If you’re already destined for a day trip to Kingston upon Thames, you’ll likely be asked to check out Banquet Records.
Located on Eden Street in this pretty corner of South West London, this little record store has become something of a local treasure.
You see, while you will definitely be able to pick up a vinyl or two at the store, you might also get the chance to see an international superstar perform live or meet a British music icon.
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Banquet Records bills itself as a “concert and club promoter”, hosting over 200 events at venues around Kingston in a regular year (as you might expect, it’s been a bit quieter lately, thanks to Covid-19).
Former performers include Stormzy, a local resident, Gen Z superstars Billie Eilish and Shawn Mendes, and Scottish comedian Lewis Capaldi.
Yes, that’s right – Billie Eilish performed in a Pryzm.
Before the pandemic, queues were regularly seen winding around the block as fans waited to attend in-store signings and small acoustic performances.
Most recently, Will Young showed up near the store to sign copies of his new record.
Performances put on by the banquet team take place everywhere, from inside the small store itself at the local All Saints Church, to the Rose Theater, the largest production theater in the Southwest of the city.
In early 2020, more than 12,000 fans of grime star Stormzy attempted to secure tickets to an intimate 600-seat show at the Rose. Tickets sold out in just 24 seconds.
The store is run by local Kingston Council Liberal Democrat Jon Tolley, who has become somewhat of a community figure himself.
A big fan of records and concerts himself, Jon had been a customer of the store since he was a child.
At the time, Banquet was one of the record stores of the Beggars Banquet chain, which opened in London in 1973.
Beggars Banquet stores have now closed and the brand now exists as a record label, while the Kingston store reincarnated as Banquet Records in 2004.
Known not only in Kingston, or even just in London, Banquet has gained a certain national reputation for its dedication to concerts big and small, and for connecting big stars with their fans.
On social media, you can often find fans of artists from Pale Waves to Louis Tomlinson raving about their experiences at the Banquet.
“Banquet Records is probably my favorite store. I have met so many of my favorites because of them, ”one wrote on Twitter.
“I love so many of my favorite bands because of Banquet Records,” said another.
Former Kingston resident Carly Strange, who recently moved to Hertfordshire, intends to return to the area just for the Banquet Record shows.
She said the banquet formed a large part of the borough’s culture.
“The banquet is at the heart of the Kingston community,” she said.
Carly, who has attended shows like All Time Low and The Who, also knows people who come from as far away as the Lake District just to see artists perform in the intimate venues of Kingston.
Kingston almost became Mayor Sadiq Khan’s first cultural district in London in 2019, no doubt due to the wide range of musical events being held across the city.
Much like the rest of the live music industry, Banquet Records has faced challenge after challenge throughout the pandemic, keeping its doors closed to the public until Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed last month.
Banquet’s live shows are also starting to make a comeback in Kingston, with British singers Anne-Marie and Arlo Parks performing earlier this month.
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The list of upcoming events at the Banquet resembles programming from Glastonbury, with shows from AJ Tracey, Jake Bugg, Zara Larsson and The Vaccines.
For a full list of upcoming Banquet shows, visit banquetrecords.com.
There is also a very impressive comprehensive list of past shows hosted by Banquet Records, available on their website at banquetrecords.com/gig-history.
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