Interview: The Lughole on new venue, building community and how you can help
The gig scene took a hit in 2018 when popular DIY punk venue The Lughole announced it was to close its doors, another grassroots spot and community hub demolished in what appears to be an unforgiving climate for such spaces.
However, despite this unfortunate setback they didn’t give up hope, and last year managed to locate a new building through which The Lughole dream could live again. We spoke to the team behind the revival about how we can play a part in ensuring it returns stronger than ever.
It looks like The Lughole could rise again! What can you tell us about the state of play so far?
For those who don’t know, The Lughole started as a collective project between DIY and punk artists, bands and promoters in Sheffield. We aimed to address the issues around affordable venues, practice space and equipment availability in our scene that had a knock-on effect on ticket affordability, audience diversity and artist fees. We host gigs and provide facilities and support to help people get involved in making and producing music at all levels. In 2018 we had a visit from the council who imposed capacity restrictions which made running gigs unfeasible. Since that date we have been looking for a new home and found a new building in the Kelham Island area at the beginning of 2019. Since then we have been in discussions with Sheffield city council planning department to change the current use from an industrial unit to a members club. Having received the relevant permissions we are now in the process of moving into the new building and fundraising to carry out building work which will create a 250 cap performance area, bar and small performance area and a few practice rooms.
What are your visions for the new venue? Carrying on where it left off?
We are in a sense looking to expand, so as well as carrying on what we have done previously, it will allow us to deliver an expanded live programme, improve our support to new artists, promoters, engineers and others, and establish a sustainable model for supporting DIY grassroots music in Sheffield.
It’s tough out there for small music spaces, with recent reports showing up to a 1/3 of grassroots venues outside of London struggle to survive. What in your opinions are the fundamental causes of this and how can it change?
We aim to be much more than just a music space; our aspiration is to build on the community that we have established already around The Lughole. Our organisation is a not for profit co-operative and this we think is the key difference, we have a large number of people involved with different skills who are happy sharing these skills and training other people looking to get involved. I think being so diverse opens us up to a range of artistic options, basically as long as we have shared values we don’t mind what artistic direction you take. Another key would be co-operation with other DIY venues across the city. We currently have strong links with Delicious Clam and The Hatch (formally Audacious Art Experiment). This creates a non-competitive environment, complimenting each other and insuring sustainability for all.
In a nutshell, why is it so important for venues such as The Lughole to thrive in cities like Sheffield?
We feel that grassroots venues are important for many aspects from innovation around new genres of art/music that will not get stage time in mainstream outlets, addressing the barrier for young artists and bands to have a stage and in fact having to pay for privilege by selling a minimum amount of tickets to take part, the importance of moving away from culture being a London-centric commodity to the affordability barrier and being able to access art/live music when you are unemployed or on a low income. We feel that community-based hubs are particularly important as they remove the barriers between artists/musicians and the audience. These hubs provide a space for peer support and skills sharing which enables individuals to develop their interests and hobbies further in the context of live music. True innovation has always come from the underground rather than the mainstream which is financially driven and therefore creates carbon copies of “success”. With the year upon years of austerity and the defunding of arts, it is important to create spaces that promote the alternative.
In the meantime, how can people help?
If you are interested in being involved in the new Lughole we will be soon sending a call out for new co-op members via our social media. We welcome and can support any fundraising activity or ideas that you have please contact us on social media or via firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are in a financial position to help us we would appreciate any sum sent to us via our go Fund Me www.gofundme.com/f/lughole-ii.
Anything to add to that?
Last few words would be support your local community spaces, independent businesses, bands and artists, even if it means going out of your way. They are always lacking in funds and without them every high street, gig lineup and gallery would be boring and look exactly the same. Lughole DIY ‘til we die!