de bees opened 21 years ago as a music/comedy venue and nightclub, for many years it was an extremely successful thriving venue regularly hosting bands such as The levellers, Cage The Elephant and Catfish and the Bottlemen. Comedians such as John Bishop, Alan Carr, Jason Manford and Russell Kane have also graced the de bees stage along with artists such as Bez, Shaun Ryder, Tim Burgess and Tom Walker who recently name checked de bees in a GQ interview as his first paid gig!
Over the years de bees has been renowned for it's late night entertainment as much as it has been for its shows, in addition de bees has been home to dance classes, theatre workshops, kids arts and entertainment. The venue attracts thousands of visitors to Winsford as well as providing a popular destination venue for the local community to get together and be entertained but a extended period of under investment by pub co owners led to the venue reducing its programme of cultural activity in recent years. Although de bees has remained home to Winsford's thriving music scene and still regularly hosts local giants like The Luka State and Deja Vega, the hours of opening have in the main become limited to weekend nights.
Luka State perform at de bees April 2019
After an estate re evaluation earlier this year de bees owners EI Group decided to put the building up for disposal, it occupies a significant plot of land and on the open market would most likely be sold to property developers as has been the case with several other community venues closed in Winsford in recent years.
de bees is the last remaining purpose built entertainment venue in town so thankfully EI Group has agreed to give the community a chance to save the venue by accepting the Hive's offer to purchase it into community ownership but if we fail to complete before June the building will be made available on the open market and what happens next will be out of our hands.
The Hive is a community benefit society with charitable objects including fighting social exclusion, building community cohesion and furthering opportunities for the advancement of life in young people. Objects are met through the creation of accessible community festivals, events and cultural projects.
We are a member led democratic organisation registered with Co-Ops UK that trades for the sole benefit of the local community. The chair of the board/committee is Chris Howarth who has recently retired from a senior corporate position, is an experienced charity trustee and has just released his debut album as a recording artist.
The board meets monthly to discuss performance and initiatives and makes necessary decisions on behalf of members, however we organise pre board meeting members forums where points are raised and ideas expressed for representation at the meetings to further collective decision making. Members elect a new board at AGM annually where they also vote on strategy, investment plans and how much interest the society wishes to pay shareholders, all members get a vote 'one member one vote' regardless as to number of shares owned.
All members of the community over the age of 16 are free to become a member of The Hive for £1, community shareholders automatically become members £1 of the investment is non withdrawable as a result.
The Hive has established key annual events locally since 2011 and presently produces four summer festivals in the Weaver Valley; On The Fringe, The Offcut Festival, The Folk & Boat Festival @ The Lock and The Salt Towns' Rally.
These events attract thousands of local residents of all ages and from all parts of the community mainly by foot but visitors to the area are also attracted by the lineups which often feature renowned headline artists. Most importantly however the festivals provide a platform to showcase our creative community; bands, artists, makers, actors and dancers to help improve the town's cultural identity and image generally, hundreds of local artists feature at every event The Hive stages.
The festivals are in the main funded by the bar concessions operated by CI (WV) Ltd, the co-operative pub company shares the Hive's social purpose and operates not for profit at events and also sponsors any shortfalls. The events are free to attend so the revenues the bar generates are vital and with this partnership relate directly to the numbers of people attracted.
The Hive aims to purchase de bees and make some renovations in order that it become 'The Hive'
The plan is to open seven days a week as a cultural venue for Winsford with a wide and varied programme of activity run alongside a quality cafe/bar and street food concession run by CI (WV) Ltd on a turnover share agreement. Both organisations are community owned co-operatives with shared a social purpose, The Hive has the experience and expertise to programme and run all events and activities, CI (WV) has the experience and expertise to offer quality hospitality services within the venue and at festivals. This relationship also serves to mitigate risk from the society's point of view, licensing matters, dealing with public disorder, employment of bar staff, stock control are all onerous areas for trustees and most importantly CI (WV)'s offer of a minimum £100K annual fee for the concession allows The Hive to budget with certainty.
So far community ideas for The Hive's programme have included gigs, concerts, DJ's, movies,, comedy, dance, drama, literature, cultural workshops, craft fayres, bingo, gaming tournaments and workshops.
Most agree that to be successful The Hive's programme will have to appeal to a wide range of ages and tastes, but given the broad membership of The Hive we have a good insight into what the community wants and given the chance that’s what we are going to give them. The late night weekenders will continue but as 'after show parties' the question is what we stage the rest of the time and that will be driven by members and the local community.
The Hive has long sought a home base to further its student mentoring programme in partnership with local schools and colleges, de bees first floor is perfect. The Hive model is to mentor students and young people to run and deliver every aspect of Hive festivals, events and projects split into 6 work experience modules;
Project Management, Performance, Production, Promotions, Art & Design and Media.
This is a simple yet innovative and thoroughly unique model and if successful could be adopted by other communities seeking similar outcomes. Recent government guidelines have changed the number of days work experience expected of college students, requirements have increased from 35 hours per academic year to 45 days. Finding meaningful opportunities for students is a challenge that The Hive's model can really help with.
The Hive worked with the local high school to create a two day show using this innovative and unique model. Over 100 students were divided up into the six modules and met with mentors every week for two hours in school, between them they organised and staged a highly successful production they called 'The Big Bang' at the Lifestyle Centre.
A spokesperson for work placements at a local college partnering The Hive recently stated;
"Currently our students work with a number of different employers for work placements which is part of their college course. We feel that The Hive would be a great location for our students to work on external employer projects, as well as local events. Students from different courses across the college would be able to get involved in these projects and help to develop ideas, as well as having mentors who work within The Hive.
As a college we are looking to invest time and resources into the project, to not only better our students experience, but also to benefit the local community. We feel that this will be a brilliant partnership between the College and The Hive to really help the young people of Winsford town."
de bees has long boasted recording facilities with a studio and production room located on the first floor, many hundreds of bands and artists have produced demos and even albums over the past 15 years. If successful The Hive intends to operate this facility commercially but with affordable rates especially for younger musicians.
Cheshire FM broadcast it’s first shows from above de bees and the plan is that the college students will run an internet radio station from the studio production room which will help bring the project to life and share it with the wider community.
The plan is to develop the first floor rooms into an office, a classroom and work space for students on work experience and a commercial rehearsal room which alongside the studio and production room will help create a hive of activity above the venue. The kind of thing scenes are born of!
Without a home base to deliver the mentoring programme opportunities have been limited, with de bees to work from the Hive's potential is boundless!
Africa Entsha recording their album Vumani Bo in de bees studio
Alongside the Share Booster programme the Hive has also applied for £150K of blended funding so the target for this community share offer is to raise the remaining £150K to cover the £300K purchase of de bees (inc VAT) and the £100K budget for refurbishments and working capital.
Purchasing de bees into community ownership won't just benefit us today, if we are successful the local community will get to say what they want this building to be used for in perpetuity. The corporate owners were paid over a £million in rent on the building over the last 20 years, the community could have done a lot with that!
As a charitable community benefit society The Hive has an asset lock that will prevent the building from being sold into private hands.
In community ownership the venue will only ever trade to the benefit to the community.
We have taken the decision to have a comparably very low minimum investment level of £20 as we want more locals to have the chance to become shareholders. For as little as the cost of a night out you can help save the community venue and become an owner!
The minimum age to become a society member and to purchase community shares is 16 years..
If you decide to purchase community shares in The Hive please take a moment to let the world know on social media, there is a link for Twitter and Facebook. Thanks!