Legends Live Lounge is part of a national initiative launched by the MVT to prevent the permanent closure of music venues most at risk due to the crisis.
My son Ivan and I started off by setting up Lees Live Lounge above The Swan in Lees so we jumped at the chance when Legends was offered to us. We negotiated a new 12 year lease in May 2020 and after 20 weeks of hard labour and a good few £s of our own funds we have totally transformed it!
We opened as a live music venue for the first time on 18th September to great acclaim. Three days later we were hit with the 10pm curfew and at the end of only our 7th week we were closed by lockdown/ We have been unable to trade now for 14 weeks and have missed, like others, the all-important Festive Season.
Of all the overwhelmingly positive comments by customers regarding what we have created out of Legends, there wasn't a single negative one, were: "You have totally transformed Lees", "This is just what Lees needed - it's died since Lees Live Lounge closed", "Fantastic; we don't need to travel to Manchester now for a top night out", "We'll be here every week". The most common was overwhelming gratitude for changing it from what it was!
A FEW OF THE HUNDREDS OF ACTS THAT PERFORMED AT LEES LIVE LOUNGE BEFORE IT CLOSED FOR EVER:
Night Train with Alec Martin https://youtu.be/tzNCm9JJ_tI
The Overture with Charlie Whittaker https://youtu.be/rFU-0IC5r7k
DC Overload https://youtu.be/gdm5yiB2wgw
Why are we crowdfunding?
Our music venue is at risk of permanent closure due to the ongoing costs of the monthly lease, insurances, utility costs and a plethora of other costs that don't go away when you're closed. These costs have been offset only by the totally inadequate and unrealistic grant assistance. This situation has been caused solely by our inability to trade.
During the 7 weeks that we were open we weren't loss making even with the 10pm curfew and capacity at only 40%. Our landlord has spent a fortune over the last year on much needed building structural repairs and is in no position to offer a rent free period nor a deferral of payments. We're up to date for 2020 using our own funds and reserves, but we`re falling behind now after having spent a huge amount at the outset in converting Legends from what it was. All 9 of our fantastic staff are on furlough and they`re itching to get back to serving you.
Funds raised will be used solely to cover these unavoidable outgoings until such time we can reopen to secure our future so that we`re here for you when this nightmare is over. If we are fortunate and funding proves sufficient beyond this we would wish to complete outstanding works on upgrading the catering facilities, bar and toilets - works that were not completed and other issues identified as deficient/needed during our opening weeks. These works will greatly improve our service and offerings.
Once the foregoing is completed and we are lucky enough to have any funds remaining we will utilise these to complete more quickly our main music venue on 1st floor which will most of you will have seen progressing on our fb page `Legends Live Lounge`. Once open this will enable us to host top established bands and touring acts and is large enough to accommodate app 350 people over the 3,000 sq ft. Ivan and I have been labouring tirelessly on this for over three years and almost every day throughout this lockdown using materials and equipment that we already had available.
Once work on this floor is completed it will allow us to increase the size of Legends ground floor bar area (app 50%) by removing the toilet facilities there and transferring them to the new ones on the 1st floor. This will enable us to revert to our original plan whereby Legends will still host live acts on most days but will be free entry on the vast majority of occasions. We have talked to contacts in the agency that book all the acts for Holmfirth Picturedrome and many other venues across the UK. Our venue will be in a position to be added to the touring schedules that they set up with top acts in the land - and beyond.
It may transpire that if we fall behind further with monthly lease payments Lees will once again be graced by Legends as it was.
About Legends Live Lounge
The team, Ozzy and son Ivan, converted an unused function room above The Swan in Lees into a live music venue calling it Lees Live Lounge in 2014. It was done on a shoestring, which being a tied pub was all that was available, using old wooden pallets and other bric a bac. It proved to be very popular; people loved it because it was quirky - they called it Bohemian! It was open for around 4 years but due to the tied situation with the brewery, it proved difficult to make ends meet. We realised at an early stage that we needed to have a venue free of any tie, with a larger capacity than 80 people and a much bigger area than 260 sq ft. We started looking, never realising it was in front of our very eyes until a `To Let` sign was put up on a building almost opposite to us.
In April 2017 we entered into a 20 year lease of the 1st & 2nd floors of the large ex Co-op building across the road from The Swan which housed Legends (a well known venue) on the Ground floor. Each floor has an area of 3,000 sq ft - it is huge! We have been at work continually over the last (almost) four years converting it into our dream - a music venue on each floor. We were within 4/5 months of opening the first floor when the owner of Legends offered it sell it to us. We jumped at the opportunity and took on a new 12 year lease in May 2020.
Our intention then was to use Legends for new/starter acts which would be free for customers to enter; the capacity of Legends is officially 200. The first floor would be used for established and touring bands, would be ticketed and have a capacity of around 350. The second floor is the original Co-op 3,000 sq ft ballroom dating back to 1897 which retains most of its original features including 8m high domed ceiling with huge chandeliers, panelled stage, maple dance floor etc etc. We have many ideas for this in the future - a revival of the `big band ` era in an art deco setting? This remains though a project for the future.
We have a boundless affinity for Lees village and we feel very sad that it has lost its way over recent years and many people are going out of area due to the lack of choice; to Saddleworth and even to Royton for a night out. There is great potential here and we hope to rekindle the good fortune and spirit that it has enjoyed until recently. We have worked tirelessly for many years to be a catalyst for a revival and have invested hugely in following our convictions and belief in a reincarnation. We were fortunate to be able to give you all a 7 week taster of the changes that are possible - we hope you share our vision that has been somewhat thwarted by the pandemic - we`re striving to ensure our dreams are not ended. We want to keep on giving! PS. We will have the totally refurbished Dog in Springhead opening along with us post lockdown, Mark assures us, to assist in the revival of Lees.
A few of the bands that have graced our stage in the 7 short weeks:
#SaveOurVenues merchandise rewards
Music Venue Trust have created #SaveOurVenues merchandise including t-shirts, facemasks, snoods and more which can be chosen as a reward in exchange for a donation to our Crowdfunder.
About Save Our Venues - The Red List
During the last 8 months, Music Venue Trust and Crowdfunder have worked together to prevent the closure of hundreds of grassroots music venues. With no end to the crisis in sight, we are now refocusing that work to spotlight those venues under most imminent threat of permanent closure. The #SaveOurVenues Red List highlights the grassroots music venues at most risk.
We’ve checked all the available funding, financial support, furlough schemes, business support for these venues, and what is on offer is not enough to prevent them being lost. These 32 venues are on the Critical List and need your help.
These grassroots venues play a crucial role in the development of British music, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills. These venues also play a vital role in the cultural and economic vibrancy of any village, town or city.