Former Deptford venue Sister Midnight is offering locals the chance to co-own Lewisham’s Ravensbourne Arms
Sister Midnight in Deptford has been a staple of the south east London music scene since its establishment in 2018. The grassroots record shop slash venue is unrivaled in showcasing Lewisham’s thriving musical talent, and has curated a tight-knit community of local rising stars.
Having lost its original space during the pandemic, Sister Midnight has since re-established itself as a community benefit society. Its first mission is to save Lewisham’s Ravensbourne Arms by transforming it into a community pub – and you have the chance to co-own it.
Sister Midnight’s founders, Lenny Watson, Verity Hobbs, and Sophie Farrell, have today (September 20) launched a community share offer, giving people the chance to invest in Sister Midnight and help create Lewisham’s first community-owned live music pub.
Everyone who invests will become a part-owner of the Ravensbourne Arms, meaning they’ll have a say on how the business is run – they’ll also get the chance to win gig tickets, exclusive merch, vinyl, and food and drinks when the pub reopens.
“For the last few years, the community down here has been blighted by the continual closures and losses of culturally important music venues,” Watson tells Dazed, listing local New Cross venues The Montague Arms (which launched King Krule’s career), The Five Bells, and DIY Space. “When Sister Midnight closed during the pandemic, it was a catalyst for knowing that we needed to create something different and long-lasting.”
“If we can save the Ravensbourne Arms, it means that its future will be in the hands of the community,” she continues. “Its fate won’t be at the behest of unscrupulous landlords, it won’t be at risk of redevelopment, and it won’t ever be put out of business by unaffordable rent increases. It will be much more than just a pub or a music venue; it will be a symbol of what communities can do when we pull together and stand up against the failing capitalist models that are constantly threatening our cultural institutions.”
“Most importantly, it will provide a platform for music, creativity, and community in Lewisham for generations to come.”
The Ravensbourne Arms closed in 2016 after being sold to private property developers. While two floors of the building have since been converted into flats, Lewisham Council has refused to grant a change of use for the rest of the space, due to the community importance of the pub. Sister Midnight’s Ravensbourne Arms will offer a cutting-edge live music programme, alongside pub classics: local ales and Sunday lunch. The pub will be owned and democratically controlled by the community it serves, with each member having a vote on all business-related decisions.
The proposal is supported by a number of political figures, including Lewisham’s MP Vicky Foxcroft and London’s night czar Amy Lamé. “This is such an amazing opportunity to revive a currently unused venue in a way which puts the community it is based in at its heart, and provide exciting cultural opportunities which are accessible for local residents,” Foxcroft said in a press release. “I am also happy to see such a great project led by young women, who are too often not at the forefront of projects like these.”
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Watson tells Dazed. “When we put out our first community consultation in January, we had well over 800 responses in just 10 days and £90,000+ in provisional share pledges. Since then, support for the project has just continued to grow. There’s a real feeling among the community that this is something we all want and need.”
“It will be much more than just a pub or a music venue; it will be a symbol of what communities can do when we pull together and stand up against the failing capitalist models that are constantly threatening our cultural institutions” – Lenny Watson, Sister Midnight
The idea was partly inspired by the success of The Ivy House in nearby Nunhead – London’s first community-owned pub, which opened in 2013. Ahead of today’s launch, The Ivy House hosted a fundraiser for Sister Midnight’s venture, featuring a headline performance by Goat Girl. Next weekend (October 2), another fundraiser is set to take place at Lewisham’s Fox and Firkin, with a line-up that includes Mercury Prize nominees Porridge Radio, Piglet, Leather.head, and more.
“Our social life has been at an all time low not having Sister Midnight round the corner anymore,” Goat Girl said in a press release. “It's the place you would find everyone doing lots of different side projects, music, art and film, and cool stuff. This idea that Lenny has is such a dream – it’s what the world needs, and we’re very excited for it.”
“It’s the best feeling (to see local bands and Sister Midnight favourites coming together to help),” adds Watson. “This is what the DIY music scene down here is all about – everyone pulling together, standing in solidarity with each other, and working as a community to create positive change.”