Lewisham’s community-owned music initiative finds new home

My Fat Red Pony performing at Fox and Firkin at a Sister Midnight event. Pic: Jake Ollett 2022

A community-owned live music project has found a home in a former dilapidated working men’s club in Lewisham following the council’s approval.

The site, which was once the home of The Brookdale Club, is situated in-between Thomas Lane car park and Winslade Way. The building on the site will need to be renovated and a date is not yet set for when it will be completed.

The organisation behind the initiative, Sister Midnight, aims to create an inclusive, affordable and accessible space for live music that celebrates local talent.

The site will have a 250-capacity venue, a community café, and studio space that can be used for rehearsals, recording, and other creative practices.

Sister Midnight’s newly found venue is owned by Catford Regeneration Partnership Limited, which is a subsidiary of Lewisham Council and the entire lease will be subject to a “peppercorn” rent. This means the collective won’t pay any rent in exchange for renovating the property.

The new venue will become a place where people can celebrate Southeast London’s music culture.

Founder of Sister Midnight, Lenny Watson, said: “Having worked in music venues, record shops, events management and pubs, I’ve become increasingly concerned for the future of grassroots music in the UK, particularly in London.

“My determination to protect these crucial spaces has led me to believe that community ownership presents the most viable option for the survival of venue spaces… and work towards establishing Lewisham’s first ever community-owned live music pub.”

Sister Midnight is a community benefit society that once had a grassroots music venue based in Deptford which was forced to close during the pandemic. The collective has been looking for a new home ever since and can now embark on their project in Lewisham.

Over 800 local people were asked about Sister Midnight’s plan to open a site in Lewisham and 96% said they felt that it was important that a venue opened in the borough. The collective is not-for-profit and democratically controlled by the community it serves.

In September 2021 the Sister Midnight team raised £260,000 through investment and donations in the hopes of purchasing the freehold of a pub on Lewisham Highstreet. After multiple complications regarding the sale, they decided to take their business elsewhere, and with the help of Lewisham Council, London’s Night Czar and City Hall’s Culture Team found their new home.

Former Brookdale Club in Catford, the new home of Sister Midnight. Pic: Sister Midnight

In a company statement, Sister Midnight said: “We want to empower our local community, creating a democratically run space that everyone has a say in.”

The collective needs an additional £245,000 to complete the project, which will be sourced through further community investment, donations, and grants.

In the coming weeks, members of the collective will be meeting to discuss what architectural firm would be best suited to the needs of the refurbishment and begin to invest the money they do have to push the project forward.

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