Popular Newcastle music venue facing closure

The future of Newcastle’s creative venue, Cobalt Studios, has come into jeopardy following a noise complaint.

Cobalt Studios has become a favourite venue for many local performers and artists since it first opened. However, the noise complaint has triggered a desperate attempt to quickly raise funds to be able to sound proof the building. Without soundproofing, the performance space looks set to close.

Owner of Cobalt Studios, Kathryn Hodgkinson, was quick to point out why people should get behind the venue and support their crowdfunding campaign.

“I really believe that as a city Newcastle needs more quirky, independent, individual and arts led venues.” Hodgkinson said. “These projects help to make us a colourful and creative city which then in turn supports regeneration, graduate retention and tourism; not to mention simply making sure it’s the best city we can be for the people that live here. People want places to go to that have real character and real people shaping them not bland chains and money led business models that could be in any city.

“More people need access to affordable and great quality music, performance, film. We also have affordable studios and workspace in the building and this is really needed because there simply isn’t enough provision in the city.”

Independent music venues across the country have faced struggles in recent times. In 2015 the Music Venue Trust surveyed 430 music venues that traded in London between 2007 and 2015 and found that only 245 were still open. The North East’s music scene may be facing a similar fate.

Hodgkinson argues that the local government could be doing more to support such venues.

“In the current financial situation is obviously hard for councils to prioritize the arts, but they do have control over policies and they could help to protect them by understanding them better and using some of their polices to protect them more. Nationally and locally, fast tracked development of homes has been such a priority that it the biggest threat to these kinds of projects. This kind of development pushes rent up and homes in cities also ends up jeopardizing music venues when they are too close together . Projects like Cobalt are actually really resilient though and don’t need lots of support, they are DIY projects run by people who are prepared to do everything they need themselves to make it work.

“It’s all about the space, these projects just need the buildings and then they look after themselves. For the artists that have studios with us the response has been great in so much as they move in and rarely move out. They love their studios and find it a productive and creative space to work in . For the venue space many people are only just discovering us, when they do find us the response is always enthusiastic and warm, we have developed a core group of very loyal supporters who come to most things we do.”

Kerrin Tatman, whose Newcastle Puppetry Festival will be hosted with the studios this month, emphasised his support for the venue and why its needed in Newcastle.

“Cobalt is incredibly important for Newcastle – both for the artist studios and the ground floor venue. It is run by good people with a brilliant ethos and vision, who do much more for the community than just within their own walls.” Tatem said.

“With the fast-approaching relocation of The NewBridge Project, Alphabetti Theatre and Makerspace, and the same imminent fate of artist-filled nearby buildings, now more than ever must we protect and nurture Newcastle’s creative spaces. They are the soul of the city, they make Newcastle one of the most fantastic places to live in the country.”

Lead singer of The Baghdaddies, Ziad, praised the work that had gone into developing small businesses in Newcastle and praised Cobalt Studios for their work in creating such a venue.

“I have attended many different events at Cobalt studios over many years such as gigs, exhibitions, films, parties and the annual open studios which is an Ouseburn wide celebration of the artists that work in the area. I have always been struck by how Cobalt Studios approach every event with the idea to create magic, to make something happen that has never happened before, to encourage collaboration between creative people, to create a free environment where people can discuss and explore their creative practise. Cobalt Studios are great advocates for the creative arts in the region and actively support artists and musicians, their events are all about putting local acts alongside international acts to create high quality inspirational events that broaden the experience.”

The support for Cobalt Studios seems clear and few venues seem to be as welcoming (cooking is even offered for the musicians). The crowdfunding plan is not the only hope for the venue; the studios have also applied to the Arts Council to match the fundraiser by a quarter.

Yet, the crowdfunding is an ambitious strategy. While people can donate their own amount, there’s a clear potential to attract serious investment with perks that cost up to £2000. With such support for the venue, Cobalt Studios might just have a fighting chance.



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