Update – it seems that reports of the demise of the Troc may be premature, as the HuffPo says that just two shops within are closing for refurbishment. In fact reading between the lines hints that the hotel might not be built either and they are looking for something else to do with the site.

All very mysterious!


You have but a single week left to visit what remains of the decaying hulk that is the Trocodero center in London’s West End.

After several years of slow decline as project after project waved goodbye, the venue is to finally close on the 25th February, and will be rebuilt as a hotel with Japanese style min-pod rooms.

Going in there today is almost a trip back in time, but one where time has stopped progressing and left everything to slowly decay.

Miss Havisham had nothing compared to what happened to the Trocadero. What was rebuilt in 1984 seems to have changed little from a brief moment of great expectation as a swathe of bright lights and music offered the night club experience to the computer games playing generation.

Who needed drugs or alcohol when you could put 20p in a slot and sink into digital oblivion?

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I have fond memories of the place as a youngster, getting off the tube from Heathrow at Picadilly Circus. A convenient subterranean short-cut lead past the Alien War experience into a Blade Runner-esque confection of lights and sounds. The international food hall to one side offered everything from around the world, so long as it came with noodles.

Adding to the slightly Tardis like atmosphere as if there was just too much in too small a building, a massive cavernous space above your heads seemed to stretch into an inky darkness at an impossibly great height.

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Yet these were but teasers for the huge arcade games hall several levels above. Oh the hours of fun wasted, but wasted so cheaply to be found in there.

I particularly recall one pod you sat in and what was basically a shoot-the-aliens concept was addictive as the pod span around and wobbled from side to side as you flew over alien landscapes shooting at gigantic caterpillars.

Today the arcade is gone, the entrance covered in metal shutters. The entry to its replacement, Funland stand barred and closed, the neon lights illuminated no more.

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The food halls vanished a long time ago, and where once there were fairly decent tourist shops at the back and a shortcut to the street behind, is now a sad warehouse of tat barely clinging on.

The shortcut from the tube station stands closed, and deep down that oft-used tunnel now a few boys danced rhythmically. Not an isolated curiosity in the empty tunnel, as a sign by the entrance warned that it was a no-dancing zone.

Some sad remnants of the old games arcade line deserted walkways trying to eke out a last few coins from the lost and bored who wander up this far into the void.

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However, a row of arcade games in empty spaces lacks all the atmosphere that made playing them so enjoyable. It wasn’t just a single stand-along game, it was an entire room of digital explosions, it was the crowds, the excitement. What’s left looks like the nightclub at the end of the night when they turn on the lights to hurry the stragglers out and you see the horrid appalling state that the darkness conceals.

And in a way, this has always been a building of façades and cloaks as it covered up walls with futuristic decorations that were how we all saw the future looking when we stood back in the past. Not for the 1980s the austere white of the Apple-decade that we live in today.

The future was neon, synthetic and loud, and lots of it.

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While seeking to ape the sci-fi look of the future, in its current state it eerily reminds me of another type of sci-fi story. The one where a paradise city is left to ruin, and usually taken over by a malevolent force that kills anyone who accidentally ventures within.

The dark evil of the science fiction writer depicting a decayed fun palace often mirroring the dark reality of these places that so often lured the overly young and troubled to their glittering lights, only to be seduced into the darker life that Soho offered.

The fun is over for the Trocodero, the website was last updated in 2011, the lights are switched on and the last drunken revellers are having a final lonely dance.

You have until the 25th to join them.

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12 comments
  1. Gillian Lawrence says:

    Excellent write-up. Even schools had end of term trips there!

  2. Chris S says:

    Looking at the state of the place now, I’m imagining Bonnie Langford having a refreshing dip in the pool, oblivious to the lurking terrors beneath.

  3. Lewis says:

    It’s so hard to describe to those who only know of it’s more recent flea-market days just what an awesome, buzzing, vibrant, ace place this was in the late 90s.

    SEGA WORLD, with its 7(?) themed floors of games and rides.

    The double deck drop tower ride, causing scream to ring through the building.

    The various simulators, horror mazes, decent eateries…

    I shall miss it. But then I have been missing it for the last ten years.

  4. roger gann says:

    Went there yesterday for the first time this century to go to the flix, only to find it had turned into a giant shit hole. Now I know why! Shocking.

  5. Kevin says:

    Thanks for telling us. I was thinking about the Trocadero only a couple of days away and I was there before Christmas and it had got even even worse than it was a year or two ago when it still had the amusements upstairs.

    Sadly enough I never got to go in the Segaworld era but I have been amazed that such a massive space has been left effectively empty for decades.

  6. ChrisMitch says:

    I have been amazed for quite a few years that a place like this existed in one of the most expensive places on the planet. It really is crappy! Good that something is happening to it, but I’m not sure that a pod hotel will raise the tone …!

  7. Jordan D says:

    Does this mean the Cineworld there is also closing? Only half decent bit of the building left.

  8. Mr J Snod says:

    It seemed to go downhill in the early 1990s and never get back. I remember when it first opened and the anchor tenant was the Guinness Book of World Records museum. The ground floor was a (relatively) upmarket shopping centre with restaurants. I remember eating in one of these restaurants in the late 1980s and somebody taking my order with a handheld computer. How modern.
    In 1996 the area that was once the Guinness museum became Sega World, a short-lived and slightly half-baked attempt at an indoor theme park. But it had so few actual attractions that it just seemed like a video arcade that you had to pay to get into. It was really bad. And I didn’t have to pay for it because it was a press preview before the grand opening.
    In 1998 the atrium played host to a genuine thrill ride: a 140ft Intamin drop ride called the Pepsi Max Drop. I miss that. I used to pop in at lunchtime, hand over £3 and have a little shot of adrenaline before going back to my desk.

  9. Alex McKenna says:

    Wasn’t there an American 50’s style burger place at the top in the mid 90s, with waitresses dancing on tables to Billy Haley and suchlike? Or am I thinking of another building?

  10. Ed says:

    ah…how it all looked so ‘cool’ then

    these places remind me too much of how old i really am!

  11. Spencer says:

    No Alex McKenna, I think you’re right, I remember going there as well,

  12. Great write up on urban decline & decay. When I first came to London in 1988 this Carbuncle was valued (26 years ago) at £680 M in the accounts of its then owner Power Walker. It has long been a boil on the bum of the West End, a disgraceful end of pier show in what should be prime West End and as you so accurately document lost the sense of excitement it had in those early days.

    http://www.skibbereeneagle.ie/?p=472

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