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Oxford’s the Cellar launches Cellar Forever crowdfunder

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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Rob da Bank, Foals join campaign to save the Cellar

Local bands Foals, Ride and Glass Animals, along with DJ and Bestival founder Rob da Bank, are among those to have signed a new petition opposing the impending closure of the Cellar, one of Oxford’s best-loved independent music venues.

The 150-capacity basement club – established 40 years ago by local promoter Adrian Hopkins and now managed by his son, Tim – is to be turned into a retail space, landlord St Michael’s and All Saints’ Charities announced earlier this week.

In addition to Foals, Glass Animals et al., the Cellar has hosted early-career shows by Mumford & Sons, The xx, Young Knives, Stornoway, Diplo and Friendly Fires, and is recognised as a “pivotal venue in the development of Oxford’s musical history”, according to the petition, which is already close to its 10,000-signature target.

Tim Hopkins comments: “It is devastating news, not just for the Cellar team, but for the Oxford music scene as a whole. The loss of an important cultural asset such as the Cellar is a matter of concern for everyone – not just the music fans and musicians of Oxford. It should be of concern to anyone who cares about jobs, the night-time economy, local creativity and the social community of the city. We appreciate the pressures that may be felt by St Michael’s and All Saints’ Charities, but the aims of the charity are not furthered by losing such a vital local space.

“It’s quite clear that the people of Oxford want the Cellar to stay”

“We would welcome the opportunity to work with St Michael’s and All Saints’ to look at an alternative way to increase their income, if this is their aim, but we have yet to be consulted on this. Working together could led to economic benefits for the charity, and we urge the trustees to pause and consider the wider benefits that a cultural space such as the Cellar brings to the local community.”

Mark Davyd of Music Venue Trust says allowing the conversion of the venue to a shop would be contrary to Oxford City Council’s culture strategy. “We urge St Michaels and All Saints to withdraw their application and work with the Cellar to develop a proposal that protects this important venue,” he comments. “Oxford City Council have a very clear cultural strategy, and converting a fantastic cultural asset like the Cellar into a retail space quite obviously flies in the face of that, as well as the needs of local people.

“It’s quite clear that the people of Oxford want the Cellar to stay, and we hope the charity will recognise this and reconsider their plans.”

IQ revealed earlier this month that publicly funded arts body Arts Council England has allocated just 0.06% of its total funding to popular music venues in its 2018–22 grants.

 


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