A petition has been launched to save the cramped yet beloved Cornmarket club, The Cellar, after news broke yesterday that it is facing imminent closure next year.
Yesterday The Cellar confirmed that St Michael’s and All Saints’ Charities, the building’s owners, plan to turn it into a retail space in early 2018.
Since the announcement there has been a flood of outrage and support for the club amongst Oxford locals and students.
A change.org petition in support of “Oxford’s best and only underground music venue!” was set up yesterday. The petition, which implores people to save “the heart of this city’s incredible music scene”, has so far garnered over 6,000 signatures.
Comments on the post indicate the fury amongst Oxford clubbers that the announcement has provoked. One says: “The Cellar’s closure would be one of the biggest losses of true, vibrant, underground culture that could possibly be inflicted on a community.
“The Cellar is a unique and deeply adored space and to lose it would be deeply saddening for the thousands upon thousands of attendees from Oxford and across the country.”
Another reads, simply: “War on culture needs to stop.”
The continued closure of Oxford’s music venues such as Babylove and now Cellar has also affected those who use them to host club nights. Danielle Shreir, the founder of Oxford’s popular Burning Down the House 80’s themed nights, which began in Babylove, but after the club was bought back by Oriel College, transferred to Cellar, spoke to Cherwell about her fondness for the Cornmarket club.
“I will always remember getting in to a very light cellar in order to set up, pools of sweat still being mopped away – drunk people falling down the stars towards you as you sat selling tickets on the door,” she said.
“The tradition we had where everyone would get on their knees when they heard the intro to ‘Like a Prayer’ – the first time you ever dared get onto the stage to dance and felt very very important.”
She added: “I can’t believe what’s happening in Oxford – clubs closing down everywhere and being replaced by commercial centres.
“Nightlife is so often viewed as frivolous but it’s key to self-expression, particularly when you’re discovering yourself. Cellar was one of the few places where you felt you could be yourself.
“At Burning Down the House we had everything from the ‘hip kids’ to boys that would come alone and just sit and sing along to the Smiths. I think it was a really nice and inclusive space and night and wasn’t just university-based – you’d get a mix of people actually from Oxford and then also the uni people.”
Ozzy O’Sullivan, an Oxford student who runs the Cellar SE10 garage, grime and jungle nights, also spoke of his regret over the club’s closure. “We are extremely saddened to hear about the intention to close Cellar,” he told Cherwell.
“Like many other student-run nights we started at this club, and its closure will only make it harder for future students to provide nights that Oxford desperately needs. The diversity of the nights that are spawned there is a testament to the magic of the place. The Cellar is a true Oxford institution and its closure would be a huge blow for both the students and locals in Oxford.”
The clerk of St Michael’s and All Saints’ Charities, which owns the building, Rupert Sheppard, has attempted to justify the closure by explaining that with more income, the charity can give more money to local good causes.
“The trustees have no wish to cause unnecessary upset to those who value The Cellar, but it will be appreciated that they are under obligations to act in the best interests of the charities and their beneficiaries,” he said.
Dan Iley-Williamson, the Labour councillor for Holywell and a DPhil student at Queen’s, told Cherwell: “Music venues like The Cellar are a vital part of the cultural fabric of the whole city.
“As well as place for people of all ages from all over the city to go for a good night out, small venues are where new artists can learn and develop. Without places like The Cellar the life blood of the music scene in Oxford gets cut off.”
Cellar, previously called The Corn Dolly and The Dolly, has hosted early gigs for successful bands such as Foals and Glass Animals. The venue has been since the 1980’s by the Hopkins family, who are currently consulting a solicitor to see what they can do to save the club.