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New 'Friends of Platform' and membership scheme announced as key to Morecambe venue staying open

Councillors Matthew Black, Catherine Potter and David Whitaker, and County Councillor Lizzi Collinge, outside the Platform in Morecambe

A new membership scheme and 'Friends' group will be set up to generate cash to keep the Platform open, it has been revealed.

Supporters of the Morecambe concert venue will have the chance to become members of the Platform to give it "a reliable source of income", said councillors.

A new ‘Friends of the Platform’ group will also coordinate fundraising activities and grants bids.

This new approach to running the Platform was revealed by the local Labour group, after Lancaster City Council confirmed they had decided to continue to run the under-threat venue.

Read more: Morecambe’s Platform venue saved from closure after council u-turn - Beyond Radio

The council had planned to withdraw from operating the former railway station-turned arts centre from March 31 2024.

They had been in talks with three un-named third-party operators but on Thursday, announced their intention to keep the Platform in-house.

Councillors said their plans "should generate tens of thousands of pounds of additional revenue to safeguard the venue as the profile of Morecambe grows as a destination with the advent of the Eden Project".

The council currently pays £150,000 a year from taxpayers' money to support the venue.

The potential closure of the Platform was announced in February as part of £2.4m of council budget cuts.

The council originally planned to stop operating the venue in October 2023, but this was extended to March 2024 after residents rallied against the plans, setting up petitions calling for the former railway station to stay open.

Under the new business model, members will receive discounted tickets for events, and the scheme will be similar to those run by the Dukes and the Grand in Lancaster.

The existing team of Platform staff would also remain in place, said councillors.

They said that if, in the future, the Platform makes a profit, these additional funds "can be invested back into the venue or returned to the council to provide more and improved services for residents".

Catherine Potter, Lancaster City Council cabinet member responsible for the visitor economy, said: “I’m thrilled that we have found a way to keep the Platform open and run by the council.

"The venue has become a real favourite for people in Morecambe and from much further afield. I would like to thank the team from Lancaster Arts partners for so generously sharing their experience so we could put together this new approach which I feel sure will guarantee a secure future for a much beloved venue, and on a personal level, I look forward to continuing to enjoy the varied performances put on by the Platform. A huge thank you too, to Lizzi Collinge and David Whitaker for their hard work and support in getting us to this point.”

A letter signed by all councillors in Morecambe and Heysham calling for the Platform to be kept in-house, had been co-ordinated by Labour councillor Whitaker.

The letter said: "Many of us were not councillors in February 2023 when the decision was made to remove the Platform from the council’s budgets. We feel strongly that this was a bad decision as it denies the people of Morecambe their only varied and fully programmed performance venue. It is a very unpopular decision amongst the residents of Morecambe and there is a great sense of injustice and unfairness compared with the continued support for Lancaster cultural and heritage centres.

"We understand that three private sector organisations have submitted expressions of interest to run the Platform. We also understand that they are not offering the council any meaningful payment for doing so. So, at best they are offering a cost-neutral outcome for the council but in the meantime the council will lose control to a private organisation of this strategically positioned building and venue at a time of great change and opportunity for the town.

"We understand that a counter suggestion is being made that a continued in-house operation of the Platform operates a membership scheme in the same way as do the Grand and Dukes theatres n Lancaster, potentially generating tens of thousands of pounds in additional revenues per annum.

"We also understand it has been suggested that a ‘Friends of The Platform’ group be established to seek and raise additional funding, as is the case with many cultural and recreational centres across the country. These two initiatives, in tandem with further operational cost savings, we feel strongly should be implemented and given a chance to succeed. We hope by implementing these new and untested initiatives that the venue could potentially become cost neutral to the council, without it being lost to a third party to do as it will with the building.

"The Platform is a much loved and well attended cultural centre in Morecambe. The residents of our town, both adults and children, deserve the range of entertainment that it has provided for the last many years. To deprive them of this would be very much to the detriment of the cultural life of the town."

County Councillor Lizzi Collinge, Labour parliamentary candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale, said of the decision: “It is important to me that not only is the venue available for touring artists, but that local groups can use it too. The Platform runs well attended, high quality performances by local musicians, and gives young people the opportunity to perform on a big stage in a large, attractive and professional venue – it’s an inspiring, true community asset. I am absolutely delighted that the Platform has been saved and will continue to offer these invaluable opportunities for local people to entertain and be entertained, something so central to the whole personality of Morecambe. I’m so pleased that the uncertainty for the staff team, so valued by the local community, is over and that their jobs are safe.”

Julie Brown, chair of Lancaster Arts Partnership, said: “It's great news that the Platform will remain as a venue operated by the city council. The Platform is much-loved as a performance venue and as a resource for the district's arts community, and it is reassuring that the city council sees the value of its investment into the venue. I look forward to supporting the Platform team in any way that I can, as they develop their operating model going forward.”

Information about how to become a Platform member and how to get involved in the Friends of the Platform group will be available soon.

Upcoming shows at the Platform include concerts from Lindisfarne, Then Jerico and the Promenade Concert Orchestra.

READ all the background to this story below.

Lifeline announced for Platform concert venue in Morecambe - Beyond Radio

Visitor Information Centres closure date announced as council seeks someone new to run The Platform - Beyond Radio

Annual figures for Platform and Visitor Information Centres released - Beyond Radio

Council pledge to keep Platform open after budget rethink - Beyond Radio

Visitor Information Centres and The Platform under threat due to council budget cuts - Beyond Radio

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