Catford's Getting A New Community-Owned Music Venue

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 16 months ago

Last Updated 27 January 2023

Catford's Getting A New Community-Owned Music Venue
Ink drawing of a music venue
"Visualising the opening party has been a bit of a motivational exercise that's kept us going."

Back in January 2022, we ran a story about a collective named Sister Midnight striving to breathe new life into a closed-down south London pub, by turning it into a grassroots music venue.

Well, the bad news is that the owners of the Ravensbourne Arms are holding fast onto the property, and it looks as though nothing much is going to happen to it anytime soon.

The BETTER news is that Sister Midnight — aka Lenny Watson, Sophie Farrell, and Lottie Pendlebury (lead singer of south London punk rock quartet Goat Girl) — raised a stonking £260k from over 800 investors in the bid to reopen the pub, and they're now ploughing that money into another music venue they've landed down the road — in the form of erstwhile working men's club, The Brookdale Club in the Catford Centre. (Of giant cat fame.)

Lenny Watson, Sophie Farrell, and Lottie Pendlebury aka the Sister Midnight collective, who are gloriously hellbent on bringing a new music venue to their hood.

"There's so much going on creatively in south London, especially in terms of music culture here, but we've been decimated by the closure of one music venue after the other," Sister Midnight tell Londonist, "Every time that happens it disrupts the communities that revolve around those spaces, and that's really damaging not just on a cultural level, but also on a personal level.

"We want to create a space for our community that will be sustainable in the long run, and to do that we've had to totally re-imagine what a music venue is, how it runs, and who owns it."

Plenty of people would appear to agree, including indie label group Beggars, and Hootenanny master of ceremonies Jools Holland, both of whom have donated to the cause.

However, Sister Midnight tell us, the fundraising effort has largely been small donations from local musicians and bands, small labels, and local people: "It's been a real community effort, which is incredibly inspiring, but we do need more of the big names in music to step forward and support grassroots initiatives like ours!

An ink sketch of the outside of the new venue
The 250-capacity music venue will also have space for rehearsing and recording.

When it opens (by the end of 2023 is the goal), the 250-capacity venue — also to be named Sister Midnight — will will also feature a space for rehearsing and recording, as well as a community cafe. It's a 'meanwhile space' — meaning that in the future, Sister Midnight will have to relocate, but for at least the next seven years, the venue will be leased out to them on a peppercorn rent.

When it opens, the venue will become another jewel in Catford's cultural crown, in recent years studded with the likes of the Ninth Life 'festival pub', and even its own catnip-infused gin.

"Catford and the wider Lewisham area has always been a vibrant place with a rich cultural and creative heritage, and we think people are recognising that more and more," Sister Midnight tell us.

And although the collective are loathe to give an exact opening date for the venue, they're already planning the launch. "It will almost definitely involve an incredible lineup of local musicians and DJs, some emotional speeches, and dancing into the early hours.

"Visualising the opening party has been a bit of a motivational exercise that's kept us going."