Close to the this location, at the opposite end of Islington Green, lies the former Collins's Music Hall. It opened in 1862 but was rebuilt with the current facade in 1897. At it's height between 92 and 162 acts were put on each evening and performers who starred there included Charlie Chaplin, George Formby and Gracie Fields among others. In 1958, a fire in the timber yard behind it, destroyed much of the building and the music hall closed for good.The shell of the that building is now the Waterstones bookshop and a blue memorial plaque to the Music Hall can be seen on the front wall.. The music hall was owned by Sam Collins, a colourful character. See more about Sam here.
It was here in December 1945 that Norman Wisdom got his first big break and launched his career onto stage, film and television.
As quoted in the Daily Telegraph Obituary: "His break came in December 1945 at the Collins Hall, Islington, a venue for new variety turns. He had followed the manager everywhere for three weeks asking for a chance. Billed as “The Successful Failure”, he produced an act that was a synthesis of his experiences and would never change. Wisdom was life’s victim, a gormless, game village idiot. Mime and pratfalls were his stock-in-trade, dance and song mere distractions, as he clowned with musical instruments that shut on his fingers or was knocked out by his boxing shadow. It was silly, unsophisticated fun — and austerity audiences lapped it up. One teenage schoolgirl laughed so hard that she dislocated her jaw. Within two years Wisdom was a West End star."
At the height of his career, the Norman Wisdom franchise was earning more than the James Bond franchise. He went on from here to appear in 19 films and 32 television sitcoms. A Guardian website tribute - "A Life in Clips", showing some of his best moments, can be seen here