Operation Santa Claus

Ned Kelly's Last Stand marks 40th birthday by backing Operation Santa Claus

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 December, 2012, 4:40am

It will be a big night for jazz music in Hong Kong when Ned Kelly's Last Stand in Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, turns 40 on Tuesday.

It has become such an institution that you sometimes forget live jazz this good is performed there every night of the week, and can be heard for nothing more than the price of a beer.

That's maybe why it has outlasted almost every other themed bar from the 1970s, and is still going strong. Ned's may get less publicity than venues on the other side of the harbour, but bar manager Mike Brown - who took over in 1998 - knows the secret to its success.

"Jazz playing seven nights a week is what helped Ned Kelly's get through Sars and the Asian financial crisis when other bars were shutting down. There's no doubt it's what helped us to survive for so long," Brown, 54, said.

"A Tuesday night here can be as busy as a Friday night."

Colin Aitchison has been the bandleader in Ned's since 1998, though he's been playing in the city off and on since 1988.

Aitchison is only the third Ned's bandleader, after Dennis James with his Jamestown Five, and Ken Bennett and his Kowloon Honkers.

"What's so great about this place is that you never know who is going to walk in and come up on stage," Aitchison, 57, said.

Some big names have walked in off the street over the years, including The Sergio Mendez Band, Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, Rosemary Clooney and Matt Monroe. It has attracted a multicultural audience too, with more locals joining the audience.

Brown said since the handover, the clientele had gradually changed, with many Chinese university students attending.

Ned's is also raising money for Operation Santa Claus (OSC), and on December 6 held a fundraiser with the pub renamed Santa's Last Stand for the night. This included a one-hour live broadcast from 9pm to 10pm on RTHK, followed by an auction which took place online and in the pub.

Collections will be taken all through the Christmas period.

"We also did a charity drive for OSC on our 35th anniversary and it was very successful, so this is why we thought it was only right to try and raise money for them again on our 40th anniversary," Brown said.