What Remains of The Empire Club – One A Week 2020

Dedicated to the closure of the barracks in Bordon, Hampshire, England 2015, this poem was displayed in the Bordon Reflections Exhibition in July 2015

Opened as a soldiers’ club the building contained a large concert hall with stage and dressing room and a sprung dance floor. It also contained a supper room and bar, a sergeants’ room, a general room, a tea room, a billiard room and seven baths. Later a new ballroom was added and the old theatre became the cinema. A fire of unknown cause completely destroyed the Empire Club in 1987. Plans were originally made to rebuild it as an arts centre using the insurance money but this never materialised and the remains of the building disappeared under the Pinewood Village housing estate.

What remains of the Empire
is under the houses,
beneath the foundations,
its last embers grown stone cold so long ago
The earth and dust hold endless stories,
buried deep, like grandma’s memories
we wish we’d asked about when there was still time
Under the houses in Pinewood Village
Bette Davis smoked a cigarette
Veronica Lake peeped through her silky hair
Gene Autry saddled up his horse
Charlie Chaplin got the girl
The Beatles had a hard day’s night
Our Gracie stole the nation’s heart–again
and Bogart navigated Hepburn
around The African Queen
Below the houses and above the ground
myriad memories lie in perpetuity
and we’re reminded without doubt
the future is the present, then the past
but the punters, being people, never change
Just ask Shakespeare about that
Technology dominates us now
but people, they still fall in love,
get happy, angry, hungry,
care for their children, buy stuff, sell stuff
then they fade like Bette
and Bogart and the rest,
Like all the punters at The Empire
after the last note of the last song
after the anthem and the credits
as someone
dimmed the lights

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