Essex

Wilko Johnson backs campaign to save Southend music venue

Wilko Johnson on stage Image copyright Abigail Elizabeth
Image caption Wilko Johnson has said The Railway Hotel is one of his favourite pubs

A rock legend is supporting a campaign to save a live music venue.

Wilko Johnson is a regular at The Railway Hotel in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, which almost closed last year due to spiralling renovation costs.

A GoFundMe page set up to help owners Dave and Fi Dulake preserve the historic Victorian building has smashed its £10,000 target within two weeks.

Johnson, a founding member of 1970s group Dr Feelgood, urged people to donate, saying: "Every quid counts."

The Dulakes took on The Railway Hotel, in Clifftown Road, in 2007. As well as being a pub and live music venue, it is also a cultural hub for the community and supports numerous local charities.

Image caption The pub replaced its traditional sign with a picture of Wilko Johnson in 2013

Railway regular Tom Burgess set up the fundraising page to help the Dulakes maintain the historic venue, which he said is a "vital and special place".

On the page, he told how the couple have "ploughed their hearts and souls into the pub" but keeping the four-storey building going had left them with "some significant bills".

Johnson, 71, who lives in nearby Westcliff-on-Sea, said he was "very fond" of the venue he called "the heart of the town's creative community".

"There's a unique cultural thing that Southend has got and the Railway really represents that," he said.

"It's so much more than just a pub."

Image copyright Leif Laaksonen
Image caption Johnson was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in 2013 but after surgery to remove a 3kg tumour, is now "cancer-free"

The guitarist, who often visits the venue to "play a number" on Sundays, said it would be "a real shame" if The Railway had to close.

"There's a lot of feeling about that place," he said.

"There's a great atmosphere and it's so friendly. I hope that somehow it can be saved."

On The Railway's Facebook page, Mr Dulake said he was "eternally grateful" to all those who had donated to the campaign so far.

"We are absolutely flabbergasted," he added.

"A huge weight has been lifted and we can see a bright future for the pub at last."

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