Since our last newsletter in November the world has changed in a way none of us could have imagined. Obviously the global pandemic has had a huge impact on live music with venues on the brink of collapse, cancelled gigs and the almost impossible task of even meeting up with our band mates for our weekly fix of noise and laughs. It’s grim and it might never be quite the same again.
Music Co-op reopening
We’ve had loads of enquiries about when the Music Co-op will reopen for rehearsals and so far it’s been hard to give a clear answer. We know that there are some rehearsal facilities in other areas that have managed to open (with varying degrees of risk!). We’ve had several meetings over the past couple of months and talked at length about how we can open safely, but unfortunately we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not possible to make the Music Co-op Covid safe in it’s current state because of ventilation, hygiene, toilet facilities and the ongoing deterioration of the building due to water ingress.
On top of that the building will soon have to close completely for a few months during council repair work. We are so sorry about the extended closure and totally understand your frustration. We are looking into the possibility of finding a local space to run a reduced service during this time and we’ll let you know if anything comes up.
Council Repairs to the building
As you’ll probably know, back in November 2018 the City Council pledged to replace the roof, repair other parts of the building and offer us a proper lease so we can apply for funding to redevelop the interior with new rehearsal rooms. At long last the repair work is at the planning application stage and all being well, work should start in October and be completed early next year. As Lodge Street is in a conservation area the work will be finished to a high spec and in-keeping with it’s original style. The estimated total cost of renovation is £425k
Unfortunately the rear part of the building which housed “Room 3” (until we had to close it in 2015 for safety reasons) is going to be demolished. We aren’t very happy about this, but planning, negotiations and decisions have taken place about the demolition without any discussion with the Music Co-op and largely without our knowledge. We have been told that the cost makes repair unfeasible, but another factor is that the Grand Theatre have been planning some redevelopment since 2008 which they insist involves demolishing that section of our building!
Although it had previously been discussed with the Council that we’d still be able to operate our rehearsal rooms in the evening while the council repairs are ongoing, we are now told that we have to completely vacate and clear out the building. Unfortunately this also means that all bands own equipment in storage lockers will have to be removed from the building. The work is expected to begin in October so we have to ask that everyone contact us to arrange times to come and collect gear. We are being offered some temporary storage space in locked workshop units nearby in which we can keep our own drums, amps, PA and studio equipment. If anyone is struggling to find space to keep their own gear then we might be able to use some of that space if there’s room, there may be a small charge.
Music Co-op Redevelopment
Losing the rear building has a big impact on our own development plans as it’s quite a large space over two floors and houses one of the stairwells to the first floor, which we’re hoping to use as an area accessible to the public. So it means we have to rethink our designs and most likely split up the fantastic roof space to incorporate some more rehearsal rooms.
However we still have some great ideas in the pipeline to build fully soundproofed, state-of-the-art rehearsal spaces (which could be made Covid safe for the future) and a multi-function large space to rehearse, record and perform, plus a refreshment and chillout area. We should ultimately have 7 or 8 rehearsal spaces of various sizes.
For all this we need to raise a lot of money and we’re working on a business plan which includes floorplans, costings and details of our future direction so that we can apply for funding. Once we’re allowed back into the building early next year there will be an intensive period of 6 months when we’ll hopefully start a phased rebuilding process on the ground floor. During this time we hope that we can reopen in a reduced capacity. Once the work on the ground floor is completed we will develop the first floor which has been closed to users for many years. This may incorporate another two or three small rehearsal rooms, a refreshment area and a large space which can be used for performance, rehearsals, recording, workshops etc.
The Future Music Co-op
There will be some changes to our operation taking place over the coming months. For one, our governance structure needs to change as we all appreciate. We’re looking into the most appropriate structure, but it will undoubtedly involve more people with a variety of skills and roles.
The future lease which is being developed will have a yearly rent of over £50k. However it is likely that the council could subsidise this to some extent, but that would involve us taking more of a role in the community with workshops, event management, working with vulnerable groups etc. and, more to the point, planning and documenting these activities to provide evidence of our value.
The Music Co-op is all about grass roots and peoples’ freedom to develop their music and express themselves in their own way and we will always maintain those core values. At the same time we welcome the idea of expanding our range of activities and users and look forward to the Music Co-op being a vibrant, diverse musical hub in constant use 7 days a week.
Later this year
We’re working on ideas to host some activities while the building is closed due to Covid and Council building work, some online and some socially distanced, thoughts include an online event with a chance for bands to play live, music and sound workshops etc. We also welcome any ideas from our users so keep in touch and watch this space.
Lancaster Music Co-op