The Wedgewood Rooms strengthens ties to the community through its new business status

Wilko Johnson at The Wedgewood Rooms Picture: Paul Windsor

RENOWNED live entertainment venue, The Wedgewood Rooms, has recently taken on a new status which will allow it to forge closer ties to the community and access to funds which could help safeguard its future.

The Albert Road, Southsea venue is also taking part in nationwide Independent Venue Week, which runs from today until Sunday. It is the third year The Wedge has been an official venue in the annual celebration for raising awareness of the challenges facing independent venues.

The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea Picture: Ian Hargreaves (160021-10)

And it is now a community interest company (CIC) – the scheme was introduced by the government in 2005 and is designed for social enterprises that want to use their profits and assets for the public good.

In 2017 The Wedge is celebrating 25 years as a live music and comedy venue.

Geoff Priestley, the venue’s manager, said: ‘Social, economic, and political shifts have made grass-roots venues a business venture not for the faint-hearted. However, we at The Wedge believe that the role of the music venue is more important than ever. At a time of such social division, venues are crucial in bringing communities together, regardless of people’s social background or political beliefs.

‘At The Wedge this has involved widening our additional programme – we have always done music and comedy, but in this last year we have added more theatre-type shows, and worked with a lot more colleges and local groups like OmniArts who provide acting opportunities for kids. We have maintained the essence of what The Wedge has always been about but have increased our support for local groups in all areas of the community.

We have maintained the essence of what The Wedge has always been about but have increased our support for local groups in all areas of the community

Wedgewood Rooms manager Geoff Priestley

‘We have also changed our business structure to reflect this. The Wedge is now registered as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company – with aims which are an extension of what the Wedge has been doing for quiet some time. Any profits that we make from events we do are put back into supporting the local community and the CIC’s aims.

‘Being a CIC also gives us access to some of the funding and grants that other arts venues – like the Kings Theatre and New Theatre Royal have access to, and it levels the playing field a little.’

‘This business change is one that most independent venues will be adopting as they all work very closely, like The Wedge, with the community they serve.’

One example already in action is that respected street artist My Dog Sighs has studio space above the venue.

‘For 25 years The Wedgewood Rooms has been at the heart of the local community, bringing international musicians and comedians to Portsmouth,’ Mr Priestley added. ‘With the continued support of bands, promoters, staff and most importantly our customers, we aim to be here for as long as people appreciate the intimate and unique experience that grassroot venues can provide.’

During IVW, there will be a gig from The King Blues on Wednesday, the comedy club on Friday, it is part of Icebreaker Festival on Saturday and children’s theatre show Storybox at Christmas on Sunday. For more information go to wedgewood-rooms.co.uk

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