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Faced with a catastrophic reduction in capacity to 60, the grassroots UK venue is calling on "people power" to secure its long-term future
By Jon Chapple on 02 Nov 2018
The Cellar, the last family run grassroots music venue in Oxford, UK, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £80,000, in a “last-ditch” bid to stay open.
The formerly 150-capacity venue, which opened in 1998, is renowned as an incubator of emerging talent, with Foals, Young Knives, Stornoway and Glass Animals all having cut their teeth at the Cellar. It has also hosted shows by artists including Mumford & Sons, Friendly Fires, Noah and the Whale, Youth Movies, Deerhoof, Fuck Buttons, Jeffrey Lewis, Afrika Bambaataa and Dawn Penn, as well as numerous club nights and comedy shows by Reginald D. Hunter, Richard Herring and more.
The Cellar escaped closure in late 2017 after 14,000 people signed a petition to stop redevelopment plans by the venue’s landlord. However, stringent new fire regulations, which cut capacity from 150 to 60 people, once again threatens its future.
The venue’s plight was raised earlier this week at a meeting of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, with British rapper ShoaDow telling MPs of the importance of the venue when building his career.
To once again increase capacity, and attract promoters and artists who have had to go elsewhere for larger shows, the Cellar needs to raise £80,000 to build a new fire exit. The emergency crowdfunding campaign, dubbed Cellar Forever, is asking local businesses, artists and supporters of independent music to make a donation in order to secure its long-term future.
Venue manager Tim Hopkins explains: “It was people power that saved the Cellar in 2017, and that showed me how much the community care about this place and how important it is to keep it alive.
“We hope that with the right support we can ride through this difficult moment”
“We’ve always been so proud of the opportunities we can provide to local and national musicians to hone their craft, as well as seeing budding promoters and technical crew come up through the ranks and providing a warm, friendly space for people to come together and let off some steam.
“Running a small venue these days is definitely challenging to make it work, and, sadly, with the extent of the renovations we’ve been asked to make, we simply don’t have the money to pay for them. Which is why we’re calling on people power again with this crowdfunding campaign.
“As well as our own passion to keep going, we owe it to all our amazing supporters to give this one last try. The best thing is, if we are a successful then it’ll make big improvements to what we already offer, widening the audience area, giving customers much better visibility and increasing our capacity to 200. We’re truly excited to get stuck in.
“We hope that with the right support we can ride through this difficult moment, and rebuild the Cellar for future generations to enjoy.”
To make a domination to the Cellar Forever campaign, which has so far raised nearly £20,000 of the £80,000 goal, visit crowdfunder.co.uk/cellar-forever.
Music Venue Trust last month urged the music business to unite behind its new pipeline investment fund – which would, by providing a reliable source of funding for venues in need, make the need for crowdfunding campaigns like the Cellar’s a thing of the past.
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