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Artists line up to back crowdfunding campaign to save Oxford venue

By | Published on Thursday 1 November 2018

The Cellar in Oxford

Oxford independent music venue The Cellar is nearly a quarter of the way to raising the £80,000 it needs to avoid closure after launching a crowdfunding campaign earlier this week. It needs the money because of new fire regulations that have forced the venue to cut its capacity from 150 to 60, which stops it from being a commercially viable operation.

The popular venue was saved from closure last year after its landlords changed plans to convert the cellar it occupies into a retail unit. Thousands of people – including numerous artists – signed a petition calling on the landlord to allow the venue to continue operating.

Having won that battle, The Cellar now faces a new threat because of the new fire regulations. Launching its crowd-funding campaign, the venue explained that: “The Cellar is on the verge of closure because new stringent fire regulations have cut our capacity from 150 to 60 people. We need to raise £80,000 over the next five weeks to build a new fire exit, or we’ll be closing our doors in December 2018 forever”.

It’s no secret that grassroots venues like The Cellar – while often being important hubs for a town or city’s local music scene and playing a key role in nurturing new talent – operate on incredibly tight profit margins. Sudden unforeseen expenditure like this one can frequently put an otherwise viable grassroots venue out of business.

The venue goes on: “In our fight to save The Cellar, we have been placed under huge financial strain, incurring large legal costs. Worse still, since our capacity has been cut, we have lost many of our most popular nights and our promoters have understandably had to go elsewhere with their larger shows”.

But there is a solution. The venue says: “The good news is that it is possible to increase our capacity by building a new fire exit from The Cellar into Frewin Court. It is major structural work but if we can raise the money, the renovations will improve the space, enabling The Cellar to thrive, not just survive”.

The £80,000 renovation would actually increase the capacity of the venue to 200. To that end a one month crowdfunding campaign is now in full swing, with an assortment of goodies on offer to supporters, who can also just make a simple donation.

The Cellar’s manager Tim Hopkins, whose father founded the longstanding music venue, told reporters: “It was people power that saved The Cellar in 2017, and that showed me how much the community care about this place and how important it is to keep it alive. Running a small venue these days is definitely challenging to make it work, and sadly, with the extent of the renovations we’ve been asked to make, we simply don’t have the money to pay for them. Which is why we’re calling on people power again with this crowdfunding campaign”.

Among those artists supporting the bid to save the Oxford venue are Gaz Coombes, Phil Selway, Mark Gardener, Glass Animals, Nils Lofgren, Lovely Eggs, Nadine Shah, Ghostpoet, Jon Otway, David Gedge and Kiran Leonard.

Find out more and donate to the crowdfunding campaign here.