Three women from Lewisham are hoping to open a community-run music venue and creative space in an pub.
Lenny Watson has been running Deptford record store Sister Midnight Records for two years, but was worried the space would be too small to hold events safely following Covid.
She joined forces with Sarah Farrell and Verity Hobbs, who ran record nights at the shop, to try and set up an event space for the people of Lewisham.
The trio are planning to buy the Ravensbourne Arms in Lewisham High Street with the help of people from the community.
Ms Farrell said: “What we’ve seen over the last year is a closure from a lot of important spaces, especially in our area.
“There are so many pubs that are going to have to shut down and we believe that turning this into a community-structured business and a non-profit organisation will be quite a sustainable way of keeping the business open, especially due to all the circumstances right now.”
They are aiming to sell shares to people in the area, costing from £100 to £10,000. The shareholder will then be entitled to join the conversation on what happens with the venue and be able to vote on decisions.
Each shareholder will only get one vote, regardless of how much money they contributed to the project.
Ms Farrell said: “We don’t want hierarchies, we want everyone to equally be able to speak and have input in what they want this place to be.”
The profits for the business will also be reinvested in the community.
One of the record nights at Sister Midnight Records
The women’s goal is to put on live shows featuring local artists. Ms Farrell said: “We want it to be first and foremost a music venue for local musicians who are at the early stages of their career, and they’ll be able to have a space to perform and rehearse.”
But she said the venue will have many other roles.
She said: “We want to create training schemes for people who want to get into sound engineering and have work experience opportunities there.
“But we also want it to be a mutual aid hub as well, because quite a lot of people wanted it to be used as a food bank. And although we want it to be a music venue, we also want it to be a space where the local community can really utilise it for whatever needs they want it to be really.”
The women have run a community consultation asking people in the area what they want to see happen to the space.
They have had over 800 responses and community members have provisionally pledged about £90,000 to the project.
Ms Farrell said: “It got quite a lot of support really. We’ve had really positive results from it which is lovely to see.”
Farrell, Watson and Hobbs plan to run further consultations, such as one for accessibility and one for LGBT+ people, to fully understand how best they can serve the community.
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