Faced with imminent closure of Nambucca and The Leadmill, activists call on locals to own their buildings

With Nambucca in London approaching this week and the iconic Sheffield Leadmill under threat, there is a growing call for music venues to own their own buildings rather than become independent owners.

Last month it was announced that the famed Nambucca center, located on Holloway Road in London, would close its doors after doing “everything possible” to stay afloat. As promoters of new groups, they hosted the first concerts of artists such as The Libertines, Florence + The Machine, Frank Turner and Wolf Alice. The last night of the room as Nambucca will take place this weekend (May 14).

In a statement issued announcing the closure, the Music Venue Trust highlighted the problems facing public performance spaces in the UK: “percolation, urbanization, noise, rent claims, excessive fees, poor working conditions… there are many problems there. Back to the same core problem we deal with. That problem is ownership.

“Like 93% of music venues in the UK, it’s not owned by the operator of this venue. If it did, Nambucca would not close. It’s that simple.”

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Speaking to NME, Nambucca Chief Executive Giles Horne agrees that center operators owning their own buildings would solve many of their problems.

“I do not blame the bar companies that own Nambucca,” he said of the forthcoming closure: “They are running a business and they want to make as much money as they can. We need these places buy back from the bar. companies, as it does not matter where they get their money from: they just want a bar that is open at 10am and brewing beer all day.

He continued: “It would be great if the venues were owned and operated by the venues, and less tied to selling beer, making things less profitable. I hope that someone buys Nambucca and continues to keep it as local “.

Horne said that when the COVID Pandemic first hit, he did not think that Nambucca would open forever, going so far as to look for another job and the site closed. However, the center opened in July 2021 to a “great relief and surprise”, before the realities of post-COVID times were revealed.

“Everyone thought the honeymoon period would be great for live music when we reopened,” he said, “but it was not, and it took us a long time to recover. Now things seem to be going well again , but we are. ” accumulating utility bills, bar bills and everywhere else. It came a little too late and became unsustainable. It was a nightmare. “

Horne advised other live music venues that suffered the storm in the post-Covid world, urging them to “keep working”.

“I think venues will find a way to continue,” he continued, “they are too important not to do them and too many people are passionate about keeping them open. It’s hard work. It’s harder for bands and young musicians. They have been lucky enough to see many great bands, but they will not get the exposure they need without these venues. We need to keep these venues alive. “

Horne also said: “My life lives in a bubble, and Nambucca is my bubble. I have a tunnel vision of everything around it. It was very encouraging to hear so much support and stories about what Nambucca means to so many people.It’s very sad. Frank Turner called to say how sad he is, the likes of Wolf Alice are through here, and it’s a shame. to keep local. “

One of the most famous and most recently threatened venues is The Leadmill, in Sheffield. In March, this iconic venue and club told music fans the “terrible news that in a year our landlord will try to evict us and force us to close,” which provoked outrage. and support from all over the world.

The current management of The Leadmill then responded to its owners, who denied any intention of closing the premises. The people responsible for Electric Group, the company that bought the property of the premises in March 2017, said they would dismiss the current management, but would keep the building as a music venue after the reforms.

Electric Group CEO Dominic Madden – whose company also owns Electric Brixton in London, SWX nightclub Bristol and NX Newcastle – told his Twitter fans “management may change but the song remains as the same “. Together with Madden, Electric Group is a joint venture with Jake Lewis of the Lewis family, which runs the River Island department store chain, as well as hotels, property development and asset management businesses.

The current management objected arguing that they were being “destroyed by the owner”. It was also learned that Electric Group registered the trademark “Electric Sheffield” in February.

Sheffield artists who spoke out in support of the venue include Arctic Monkeys, Richard Hawley, Jarvis Cocker and Oli Sykes Bring Me The Horizon, while locals from the Steel City music scene spoke to the NME about how The Leadmill was the ‘cultural heart’ of Sheffield, and they demanded that it not be ‘rooted’.

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Last month, The Leadmill sent a petition to the government seeking to “prevent landlords from unfairly and unjustly evicting long-term tenants from their own financial gain”.

The petition continued: “In circumstances where a tenant has invested a huge amount of money, time and effort to establish themselves, has paid rent on time (including during the closure of COVID) and has improved the structure of the unrecognized premises, it is unimaginable. that the owner could inherit and inherit the investment made by the tenant.

“The petition will also help protect many other vulnerable businesses across the country that lease the buildings in which they operate. 93% of public music venues do not own and operate the buildings in which they operate. also in danger. ” “.

A Leadmill spokesman added: “This is a terrible attempt to close and evict the Leadmill by an unscrupulous owner and it is likely to continue to happen to others unless we change this in law.”

To date, almost 31,000 of the 100,000 signatures on the electronic petition need to be debated in Parliament. In response, a Leadmill spokesman told NME: “We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from people around the world. We have already reached almost 30,000 signatures on the official petition to stop our landlord evicting us.

“Not only would this help us, but it could prevent this situation in numerous music venues around the country. So we encourage people to register and raise awareness so that we can Achieve 100,000 important signatures and debate it in Parliament “.

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd told NME that the circumstances surrounding The Leadmill created a “very difficult situation”, and that his organization was “working with both parties to mediate a way out of the situation”.

“It is still true that if a local does not own their own building or does not have a good relationship with the landlord of their building, they will always be under threat – that is the truth of the economy,” he said. “The landlord can decide to sell at any time, the landlord can do a rent review at any time – all of these things can cause a business to go out of business, and no there is a lot you can do about it while you are a tenant.

“The Leadmill is a complex and complex example of this, but it does not change the whole point. The Music Venue Trust will be launching a campaign for ‘Own Our Venues.’

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Davyd said the MVT would try to “create an organization to keep the premises in permanent trust” but, for now, “the mediation solution is best for The Leadmill.”

“We all agree that we can’t lose the Leadmill, but how are we going to prevent that?” he said. “What I would say now is that you have to put your head in the right place to find a solution. The point is that The Leadmill is just a building, it’s a brand that represents Sheffield. It’s a brick and mortar building, but The Leadmill is the people.

“We want to talk to both sides to see how we can get out of the mess and protect it.”

After praising The Leadmill in Sheffield’s response to “The Cavern or The Hacienda”, Richard Hawley will be playing four shows at the venue next August in support of his campaign. This comes after Eddie Izzard did two comedy shows at The Leadmill for the cause, and former Pulp player Jarvis Cocker shared artwork with the message: “I CAN’T BUY THE LEADMILL”.

Supporters of The Leadmill can sign the petition here.

The news comes after a campaign was launched to save London’s The Ravensbourne Arms pub and turn it into a community-owned live music venue for all ages, one of many attempts to put concert venues in the hands of fans of the music other than private owners.


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