Newport venue brings talk of community shares into ‘the public space’
A guest blog from Gary Inight of Le Public Space, a community owned music and arts venue in Newport.
See this page in: Cymraeg
This guest blog is written by Gary Inight of Le Public Space, a community owned music and arts venue in Newport.
If you live in Newport you would have known Le Pub. It was a small, unassuming building that became a nationally acclaimed, award winning music venue attracting bands from near and far. There was a lot of love for Le Pub. During a time that saw many pubs and music venues close, Le Pub survived and flourished. This was in no small part down to the people who supported the venue with their loyalty and custom.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. After nearly 25 years, Le Pub closed its doors early this year. That’s the bad news – the good news is that when the building was placed on the market and sold, a group of staff and regulars decided to take action. We couldn’t just meekly sit and watch another music venue disappear. So, we set up a steering committee, became Le Public Space Ltd and started to look for another venue. We listened to our customers when they said they wanted a bigger, more central space with better facilities and access for all.
Our aim was simple – take everything you loved about Le Pub and create a new, larger and more inclusive arts space. We wanted Newport to have a premier independent venue, run by the community for the community. We knew what we wanted but had only a vague idea how we were going to achieve it. That’s where the Wales Co-operative Centre and its Community Shares Wales team stepped in and held our hand! We couldn’t have done it without their support. They guided us with our business plan, share offer document and helped us to achieve their accreditation mark. They pointed us in the direction of the Community Benefit Society structure which, we felt, suited us best: a democratic venture run on behalf of the shareholders, where profits are ploughed back into the business. They also explained – very slowly – the intricacies of tax relief.
After a few false dawns we eventually found our new venue which we called ‘Le Public Space’. It’s the former South Wales Argus offices at the top of High Street, an impressive Victorian building with a beautiful facade. Unfortunately, it required a lot of work. During July and August, we worked with a team of incredible Le Pub volunteers who worked wonders and transformed the ground floor beyond belief. They cleaned, swept, built, painted, removed rock hard chewing gum from the underside of benches and got rid of a fair few decaying pigeons! It was unrecognisable when we officially opened at the end of August.
We were now in a position to offer the public a stake in Le Public Space. We launched a share offer and set ourselves three investment targets, and with each target we explained what we would do with investors’ money:
- Phase 1: £15, 000 – decorate to a higher standard, develop the stage and gallery space, and install a disabled toilet.
- Phase 2: £40, 000 – install a staircase and renovate the first floor. This floor will include a snug bar, gallery space, larger kitchen and roof garden.
- Phase 3: £50, 000 – expand the second floor.
As you can see, we have big plans for Le Public Space. We’re confident that we have a profitable business but the investment from shareholders will make our plans a lot easier to achieve. The Public Space is up and running and doing well but we need the help of investors to guarantee our future.