Interview: Lenny, Lottie & Sophie from Sister Midnight on their South London Venue Crowdfunder
We caught up with the incredible ethically led team behind the live music phenomenon of Sister Midnight ahead of opening their new community music venue in Catford.
Tell us about the new community owned venue and what you want to achieve.
Sister Midnight is a not-for-profit co-operative, and for the last two years we’ve been campaigning to create the first community owned music venue in Lewisham. In 2021 we launched the first round of our share offer, which went on to raise £210K between 800+ local people who invested in our proposal and became members of our co-op.
Since then, we’ve managed to secure a site on a former working men’s club in the centre of Catford. It’s owned by Lewisham council, who have given us a 10 year lease with a peppercorn rent for the entire time (basically meaning that we won’t pay any rent for the space!), and in return we need to raise the funds to bring the building back into use. It’s been derelict for 7+ years, so it needs a lot of work. We want the space to be a precedent for how music venues can be done differently.
We’ll be owned by our community of members, who’ll have voting rights giving them a genuine say in how the space is run, and our not-for-profit status means that the income we generate will be used to support creativity & cultural activity locally, rather than lining the pockets of one or two people, as is the case with a lot of for profit businesses.
We want our venue to champion local musical talent and local people, hosting a multi-disciplinary & genre spanning arts programme, as well as community activities such as children’s music groups, training workshops and much more. Above all we want this to be a space that is accessible for all, where the community is at the heart of all we do.
What are you raising the funds for and why should people get involved?
We’ve re-opened our share offer for a second round, and we’re aiming to raise another £190K to bring our total up to £400K. This will allow us to cover all the costs of renovating the building and bringing it into use as a venue.
Anyone who invests in our share offer will become a member of Sister Midnight, which makes them a co-owner of our venue and gives them a vote in important matters facing the business. This is a great opportunity for those who want to have ownership over their local cultural infrastructure, and be part of a radical project that sets a precedent for how music venues can be done differently.
How to people sign up and how much are you asking for to take part?
Anyone who wants to become a member can do so by buying shares through our website, at www.sistermidnight.org/invest. Shares cost £100, or £25 if you apply through our affordable shares scheme, but we really need those who can afford to contribute more than £100 to do so. Community shares work a bit like a savings account, when you invest your money we’ll pay a modest level of interest each year, and you can eventually withdraw your shares and get your money back.
There is tax relief available too, so there are some solid financial benefits to investing, but really the motivation for anyone looking to invest is to use their money to support radical new ideas in their community. If you’ve got £500 quid sat in a savings account right now, and you can afford to invest that with us instead, then we’d encourage you to do so. We’re confident that we’ll be able to put it to better use than any high street bank will!
Tell us about your musical inspirations for making a music venue in south London.
Sister Midnight started out as a tiny music venue on a backstreet in Deptford in 2018, and the musical community that we grew around that space is what’s inspired us to carry that legacy forward. Bands like Great Dad (now Speed Training), Porridge Radio, Leather.head, Goat Girl etc were all regular faces at our old venue (infact Lottie from Goat Girl is now part of the Sister Midnight collective), but what really excites us is the bands we haven’t yet discovered or worked with.
South London is a hotbed of creativity and we’re always discovering new artists. There are amazing local scenes for Jazz, R&B, Experimental rap, and loads more that we didn’t tap into at the old venue, and we’re really excited to start bringing artists from those scenes into our new space.
What are your favourite south London haunts? (To eat, to go out, to relax)
We have SO many it’s kind of hard to narrow it down, this is as comprehensive a list as we could get and we’ve probably forgotten a fair few!
Help Sister Midnight make their venue a reality this year…
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like free, cheap & offbeat London, especially: cabaret, art, theatre, pop-ups, eating out, quirky films, museums, day trips, social enterprise & much more.