I learned last weekend that Lancaster City Council had issued an eviction notice to the Lancaster Musicians Co-op. I was in Bristol at the time, as a delegate to a Co-op Party Conference dedicated to exploring how we could double the number of Co-operatives in the UK!
The Eviction Notice was issued after a 33 year period where their tenure has been permanently uncertain, and instead of feeling valued as the cultural treasure they are, they have felt powerless at the mercy of the City Council’s fated dalliances with big corporate developers Centros and then British Land.
The Eviction Notice has to be the (clumsy, unwelcome) starting point of a process that leads to the Music Coop having a permanent home in a Canal Quarter that is designed and built for the benefit of the whole community of Lancaster District.
A petition to save it has gained 3000+ signatures in less than 24 hours. All of my colleagues in the Labour Party I have spoken to this week are disturbed at the actions of our Council and want them to seek an urgent, positive resolution. Cat Smith MP has also asked for an urgent solution to be found.
My suggestion, using experience from my Co-operative and Community background, is that a Community Asset Transfer of the building be considered. This would be for the benefit of the Musicians Coop, but probably best made to a Community Land Trust (CLT) who specialise in owning assets (we have two already set up in Lancaster District).
2. The CLT would then have the necessary title to raise funds through grants, community shares, crowdfunding and mortgages to carry out the necessary building improvements.
The result would be a building gifted by the Council for the cultural and social benefit of the community, and the Musicians Co-op having a building that they can find the resources to do what they need to with. Located next to the Grand Theatre, we have the makings of a ‘cultural centre’ in the Canal Quarter.
What is most important, however, is that the Eviction Notice is withdrawn and an urgent conversation started to explore all of the possible options that will lead to the Musicians Co-op enjoying a permanent, secure, inspiring home in the heart of Lancaster.