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Lancaster Musicians' Co-op still on song
Shelley Booth
Shelley Booth
BBC Lancashire

Lancaster Musicians' Co-Op
Lancaster Music Co-op's played a key role in the city's music history

Unable to find anywhere to practise in Lancaster in the mid 80s, a group of like-minded musicians decided to make their own arrangements.

The music mad collective - who were students from Lancaster University - opened up their own rehearsal studios.

The aim was to provide budding musicians from the Lancaster area somewhere to play.

Initial funding provided by the North West Arts Council enabled the group to build two rehearsal rooms in 1985.

Twenty five years on and the Lancaster Musicians' Co-op is still offering bands somewhere to rehearse and record music.

Without those facilities on my doorstep I wouldn't have made it to where I am
Paul 'The Rev' James

Heyday

The co-op boasts an impressive list of bands who have passed through the doors since its launch including keyboard player Mark Hunter - who was in Manchester band James in its heyday - and Paul 'The Rev' James from Towers of London and Prodigy.

The Rev, who grew up in Morecambe, was 15 when he recorded his first demo there with The Bottle Necks. He then practised twice a week at the co-op with Awaken and then The God's Directors before moving to London in 2003.

Paul describes the enterprise as "a fantastic place great for all types of musicians".

He says getting studio experience there so early in his career contributed to his success, "Without those facilities on my doorstep I wouldn't have made it to where I am.

"I really don't know what I would have done if that place wasn't there because there was nowhere else to go in Lancaster."

Paul 'The Rev' James
Paul 'The Rev' James says he has fond memories of the co-op

The significance of the co-operative is not lost on emerging bands either. Electric Free Time Machine's guitarist Dave George says it plays an essential role in Lancaster's music scene.

"We have recorded both our EPs there and the place is amazing," says Dave. "Virtually everyone who plays music in Lancaster benefits from it in one way or another; from brilliant value recording facilities to saving countless gigs by providing last minute equipment hire."

Lancaster indie band Uncle Jeff says the place has been a good friend to the band. Frontman Stephen Hudson says: "We recorded our first demo there with Mick Armistead. It was an awesome experience.

"It's a really valuable resource for a lot of folk in Lancaster."

'Crank up the volume'

While it may have nurtured budding musicians, it wasn't set up as "a talent factory" says one of the founders. Lorenzo Salzano explains the ethos of the Lancaster Musicians' Co-op: "It was more somewhere to play where you could crank up the volume and make a lot of noise without disturbing the neighbours."

While proud it is still going strong, Lorenzo is surprised the original building is a quarter of a century on.

"Lancaster City Council offered us the building because the back wall was falling down so they said we could have it until it was to be demolished."

Lorenzo now lives in Nottingham and works in IT but he's still into music; he plays in a band called Pavlova in his spare time and keeps in touch with the work of the co-operative.

Rectify

The co-op
One of the rooms at the co-op in Lancaster

He says he is delighted it continues to serve a section of the community as they set out to do 25 years ago.

While the association is a self-financed non-profit group run by Dave Blackwell and Ian Dicken, the future for the place isn't totally certain. They haven't managed to gain a long term lease or managed to buy the building that they occupy; something Dave says they want to rectify.

"We want to secure a future for the co-op so that we will be there for future bands to rehearse and record at."

To mark the 25th anniversary of the co-operative, they are planning a series of events to celebrate the work of the group including a spring clean day!

Dave says: "We are planning benefit gigs as well as clean up days where people will be invited in to help us re-paint and generally improve the facilities."

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