“So much more than a venue – it’s a community”: Auction to take place to save Windmill Brixton from permanent closure 

One of Brixton’s cultural landmarks will auction instruments and other memorabilia from some of the biggest musical acts to pass through its doors, in a bid to stop it from pulling the plug.

Windmill Brixton – considered an important hub for talented artists and a promoter of South London acts – has been designated by the Music Venue Trust as one of 30 venues nationally at most risk of closure during the pandemic.

The venue missed out on the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund provided by the government as it is as a sole trader and not a limited company.

Band booker Tim Perry said the venue had qualified for local authority and emergency grassroots funding but reserves had been used up by October. A combination of the 10pm curfew and social distancing, reducing the capacity to 32 people, has hit the venue hard.

“We sat down and looked at the balance sheet and worked out that we need £57,000 until March to break even,” said Tim. “The minimum payout from the Cultural Recovery Fund is £50,000.

“I understand it’s a massive undertaking and you need these rules but it’s hard to take when there is still a lot of money in the pot. We’re trying to appeal the decision.

“We won’t let it die but it will be hard work. The campaign has been heartening and shows what a community can do.”

FWF playing Jack Medley’s Secure Megarave in 2019 credit Lou Smith

The Windmill has given space to bands that have gone onto big success, such as Mercury Prize nominees black midi and Kae Tempest, as well as Grammy-nominated Fontaines D.C.

“When we first came to London we felt like we were outsiders looking in. It was The Windmill that took us in and let us prove ourselves,” said Conor Curley, guitarist for Fontaines D.C..

BBC 6music has recorded live sessions there and acts like Warmduscher, Goat Girl, Squid, Tiña, and Insecure Men, have contributed the venue’s iconic status.

Ella Harris, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist for band PVA, said: ‘The Windmill is such a special place. We owe Tim a lot for helping amplify new music to wider audiences and for letting us have the space to play and work on our music around such talented and likeminded peers – it helped us really become the band we are today.

“I don’t know what we’d do without places like this, or what it’d mean for the future of new music coming from the UK. Having a space that is accessible to play in, allows you to do pretty much whatever the f*** you want, it’s crucial for all these exciting , new sounds to flourish.”

A line up of items to be auctioned

The campaign to save Windmill Brixton started in April and has so far raised nearly £40,000. From noon today an auction of souvenirs and rare items from the venue’s most successful bands will take place.

It will be a rolling auction with some items up for just seven days, others available to buy outright, and new items being added over time.

Campaigner and auction organiser, La Staunton, said: “The Windmill is so much more than a venue – it’s a community, where all are welcome and the line between artists and fans gets left at the door.

“It’s the only venue I’ve known to consistently feature an all-ages crowd, an eclectic range of genres and an anything goes attitude.

“In a city that can often feel cold and lonely, the Windmill is a giant bear hug of a place, where you can experience the sheer visceral joy of a proper gig, with friends you never knew you had.”

Fellow campaigner and auction organiser Beth Soan added: “It’s inconceivable that the Windmill would cease to exist. The harm to this community and beyond would be immense should they not reach the funding target, and lest we forget, it’s not just the musicians who thrive in and benefit from this integral grassroots venue.

“It’s also the photographers, sound engineers, record labels, aspiring music writers and the live music lovers who find continual inspiration in this place. It is unique and we are all fighting tooth and nail for it.”

A spokesman for the Arts Council said: “To date, £427 million has been awarded through the Culture Recovery Fund: Grants Programme to over 2000 organisations of all sizes and types across the country.

“The fund had extremely tight criteria, set by the Government and overseen by the independent Culture Recovery Board, which focused on supporting cultural organisations.

“This meant that Sole Traders were not eligible to apply. We were able to support the Windmill Brixton with an award of £19,810 in August, through the Government’s Emergency Grassroots Music Venues Fund.”

For more information about the auction visit https://www.32auctions.com/savewindmillbrixton

To donate to the Save Windmill Brixton campaign visit https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/savewindmillbrixton

Main picture: Warmduscher at Windmill Brixton credit Lou Smith

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