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INTERVIEW: Lancaster Music Co-Op gets £300K funding boost for reopening

Dave Blackwell, Holly Blackwell and Jon Carter from the Lancaster Music Co-Op team

A vital home for musicians has received a £300,000 funding boost ahead of its reopening.

The Lancaster Music Co-Op has been granted £250,000 of funding from the government's community ownership fund and £50,000 of project management funding to help it get back on its feet after several years of closure.

Supporters of the Co-Op now hope to sign a long-term lease with the building's owners Lancaster City Council to secure its future, before renovation work can start.

"We are up and ready for getting it repaired as soon as possible and we want to get reopen as soon as we can," said Holly Blackwell from the Co-Op team.

LISTEN to our full interview with Holly Blackwell, Dave Blackwell and Jon Carter from the Co-Op team

"It's going to be a really big task to do up that big building and get it back open, so it's great to get the money," said Holly, who is one half of Lancaster band The Lovely Eggs with her husband Dave.

"We're really looking forward to getting on with it and getting the repairs done."

Jon, who is also a local musician, said: "It's been a safe reliable space I've been able to go since I was a young lad to play music and rehearse, and it's really vital.

"It's a really important community space for people who want to go and be creative and there's nothing else like it here."

Dave, who has worked at the Co-Op for 30 years, said: "For such a small city, Lancaster punches well above its weight for the music output. It's down to things like the Co-Op that nurture that."

Countless musicians have used the Co-Op including well-known local bands such as Massive Wagons, The Lovely Eggs, The Heartbreaks and many more.

In 2018 Lancaster’s creative community rallied together and fought hard to save the Co-Op after an eviction notice was served by Lancaster City Council.

Following public pressure, councillors voted unanimously to save the Co-op, repair the building, issue a long-term lease and protect its future.

The Co-Op team announced the funding news at a launch night held at The Pub in Lancaster on Thursday.

This was attended by local councillors including Lancaster City Council leader Caroline Jackson and Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox, who took questions about the Co-Op's future, from the audience.

There was frustration among Co-Op supporters that nothing had happened since the vote to save the building five years ago.

In response, Councillor Jackson said: "We've just got that extra £300,000 and there's some hope about moving forward with repairs. There is a meeting next week, planning will support it.

"It's not been, as far as the Music Co-Op is concerned, good enough. But they are now in a place where (council) officers are supporting the will of all councillors going forward, and will do their best to make sure that the Music Co-Op gets rolling forward. It needs to get going."

The new Lancaster Music Co-Op website was also unveiled at the launch event.

There was also live music, including from Varicose Veins (pictured below).

Related Story: Lancaster Music Co-Op to reveal future plans at launch party - Beyond Radio

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