What’s Wrong With Ally Pally?


I was reminded about Alexandra Palace while watching Clint Eastwood’s ‘Hereafter’ – Matt Damon wanders around a trade fair inside it looking lost.

As well he might. Most of us usually forget that the palace is even there. Which is odd, given that it’s such an astonishing building. It was built as a counterpart to the Crystal Palace in 1873, primarily as an exhibition space, but nobody ever seems to know what to do with it. Too big for some events, too small for others, it remains partly restored, partly derelict, perched on its hill in fading grandeur, sometimes hired privately, sometimes public, never very successful.

It can’t be used as a theatre company because of Health & Safety, and endless fights with Haringey Council have prevented its use as a casino, a cinema and an exhibition space. It seems to have a farmer’s market (not a good use of the space now that these are all over London anyway).

It’s nice enough for a walk, but when you get there, you just come back down. Thanks to continued lack of vision, Ally Pally remains gloriously, hopelessly nothing much at all except a lovely building with nobody strong enough to take charge of it. Most of the grander London buildings have escaped this fate, but the palace continues to be trapped in limbo.

8 comments on “What’s Wrong With Ally Pally?”

  1. Martha says:

    A lot like the East Midlands Grand Hotel. That loomed languishing over Euston Road for all the years I lived in Kings Cross and now it’s being re-born. Onward and upward comrades – Next the Ally-Pally!!!

  2. Jon says:

    Ally Pally is now firmly back in the nation’s consciousness – it’s where the PDC World Darts Championship is held!

    Also I’ve seen ice hockey there – Haringey Greyhounds losing by about 10 goals at home to Romford.

  3. Mark Pack says:

    The exhibition space gets used now and again, and like Jon I’ve been to see ice hockey there. But perhaps the answer to your question really is, it’s a lovely park with cute deer and lovely views out of London – with a mostly unused old building attached.

  4. FabienneT says:

    It is a real shame. I used to live not far.
    A big music alternative festival was supposed to take place there a few years ago, but the council/whoever runs the place messed up and it never happened. Have been to Antiques Fairs, a gig and for a coffee. You are right, it’s under-used, what a shame. People in charge of these types of things are desperately un-creative and scared of being daring. I fear a (Quatari or whatever) promoter will think it would be a great place for redevelopment and turn it into a horrendous mall-bling type thing. 🙁

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Please, we don’t need another of those, with chain stores and “outlets” exactly the same as everywhere else. The powers that be should be at least somewhat cautious since they are responsible for the site and it’s the ratepayers’ money they spend, but on the other hand it’s a unique site and they have to risk something or end up with a pile of rubbish on their hands, rubbish for which they are also responsible.

  6. It’s obscurity must be due at least in part to the lack of local tube stations. I grew up nearby and remember watching it burn down from my school playground. The building is said to have been cursed by a gypsy to burn down three times. That fire was number two, so maybe that’s what’s putting off investors!

  7. Helen Martin says:

    If that top photo is a current one what does ‘burn down’ mean? Even the exterior looks fairly complete, but I suppose it’s big enough to have had a fire on the far side without disturbing that palm court inside.

  8. After the last fire it was just a shell. We all ran to the end of the playground to watch. I remember seeing the whole west side of the building in flames and the roof falling in.

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