The fight to save the Lewisham music scene after ‘decimation’ of ‘ground-breaking’ venues

A group is fighting to save Lewisham’s “ground-breaking” music scene with a mission to create the borough’s first community-owned live music venue.

Sister Midnight has started a project to bring the Ravensbourne Arms pub into community ownership.

The project is calling on the community to invest in the proposal and transform the space into a not-for-profit grassroots live music venue.

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The project aims to turn the Ravensbourne Arms into a community space

Lenny Watson, one of the three founders of Sister Midnight, said: “We’ve seen the absolute decimation of our local music venues.

“The Ravensbourne Arms can provide something that is a real home for the music scene to root itself in here.”

Lenny started Sister Midnight as a music venue and record shop based in Deptford back in 2018.

However, the venue was forced to close in March 2020 due to the Covid pandemic and it was never able to reopen.

Ravensbourne arms sketch

The space will be able to be used by all the community

Lenny then joined with fellow Sister Midnight members Verity and Sophie to start the community-focused project taking over the Ravensbourne Arms.

“We were forced to close during the pandemic in March 2020 and as time went on it just became clear it wasn’t going to be viable to run gigs in that space, and so we gave up the lease a few months ago,” Lenny said.

“In South East London, we’ve seen a lot of our music venues close over the last few years.”

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She added: “We’re left with very few spaces for live music. The ones that we do have are great, but there’s just not enough of them to sustain the massive wealth of local talent that we’ve got here.”

Lenny hopes that the community venue will be able to sustain the “incredible” talent coming out of Lewisham.

She said: “I’ve seen that there is such a strong music scene in Lewisham and it’s a really exciting time to be part of live music in this area.

“There is something special that is happening here that I personally think is going to be looked back on as a very important cultural moment in music history.

“The kind of bands that we’re seeing coming out of south London, the kind of innovation and experimentation is ground-breaking cutting edge stuff and it’s really exciting to be a part of.”

Sister Midnight

Sister Midnight is made up of Lenny, Verity and Sophie

Sister Midnight is hoping to raise £500,000 through community investments to purchase the Ravensbourne Arms.

When members invest in shares they will become a member of the society with voting rights, giving everyone a say in how things are done.

They will also become an owner of the society’s assets alongside other members.

Ravensbourne arms sketch

Lewisham council has been supportive of the project

Lenny said: “This will be a community space for everyone and we want everyone in the community and beyond to back it, and the best way to do that is by investing in the share offer.

“It’s about everyone coming together as a community and backing the project with their money, and demonstrating to everyone else that this is something that Lewisham wants and needs.

“If we all pull together there is a lot of power that communities can achieve when they work together.”

The project has already received strong community support and has even been backed by Lewisham and Deptford MP Vicky Foxcroft and some councillors.

“Lewisham council have been very supportive and helped us out so much,” Lenny said.

“Everyone’s just really pulling together to try to make this happen.”

She added: “I think that the reason that these kinds of venues should be in community ownership is that it protects them and means that the future of the buildings and spaces are in the hands of the community.

“So the community will always have an interest in serving their needs rather than these buildings being controlled by landlords who are just trying to squeeze them from profit.

“But also the community ownership model had proven to be very viable for keeping pubs and similar type venues alive.

“I would love for this pub to open in 2022 when it’s Lewisham’s year of Borough of Culture and that is what we’re working to achieve.”

Check out the crowdfunder here.

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