Lancaster Canal Quarter action group backs Music Co-Op in eviction fight

From left, Mick Armistead, David Blackwell and Ian Dicken outside Lancaster Music Co-op
From left, Mick Armistead, David Blackwell and Ian Dicken outside Lancaster Music Co-op

Residents in Lancaster have pledged their support for the Lancaster Music Co-Op ahead of a crunch meeting on its 
future next week.

The Canal Quarter Action Group (CQAG), set up to give a voice to residents over the direction development should take within the canal quarter area, says the Co-Op should be at the heart of a new “cultural quarter” in the city.

This would include The Dukes Theatre, The Grand Theatre and other arts organisations to “create something really special in the North West”. Councillors are due to discuss the future of the Lancaster Music Co-Op at a meeting at Morecambe Town Hall at 6pm on November 14.

The 30-year-old organisation, which provides rehearsal and recording space for musicians from its base in Lodge Street, received a six month eviction notice from Lancaster City Council on October 12 due to concerns over the safety of the building.

The council owns the building and leases it to the Co-Op for a peppercorn rent.

Thousands of people including high profile names in the entertainment industry signed an online petition in support of the Co-Op, while around 300 local residents signed a further handwritten petition to ensure the case would be heard at the full council meeting.

One of the options on the table at the meeting is to quash the eviction notice.

Alistair Sinclair, a member of CQAG, said: “Whilst the CCAG is very happy to see that Lancaster City Council ‘recognises the vital role the co-op plays in Lancaster’s cultural scene’ we are concerned that the Co-Op has been neglected by the council in the past.

“For many years it’s been in limbo because of a failure to develop the Canal Quarter site in close consultation with the community and other local stakeholders.

“Whilst the council has primarily engaged with big developers, who have then walked away, we believe it has missed an opportunity to tap into the amazing community assets that live and work in the Lancaster district.

“We note that the council is currently in the process of employing community engagement consultants and we hope that wide-ranging consultation across the district will determine the future of the Canal Quarter.

“It’s time to listen to the community and really value the passion, strengths and expertise within it.”

Manchester’s Radio X and The Independent newspaper have carried out interviews at the Co-Op this week.

Coun Kevin Frea, who first proposed the motion to rescind the eviction notice said: “While safety is vital, we have yet to hear any credible evidence that this notice was necessary, or that the Musician’s Co-op are responsible for the repairs, which is why we have called for it to be rescinded.”

Ward councillors Tim Hamilton-Cox said: “Our priority is to see the co-op remain in the premises as an integral part of the city’s cultural quarter. To this end we are urging the council to invest in the building in return for the co-op taking a long-term lease on a fair rent. We hope that full council will support this approach at its meeting next Wednesday.”

Members of the public can register to speak at the meeting by contacting the chief executive by 12pm on November 9.