet.
You should open one of these clubs in ‘Insert town name here’
It’s a very flattering thing that people get so into The Bear, they want one in their own town… Harpenden, London, Hitchin, Swansea…. it’s not really my plan to expand the thing, extend the room (impossible) and increase bear population. Might open something else, but it will be a beast of its own. .
Do you have a leaflet?
We don’t. It’s all online I’m afraid. A mixture of time and costs, and the extremely tight margin we work to in order to stay alive and pay musicians the best we can. You can get on our weekly email newsletter here.
Why do you shut at midnight?
We’re a big fan of Cinderella, and by midnight, you’ve all had enough vino to move on nicely, allowing us to tidy up and get home and rested ready for the next one. Remember, we have to do it again the next night! Leave them wanting more... no one wants one of those 'fizzle out final guests at the end of a wedding party' nights.
Why do you close at Christmas?
Because we should all probably be somewhere else at Christmas. And dammit, we need a rest.
Can you remember what I had last time?
Ok… sometimes, it’s true, we can… but if you were that memorable, you have to ask yourself something… why is it that we remember you out of the other 250 people a week? Either way, we’ll find you that perfect gin, beer or whisky again.
Got a different question?
Ok.. go on email us.
BUILDING A BEAR...
Between January and September 2014 work was underway to build the bear club in my spare time, with friends, family dropping in to help things progress and the much needed skilled tradesman every now and then to make things... erm... better.