Another week, another Oxford nightclub at risk of permanent closure. The Purple Turtle announced that they would be closing their Frewin Court doors for the last time before the 30th November, having failed to agree a new lease with the Oxford Union. Whilst the Union President promised an exciting future for the venue itself, and the Turtle organisation promised a reincarnation elsewhere, this closure is the third instance this term of an Oxford club struggling for survival.
Cellar’s troubles, meanwhile, began in the summer, with the club being found to violate fire safety regulations. Fortunately, a remarkable crowdfunding campaign has been completed, with the venue looking set to continue operation after works. Earlier in term, the Plush Lounge saw its own lease with Nuffield wind down, with the college keen to redevelop the site. The troubles for all 3 have wide implications for the student body and the residents of Oxford.
In regards to the Plush Lounge, which has provided a safe space for the LGBTI+ community for years, the potential closure of the venue would be a tragic loss. The same is true in the case of Cellar, but for different reasons. Cellar is one of the few clubs in Oxford that students can run nights at. Thus, its closure would be a blow for any parties interested in promoting or starting their own club nights. Moreover, in its capacity as a music venue, Cellar has been a popular destination for upcoming bands. Some big names have performed there over the years in their early careers, including Foals, The National, and perhaps most significantly Mumford and Sons. With young bands facing more barriers than ever when trying to break through into the music industry, the death of small venues with good atmosphere and enthusiastic crowds is truly heart-wrenching.
All three clubs stand out slightly from similar institutions around the city centre. Plush is the home of LGBTI+ nightlife, Cellar is the leading indy venue in the centre of Oxford, and PT hosts a variety of genres through the week, welcoming town and gown. They are all more distinguishable from the titans of cheese – the Bridge, Atik, even Fever.
Whilst Cirkus, which is the regeneration of JT’s, has begun life quite successfully, part of this is surely down to their luck in securing a number of promoters that left Cellar after their regulation troubles. Emporium too has gained other nights.
But by losing their former homes, Oxford must see the survival of these club nights as bittersweet. The city is home to two universities, with a massive collective student body desperate to enjoy their years at uni. This becomes less likely with every closure, and it is worth mentioning that no club is totally safe – even the Bridge, seemingly the last bastion of Oxford club scene, rents their venue from a college (Nuffield, who apparently have a taste for redevelopment).
Fortunately all is not lost, and there are ways to support the scene. Obviously, Cellar’s troubles are over, at least for now. In regards to lease expirations, pressure must be applied on the landlords – especially as they are institutions related to the student body – to aid the relocation of the institutions they evict. It was encouraging to see Nuffield aiding the process of finding a new home for Plush. It is paramount that as a community, we do not take our clubs for granted, as once they go, they may well not come back. Perhaps many of us have suffered the below-standard night in every place available, and wondered why people even go in the first place. Should we see them disappear for good, I imagine we’ll realise why.