Crowdfunding bid to turn Lewisham pub into London’s first coop-owned music venue

The Ravensbourne Arms has been closed since 2016. Pic: Sister Midnight

A community group are running a crowdfunding campaign to turn a vacant Lewisham High Street pub into a cooperatively owned music venue.  

If successful, the Ravensbourne Arms will become London’s first such venue and will provide a valuable space for emerging musical talent and various community activities. 

The campaign was launched by Sister Midnight – a community benefit society – back in January and has so far raised nearly £45000. 

“The campaign’s going really well and we’ve been blown away by the support from the community and across the music scene,” said Lenny Watson, co-founder of Sister Midnight. “However, we’ve still got a long way to go to reach our target.”  

Last month, the group launched a public share scheme to help raise the £500,000 needed to buy the pub, which closed in 2016. 

Shares start at £100, but cheaper alternatives are available via Sister Midnight. Being a shareholder entitles a person to one vote at meetings, regardless of the amount invested. 

“Community ownership means that the venue is democratically controlled by a community of shareholders that have a say in how the business is run,” said Watson. “We are desperately lacking space for cultural and community activities in Lewisham.”  

“We want to create somewhere that is not only a platform for musicians but also a place for everything from reading clubs to pensioner dances and more.”  

Sister Midnight are trying to raise £500,000. Pic: Sister Midnight

People can become shareholders by investing in the Crowdfunder before the December 20 deadline.  

The campaign has received backing from Lewisham Council and local MP Vicky Foxcroft, who told ELL: “I give my full support to Sister Midnight and their vision of a community-owned venue that gives back to Lewisham.  

“Reviving the Ravensbourne is more important than ever after the hit creative industries took during the pandemic and I look forward to having a new venue on our doorstep.” 

The building was bought by developers in 2016, but the council have so far refused to grant permission for a change of use – citing the pubs historical significance. 

The current building is from the 1930s but a pub has existed on the site since the 1750s. 

Sister Midnight were formed in 2018 by friends Lenny Watson, Verity Hobbs and Sophie Farrell and began life as a record shop and music venue in Deptford but lost their original space after the first lockdown. 

Sister Midnight will be holding fundraising events soon, details of which will be shared via the group’s social media channels.

Reporter: Joe Skirkowski

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