Liverpool venue MelloMello under threat of closure…
The popular city centre venue that is MelloMello is under threat of closure courtesy of Liverpool City Council. MelloMello is operated as a none profit Community Interest Company has been told that their business rates relief will be dramatically cut from 80% to 0% following the Council’s decision that the venue is not a high priority, and as such their support will be scrapped as the Council seeks to reduce their overall spending.
In real terms what this means is that the venue will have to pay an annual sum of £30,000 which will undoubtedly force the popular community hub in to administration. What is particularly galling is that until MelloMello took control of the building on the corner of Slater Street and Parr Street, the unit had been derelict and prone to squatting, criminal damage and was generally an eyesore. With the support of Liverpool City Council the venue has grown to become a cultural hub, providing a safe, friendly environment for patrons to enjoy a huge range of cultural activities - this arguably in sharp contrast to its near neighbors in the Slater Street, Concert Square areas where gang violence, drug dealing, theft, sexual assaults and very recently (2nd September) a murder took place.
MelloMello are renowned supporters of Liverpool’s cultural and musical heritage and have been the venue of choice for some of Liverpool’s most exciting and diverse live music and art events including poetry, comedy, and performance art. The venue attracts performers and followers from across the UK so its threatened closure will have a negative effect way beyond the boundries of Merseyside.
As well as the cafe and music venue, MelloMello also provides an inexpensive rehearsal and recording studios that has recorded many local artists previously denied access to the larger more well known city studios.
For the jewel in Liverpool’s grassroots music and cultural scene to be shut down this way, let alone at be shut down at all, would be a terrible blow to the community, and raises in to serious question Liverpool Council’s publically declared claim that Liverpool is a cultural hotspot, and that the Council is a supporter of this status and gains from the benefits that follow.
A campaign and petition to oppose the decision has begun; MelloMello needs your support…
Seven Streets website discussed the issues with MelloMello Director Rob Longson and asked for his take on the uncertain future of the venue and the role of Liverpool City Council
SevenStreets: What’s happening with MelloMello?
Rob Longson: Liverpool City Council, or rather the Council’s Director of Finances and Revenues, has decided to strip MelloMello CIC of its previously awarded 80% discretionary business rates relief. Meaning that rather than paying 20% of the business rates for 40-42 Slater Street, we now need to pay 100%, approximately ÃÂ£30,000.00 per year.
Nothing has changed in the way we operate; if anything, we have only improved the ways in which we meet the Council’s criteria for being awarded rates relief. Yet, unexpectedly, the council have taken away the only charity that this business – which has been built out of nothing other than dedication and hard work ”â has relied upon.
ÃÂ SS: What does this mean for the future of MelloMello?
RL: Well, upon being informed that our application for rates relief had been declined we immediately wrote what we felt to be a very strong appeal, which went into extreme detail as to how MelloMello CIC met the various criteria for rates relief.
This appeal, after about four months of being chased up, was denied and we were instructed to immediately pay any arrears accrued during the time waiting for the appeal ”â and that ÃÂ£30,000.00 was payable for the whole year.
This is not a figure which we can sustain or really even hope to sustain if we are to continue using our current business model, which is that of a not-for-profit, registered Community Interest Company set up to facilitate and promote grassroots artistic endeavors.
ÃÂ SS: How will this impact on the people who use MelloMello as a venue?
RL: The people who want to hire the venue? Instead of charging ÃÂ£50, we’ll have to charge something like ÃÂ£250”Â¦ and that’ll be a weeknight too. Which local, DIY promoters who want to put on local bands do you know who can afford this and still pay the band and get an audience in?
The musicians who want to hire the recording studio will be priced out. The people who want to practice yoga in the dance studio will be priced out. Basically, we will either have to close or go against the aims of the company. We won’t be doing the latter.
SS: What has the council told you?
RL: Interestingly enough, we asked them for reasons and justification. The first response was along the lines of “I’ll have to ask my supervisor and get back to you”Â, the second response was to ignore the question and the third response was that the Council had to “find savings during the last two years of ÃÂ£141 million and will need to find further savings for 2013/14”Â³ and that whilst our Company’s aims were “admirable”Â they did not fit with the Council’s “high priorities”Â.
That’s a direct quote from the Head of Revenues, Phil Robinson. I find it interesting that no-one in the Council has taken a pay cut this year, don’t you? I thought they had to save money?
SS: What do you perceive to be the council’s reasons for this?
RL: They need to save money. Which is exactly what they won’t be doing by forcing businesses into administration. Who is going to pay the business rates? No-one. So instead of having 20% of ÃÂ£30,000.00 they will get 0% because we simply cannot pay the 100%.
What might happen is that MelloMello’s building will have the lease taken on by a company that can afford it. What kind of company do you think that will be? A small, independent CIC which has built a business out of nothing? No. Probably the opposite.
SS: What are your next moves?
RL: My personal feelings are that the Council is sending a hugely hypocritical message. On the one hand attempting to brand the City as being so proud of its cultural and artistic heritage and on the other seeming to do everything it can to squash independent venues like Static and MelloMello.
I would eventually like our campaign to bring about change for all those in a similar situation to MelloMello. We need to mobilise fast and get this decision turned around.
We need as many people as possible to sign the petition. We need to put as much political pressure on the Council as possible. We need to demonstrate that the council’s continued havoc-wreaking with Liverpool’s grassroots artists and creative’s will not stand. This campaign needs to be a floodgate.
You can sign the petition against the council’s decision here and join the relevant Facebook and Twitter pages – We urge anyone who has played or performed at MelloMello, anyone who has attended, no matter where in the UK or beyond you live – sign the petition in an effort to force the Council to reconsider this decision.