The Lancaster Music Co-op has been operating from a rundown council owned building in Lodge Street for 33 years. A video describes the co-op’s contribution in launching the careers of young musicians who used their affordable rehearsal premises.
In October Lancaster City Council issued the co-op with an eviction notice, prompting a petition and a campaign backed by locals and high-profile musicians
Anthony Robinson, who has been involved with the Co-op since the early days, said the decision was “wholly wrong and indefensible”, and that the Co-op supported people in Lancaster and Morecambe when the area “was on its knees”.
Many questions were then asked about the Co-op’s tenancy agreement with the city council, with references made to “dodgy 80s tenancy agreements”. Questions were also raised about why any major work hadn’t been carried out on the building for the past three decades.
There have been long drawn out negotiations with developers about plans for a new “Canal Quarter” in the city in which, according to the latest issue of Private Eye, the co-op’s premises were scheduled for demolition. Sally Bloomer, a Lancaster musician and independent business consultant said: “Let’s build our own cultural quarter. It might take a bit longer, but won’t it be great?!”
Supporters gather outside Morecambe Town Hall
Lancaster City Council voted unanimously on November 14 to rescind the eviction notice issued to Lancaster Music Co-op
Ward Councillor and current Mayor of Lancaster, Andrew Kay, said there was no reason why Lancaster City Council’s Masterplan for the Canal Corridor could not include the Lodge Street building.
Music Co-op director David Blackwell said he was overwhelmed by the support shown at the meeting at Morecambe Town Hall by members of the public and councillors. He said: “It was unbelievable. I just couldn’t believe it was unanimous. We’re overwhelmed with the support. “We didn’t expect it, we didn’t know what to expect, as we haven’t seen any support for so long.
Chris Barlow, a senior lecturer at the University of Cumbria, and a singer and guitarist in local bands, who said: “The council needs to appreciate how important this is. It contributes amazingly to the health and wellbeing of many”.
Councillor Caroline Jackson said: “We saw from the speeches last night, Lancaster is a community that knows its own mind and is hugely and powerfully supportive of the things it values. That’s why people love living here. Tim and I were privileged to play a strong part in the Co-op’s fight to convince officers and members that the Co-op deserves our support to continue its work and create an even better future. The community sent a message to the council last night and councillors from all political parties recognised that message – listen to us before you act, work with us over changes to our city and together we can achieve great things.”
Councillor Rob Devey, who proposed amendments to Councillor Kevin Frea’s original motion to rescind the eviction notice, said: “The council should accept responsibility for the most urgent structural repairs. “This isn’t the fault of anyone here now, it was a bad agreement in the first place. The council has taken its eye off the ball over 33 years, and to expect the Co-op to take responsibility for these repairs now, that’s not reasonable at all.
The meeting voted to give the Co-op a long-term lease on the building and contribute funding to structural repairs. The council has to offer it a long-term lease on the building by July 2019.
David Blackwell said, “It feels like a new lease of life after all this time. It’s a fantastic building and it’s so nice to be able to save it for the city. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about us moving out, but this has become our home”.