A £700,000 project to transform the iconic Lancaster Musician’s Co-Operative into a “modern, inspiring and creative” community asset is now underway.
Work started at the Lodge Street rehearsal and recording venue at the end of November, with the first phase expected to last up to 30 weeks.
The project will see a comprehensive renovation of the existing two-storey 19th century warehouse and its adjoining cottage, with four brand new music rehearsal rooms, a state-of-the-art recording and control room, and a first-floor performance space.
It will also include restrooms, lounges, and waiting areas for musicians and visitors.
The project is being funded by Lancaster City Council, central government’s Community Ownership Fund, and Lancaster High Street Heritage Action Zone.
Additionally, Lancaster Musician’s Co-Operative (LMC) is collaborating with students from Lancaster University’s School of Architecture, who will be working with them to generate ideas for the creative re-use of the premises.
The designs are due to be unveiled later this year.
Carnforth based Duckett Building Services were chosen by the LMC team to carry out the first phase construction work, which involves re-roofing, some demolition, the removal of partitioned areas, and minor structural repairs.
Paul Healey, works manager for Duckett Building Services, said: “The aim is to transform these historic buildings into spaces that meet modern standards while preserving their architectural character and heritage value.
“Personally, and as a company, we are delighted to be involved in the restoration of such an iconic building.
“Although I have lived locally all my life, I was not aware of what it had to offer and the passion that all involved have towards the building is infectious.
“Anyone you speak to about the job always smiles about the memories they have and hopefully we can bring that back to them with the new, improved Music Co-Operative.”
After years of campaigning and fund-raising, LMC finally signed a new lease and funding agreement with Lancaster City Council, the building’s owner, in September.
A new LMC steering group, which includes recently appointed project manager Anthony Dickens, who will oversee the refurbishment, is now working with Lancaster City Council, Heritage Action Zone, and local consultants to ensure a bright future for the venue.
Anthony said: “The design will seamlessly blend the historical elements of the buildings with modern design and functionality to create an inspiring and creative environment for musicians and artists to collaborate and perform.
“The building already has a history of recording artists forming bands and creating long lasting friends from university and the surrounding area.
“Lancaster Music Co-Op is, and will once again be, integral to Lancaster’s cultural scene, which has a
huge impact on the local area and is a real source of value.”
Anthony said that once the refurbished LMC is fit for purpose, the team will seek to engage more partners and participants by employing a full-time worker whose remit will include community engagement.
He added: “Projects we already have in mind include volunteer mentorship for those starting out and from more established musicians, producers and sound engineers; studio tours to give an insight into the workings of the Music Co-op to dispel myths of exclusivity, and partnership meetings in the new communal space to promote cultural inclusivity and integration.”
Holly Blackwell, who has spearheaded the campaign to bring LMC back into use, said: “It’s amazing to see work finally start on repairing the building.
“We’ve worked for years to get to this stage so it’s a joyous feeling to now see it come to fruition.
“All of the old rehearsal rooms have now been demolished so it’s quite a surreal experience walking in there and seeing an empty shell of a factory building.
“We just can’t wait to see the work finished and the Music Co-op back up and running.”