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Council meets to discuss future of Musician's Coop

John Freeman

Lancaster City Council will meet next Wednesday (14th November 2018) at Morecambe Town Hall to discuss the future of the Musician's Co-op, which is facing eviction from its current premises after 33 years serving the community - an action that has prompted fierce protest, with an online petition now closing on 7500 signatures.

A GoFundMe page to raise funds to Save Lancaster Music Co-op Campaign is also gaining support.

On 12th October Lancaster City Council served Lancaster Music Co-op with an eviction notice on the building they have occupied for 33 years, after a condition survey of 1 Lodge Street, home to the Co-op, raised a number of significant safety issues, prompting the Coouncil to take action for the welfare of the Co-op and all its users.

In a statement outlining its position the Council, recognising the role the Co-op has played in developing musical talent locally, says it is keen that this musical institution remains a vital part of the city’s cultural offering, but the manner of the eviction notice has prompted the Council meeting next week in an effort to reach an amicable resolution to issue.

Lancaster Music Co-op, a non-profit making community organisation that has been providing music rehearsal rooms, equipment hire and recording facilities to the people of Lancaster and surrounding areas for the past 33 years, is figthing to get that eviction order overturned.

"The Co-op has become the beating heart of the City's music scene and has a whole host of musicians through its doors throughout the years who have gone on to be part of globally recognised acts," the Co-op team note on their petition page, "such as James, The Prodigy, Maximo Park, British Sea Power, 3 Colours Red, Towers of London, Dr and The Crippens, The Milltown Brothers, The Heartbreaks, The Lovely Eggs and Massive Wagons (whose latest album reached the Top 10 in the UK National Album Charts) - alongside up and coming acts who have attracted BBC 6 Music's support such as Mr Ben and the Bens and 3D Tanx.

"Many other people who have used the Co-op have gone on to successful careers in the music industry such as Stereolab/Elastica producer Paul Tipler and Sound Designer for The Royal Shakespeare Company, Claire Windsor.

"For the last 16 years we have been in a state of limbo after the city council," the team continue, "who own the building, teamed up with a big property developer and earmarked our building and the land surrounding it for commercial development. A demolition order was served on our premises around 12 years ago as part of the development plans.

"During this time, we have been unable to move forward as the City Council quashed negotiations for a long term lease and stalled any attempts by us to renovate and improve the building. At the time, we had a successful planning application approved to totally revamp the interior of the building to create a new purpose built recording studio, rehearsal rooms and venue. But without a long term lease we could not move forward with any of our plans.

"A long term lease would have given us security and more importantly access to much needed funding to improve the building, enhance our facilities and realise our ambitions. It has been a very frustrating 16 year waiting game. During that time, we were told Lancaster Music Co-op would be accommodated as part of any redevelopment of the site.

"However in April 2018, Lancaster City Council severed ties with the big developer and in July issued Lancaster Music Co-op with a huge list of impossible demands and repairs on the building.

Although we have been working our way through their list of repairs, we have now been issued with an eviction notice. We must now fight Lancaster City Council to save the Co-op. This is a vital resource to Lancaster’s musicians and has an impact far beyond the city it serves. We must fight to save its future."

Several councillors have proposed a motion that will be discussed to try to resolve matters, led by Councillor Kevin Frea, that recognises the incredible value that the Musician's Coop has brought to the culture and economy of Lancaster for more than 30 years.

The motion calls on the Council to rescind the eviction notice issued to the Musician's Co-op and arrange an urgent meeting between the Musicians Co-op and the Council is arranged to review the situation, and explore possible future arrangements that support the long term future of the Co-op.

The motion also proposes if remedial and/or long term repairs are not viable, as agreed in consultation with the Musicians Co-op,  then the Council will work with the Musicians Co-op to find suitable alternative premises before they have to move.

• The Extraordinary Council Meeting will take place at 5.50pm on Wednesday, 14th November 2018 at Morecambe Town Hall. You can view agenda here on the Council web site

Sign the petition protesting at the eviction here | The GoFundMe page to raise funds to Save Lancaster Music Co-op Campaign is here

Read the Council's statement outlining their full position on the eveiction and the building here