RESIDENTS of a Yorkshire city are invited to buy a £200 share of a co-operative venture which aims to attract big-name bands to a proposed 800-capacity live music venue.
Unity Hall in Westgate, Wakefield began life in the late 1800s as the headquarters of the Wakefield Industrial Co-operative Society and that same spirit of co-operation is helping bring about a new lease of life.
Although the redbrick and stained glass facade is impressive, the inside is a maze of corridors, rooms and staircases in need of a £4m makeover.
The centrepiece is an old ballroom, complete with a false ceiling which obscures impressive stained glass work, one of many period features to be preserved.
Now, the community co-operative members behind the plans have issued an appeal to people to be a part of the project.
Among those who have put in their own money is Chris Morse, 28, a music promoter in Wakefield, who says the city is missing out on bands because of a lack of decent-sized venues with the right equipment.
He says “up and coming” musicians are well catered for in the city but once they have made a name for themselves it becomes harder to entice them back because of the need for a big venue. He helps bring bands to The Hop in Wakefield, which can cater for a crowd of 200, but he says Unity Hall is the venue the city desperately needs.
“It would be very good for the city,” he told the Yorkshire Post during a tour inside the dusty and litter-strewn building.
“There’s definitely a market for big gigs in Wakefield. I’m excited by this project. Unity Hall will not be a faceless music venue like some; it has got character.”
Mr Morse is one around 150 people involved in the co-operative, although to date only £25,000 has been raised in total (from 55 shareholders) towards the target of £200,000.
The man leading the campaign to get more on board is Chris Hill, a founding director of the Unity Hall co-operative who also works for Leeds-based regeneration body Shine. Mr Hill is “optimistic” that the target can be reached in the final two months of the share issue.
He said the big givers of grants, who will contribute the vast bulk of the £4m required, wanted evidence that the project was well supported by local people who would be running and using the venue.
The project, which is backed by the modern-day Co-operative organisation, has already raised about half of £4.4m it requires.
Shares in Unity Hall start from as little as £200 with the maximum investment capped at £20,000.
A dividend of around six per cent per annum is planned after three years of trading and members will also be celebrated in a piece of public art within the building. For more information visit unityhallwakefield.co.uk.