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The Ground Floor at the Trades Club

Saturday, 22 July 2023

Statement from the Trades and Social Club Management Committee

Following the recent discussions on Facebook and in the local community, the Trades Club Management Committee would like to clarify our position regarding the potential re-development of the ground floor space of the building.

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misunderstanding and sadly a significant amount of misinformation about the position and we welcome this opportunity to put the record straight.

The history of the Trades Club building is that it was built in 1924, by Local Trade Unions, in order to provide a resource for the working people of the valley. In the early nineteen eighties the building passed into the ownership of the local Labour party, and managed by their Buildings Management Committee, and the Trades social club was established.

The remainder of the building continued as a resource for the wider community, housing such activities as a soup kitchen, Citizens Advice Bureau, an arts space and junior band practice amongst many others. This continued until the floods of December 2015; since then the ground floor of the building has been empty. We have always hoped that the space would come back into use for the whole community and until recently that has also been the expressed aim of the BMC.

The Trades Club has been requesting a face to face meeting with the local Labour Party, our landlords, through their Building Management Committee for approximately two years, in order to discuss many issues including a recent sizeable rent increase, a revised lease, and the future of the ground floor. Unfortunately, this has been continually refused.

When we escalated our request, we were only offered a three-way meeting, with a prospective new tenant, which would be wholly inappropriate when we want to discuss matters which are irrelevant to a third party.

On the 2nd July 2023 we held our Annual General Meeting, which is open to anyone that is a member of the club (a non-profit members' co-operative). Several members of the BMC, who are also members of the club, attended the meeting. However, during a discussion regarding their ground floor plans, they sat silently rather than taking the opportunity to explain what they might consist of. One of the BMC even emailed the committee after the meeting to state that they had a number of questions that they wanted to ask during the meeting; we are not sure why this opportunity wasn't taken in the public forum of the AGM.

Since the 2015 floods the BMC have been promising the renovation of the derelict lower floor in line with it's previous use as a community arts centre (1), in harmony with and enhancing the existing Trades Club venue (2). As recently as 2021 a Trades Building Access Survey (3) was undertaken by the BMC. The purpose was in part to canvas local people's views as to what they would like to see happen to the ground floor. The results of this survey, completed by 873 people, were that they wanted to see the space used for youth groups, arts and crafts, band practice, mother and toddler groups etc. Therefore by planning to lease the entire ground floor on a commercial basis to a single use company the BMC appears to be actively ignoring the views of the very people that the building was originally built for; the working people of the valley: and the results of their own survey.

The Trades Club venue and our employees have been extremely concerned that the current plan to lease the ground floor could pose a risk to the future of the Trades Club. Some of you may be aware of the difficulties that the Night and Day venue in Manchester has faced recently over complaints from their neighbours regarding the noise made by the club; a well-established music venue similar to the Trades. As a result, we commissioned an independent acoustic survey of the Trades building to assess the potential "noise bleed" between the ground floor and the first floor (4). This report clearly concluded that even with substantial and costly sound insulation, noise bleed will be considerable between the floors potentially making a number of potential new 'businesses' incompatible.

Some of you may now be aware that the prospective new tenant is Northern Powerhouse Boxing Academy. We now also know that negotiations have been going on for several months without consultation, involvement or honesty towards the existing Trades Club. We have asked the BMC numerous times for clarity, but they have refused to tell us anything until very recently. We feel it vital to make it clear that the Trades Club has no issue with the Northern Powerhouse Boxing Academy and we highly respect and fully support the aims and objectives of their academy.

The Trades Club has a proud record, over our forty plus year history, of supporting a large number of community groups and we have always striven to make the club a safe space for people of any sexuality, gender, race, culture and religion. We have a zero tolerance of sexual harassment and discrimination of any sort. Over the history of the club we have held regular fundraisers for different community and campaigning groups, including the local Labour Party, and over the years have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for local good causes. The suggestion that we are somehow against a women's group is not only factually incorrect but also offensive.

We have been so concerned with the lack of dialogue with our landlords that we decided in June to ask the Music Venues Trust, a registered charity that aims to protect, secure and improve UK grassroots music venues, to mediate on our behalf. MVT wrote to both the BMC and the boxing academy on 11thJuly 2023 expressing our concerns and requesting standalone meetings with both of them. Thankfully Northern Powerhouse Boxing have responded, and we will be meeting with them on the 24thJuly 2023 to discuss the acoustic report and their plans to deal with any potential issues to allow us both to prosper if their plans are achieved.

Apologies for the length of this statement but we feel it important to avoid any ambiguity and to be clear about our position. Many thanks for your continued support and we look forward to updating you following the meeting next week and welcoming you at The Trades for many years to come.

Best wishes,

The Trades and Social Club Management Committe

See also

HebWeb Forum: Trades Club ground floor - discussion arising from the statement above

Hebweb thread on Arts Centre closure (2016)

HebWeb News (2020): BMC announcement 'Help the Trades Club finish the work'

'Tradespace' fundraiser page

The original architect project page

Access survey results (April 2021) incl Q. We're planning to create a community space on the ground floor of the Trades building. What kinds of activities might you imagine taking place here? hbRiM

Acoustic report