Budding music moguls could co-own iconic building and give it a bright new future

February 03, 2012

A landmark building with a colourful past has hopes of a bright future thanks to a newly formed co-operative which will enable budding music moguls to co-own the iconic music venue.

Built in the 1880’s, Unity Hall, Wakefield, has witnessed events as diverse as silent movie screenings and Iron Maiden concerts after originally being home to the Wakefield Industrial Co-operative Society.

Now, with the support of The Co-operative Enterprise Hub, a new co-operative has been registered and a community share issue launched to restore and regenerate this iconic building and re-establish it as a major venue for both entertainment and enterprise.

The ambitious scheme will cost £4.4 million in total and, Unity House (Wakefield) Limited – the newly formed co-operative enterprise – hopes to attract hundreds of members and raise the £200,000 needed to carry out initial survey and pre-construction work.

The aim is to redevelop Unity Hall – much of which has been disused for over a decade - into a workspace that mixes business with music, theatre, exhibitions and meetings. Working with Leeds-based regeneration specialists, Shine, Unity House (Wakefield) Limited have developed pans including; a 650-seater venue, an 80-seater function room, 12,000 square feet of office space, 3,500 square feet of meeting space and, a café on Westgate with reception, exhibition space and independent retail opportunities. It will also offer a creative hub for the city’s entrepreneurs.

In 1909 the building was extended to form the building we see today and, it emerged as an important venue for entertainment and education for Edwardian Wakefield, showing the latest silent movies in the Main Hall. In the early 1980’s it briefly became a rock venue with acts including: Eurythmics, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and The Specials performing in the city.

The tough economy has highlighted the benefits of the member-owned approach to enterprise with the co-operative sector outperforming the UK economy as a whole - growing by 21% since the start of the credit crunch in 2008.Unity Hall

The Co-operative Group, the UK’s largest member-owned organisation with 6 million members, is at the forefront of the resurgence of the co-operative business model and, has committed an additional £6m between 2012-14 to develop The Co-operative Enterprise Hub service which offers free advice and guidance and, has supported the creation and growth of over 700 member-owned enterprises since its launch in 2009.

Michael Fairclough, The Co-operative Group’s Head of Community and Co-operative Investment, said: “The co-operative business model has been described as an old solution to a modern problem. Fundamentally, it gives people a voice, a say in how services are delivered.

“The model is being increasingly adopted and is a robust approach to enterprise that is contributing to the re-building of a more balanced and sustainable economy.”

Chris Hill, a founding director of the co-operative behind the plans, said: “Co-operation is all about working together to make things happen for the benefit of its members and society and, it is our aim to develop a creative space that the community can call their own and be proud of – we are particularly excited that, during this International Year of Co-operatives, it is a community co-operative that is reinvigorating this former HQ of the Wakefield Industrial Co-operative Society.

“By restoring Unity Hall to its former glory we can develop a vital new hub for the city. The regeneration work aspires to give Wakefield a nationally acknowledged music, theatre and arts venue, a thriving conference centre and provide a hot-bed for new business innovation.”

Membership in Unity House (Wakefield) Limited starts from as little as £200 with the maximum investment capped at £20,000.

A dividend of around 6 per cent per annum is planned after three years of trading and members will also be celebrated in a piece of public art within the building. Other benefits include priority booking and event information.

The current share issue closes on 18 May 2012.

For more information or to download a copy of the prospectus visit www.unityhallwakefield.co.uk

Additional Information:

UK co-operative sector: In the UK, there are 5,450 independent co-operative businesses. Together they have a combined turnover of over £33 billion and have outperformed the UK economy as a whole, growing by 21% since the start of the credit crunch in 2008. They employ almost ¼ million people and, 12.8 million people - over one in five of the UK population – are members of co-operatives. The Co-operative Group – which can trace its origins back to the original Pioneers – is at the forefront of this resurgence in the sector, setting up The Co-operative Enterprise Hub to provide free advice and consultancy to communities rediscovering the benefits of self-help and mutual ownership – it has supported the creation and growth of over 700 member-owned enterprises across the UK, from pubs to grocers, cafes to football clubs, since it began as a pilot scheme in 2009.

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, highlighting the contribution of co-operatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The Year will highlight the strengths of the co-operative business model as an alternative means of doing business and furthering socioeconomic development. With the theme of “Co-operative Enterprises Build a Better World”, the Year seeks to encourage the growth and establishment of co-operatives all over the world. It also encourages individuals, communities and governments to recognise the agency of co-operatives in helping to achieve internationally agreed upon development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals.

The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest member-owned organisation with six million members. It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the leading convenience store operator and a major financial services provider, operating The Co-operative Bank, Britannia and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider and Britain’s largest farming operation. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies almost 50 commitments in these areas. The Group operates 4,800 retail trading outlets, employs more than 106,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £13bn.  Further information is available at www.co-operative.coop

Contact Information:

Andrew Torr
The Co-operative Group Press Office
Tel: 0161 827 5622
Mob: 07702 505551