Council's £50,000 attack on volunteer-run social centre

Press release from The Common Place, for immediate release 7pm 27th Feb 2009
Today Leeds city centre's volunteer-run community space The Common Place lost the court battle to keep its entertainment licence (1). After three problem-free years the licence was withdrawn by Leeds City Council in July 2008 leaving the social centre without its main income. Leeds City Council perceived The Common Place as not being a true members club as we are open to huge variety of events and types of people. This openness had also led to lax procedures when signing non-members in, a condition of the licence.

The Common Place is a space used by many of the most marginalised and vulnerable members of society (2). Carl Gallager of Zermansky and Partners, acting for The Common Place estimates that Leeds City Council have spent in excess of £50 000 bringing this case to court in a attempt to shut down the centre, despite a chorus of support from dozens of groups who use the centre and over 1000 messages of support (3).

Common Place Volunteer Amy Stephenson said, "It beggars belief that despite the deepening recession and the lack of affordable, social city centre venues that the council has spent so much time and effort on the closure of this much-loved resource."

Dom Marsh said, "The Common Place is exactly the sort of place that the council should be encouraging. It provides free space to groups who might struggle to find affordable spaces as well as an amazing gig venue for up-and-coming local performers."

The Common Place Management Committee repeatedly attempted to meet with the Council licensing department to avoid a court case and to reassure them of our status and capability as a members' club. However, this attempt to identify and rectify any perceived problems was rejected outright by the council.

The future of the Common Place is now under serious threat. Without licensed events the ability of the social centre to provide a resource to the people of Leeds is uncertain.

Notes
1) The Common Place is a volunteer run members club and social centre at Wharf Street LS1 - details at www.thecommonplace.org.uk
2) The Common Place is used by groups including the award winning Common Conversation, The Permaculture Association, The United Refugee Organisation, TIDAL (a Leeds-based fair trade association), Theatre Under Fire, St. Anne's Homeless Support, Leeds Domestic Violence Partnership
3) The common place received over 1100 on-line signatures on it's petition and over 30 letters of support from individuals and groups including The Refuge Council, Leeds Metropolitan University Union, Leeds University Union, Church Action on Poverty, Leeds Stepping Out, Ladyfest Leeds, The Healthy Living Network.
4) Contact: Paul Chatterton 07894340531