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90s stage legends prepare their return to the Empire

REUNITED: DJ Elayne Smith and Miles Crawford are all smiles before the popular club’s one-off return on November 9

HAVING RECEIVED an overwhelming response to footage from the early 1990s of the 291 Club that was put online recently, DJ Elayne Smith said she felt compelled to bring the successful show back to life.

The Original 291 Club show enjoyed two eight-part series on LWT and both were repeated on Channel 4 in the early ‘90s. A cross between Tonight at The London Palladium and the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, the show features singers, rappers, comedians, dancers alternative and established acts.

The Original 291 Club was famed for the audience participation at the Hackney Empire, who were not shy in letting a contestants know if they were hot or not. If an artist was failing to entertain, the Sandman is summoned to escort the contestant off the stage.

Talking to The Voice about revisiting a format that paved the way for acts like Eternal, Skunk Anansi and Terri Alderton, before they became household names, Smith said she was both excited and nervous about the November 9 show.
Smith explained: “We could have done this a couple of years ago but the timing wasn’t right.


“The reason it didn’t happen was because it would have cost too much money, for me it couldn’t come back to any where other than the Hackney Empire, even if it was just a one off.

“I’ve got mixed emotions because it’s like, ‘We’ve done it’, and everyone is like, ‘Congratulations’, but now we’re like, ‘We’ve got to sell tickets!”

Smith, who has been a DJ for over two decades, has partnered with Original 291 Club founder Miles Crawford. The two have financed the venture independently and hope this show will provide a pilot for broadcasters looking for fresh, vibrant content.

Contestants will be vying for the number one prize on the night which includes a trophy for the first three places and their very own featured track on the club’s forthcoming Fly, Fresh n Phat Vol2 compilation album which was established at EMI Records. The overall winner will have an automatic place in the 291 Club final next year.

Confirmed judges include the likes of Chrystal Rose of ITV’s The Chrystal Rose Show, Ivor Ettien, CEO of Beat London, Carl McIntosh of Virgin Records’ Loose Ends and many more.

Explaining the decision to ensure the panel emanated from a diverse range of vocations, Smith said: “We’re going to have loads of judges because we want it to be a celebratory show to celebrate the history of the 291 Club.

“It’s a variety show so we want to get judges who can do something for the people who take part.”

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