Collective Futures | Future Yard

Celebrating + Connecting Community Music Venues

Collective Futures is a one-day symposium designed to celebrate and explore Community Music Venues and the role they play in local neighbourhoods across the UK. Led by Future Yard and Sister Midnight, it is an opportunity to understand how Community Music Venues are structured, their financial models and the impact they have in communities.

Collective Futures is here to bring together current and ‘would-be’ Community Music Venues from across the UK in a solidarity network, to collaborate, share knowledge and approaches. It is for those working in and supporting communities, to understand the role Community Music Venues play and the impact they can have in towns and cities. It is for those who love live music and are passionate about ensuring we have thriving, sustainable music venues across the UK.

The first Collective Futures symposium, taking place at Future Yard in Birkenhead, will feature contributors from organisations such as Music Venue Trust, Independent Venue Week, Arts Council England, Band On The Wall, Nesta, Youth Music, Unconvention, Regenda, Livv Investment, The Community Shares Company, Magenta and Kindred. Plus new additions: Plunkett Foundation, Crowdfunder and Co-Operatives UK. Across a number of discussions and workshops, the symposium will focus on key aspects of what makes a Community Music Venue: community-led programming, building scenes, creating (and measuring) meaningful community engagement, placemaking – and the various funding models needed to achieve these goals.

The daytime symposium will be followed by an evening show, headed up by Goat Girl. The award-winning quartet graduated through the grassroots open mic and music scene of South London, making particular use of the Brixton Windmill as a sounding board. Goat Girl – with two albums on legendary British label Rough Trade under their belts – are closely aligned with Sister Midnight (guitarist Lottie Pendlebury is a director of Sister Midnight), making them the perfect artists to round off this first Collective Futures event. The show will also feature support from Merseyside-based artists Trout (groove-laden angsty grunge) and Thalia’s Grace (distortion-heavy alt. rock). This show is a fundraiser for Future Yard’s Neighbourhood Fund, providing free tickets and access to music opportunities to the immediate community around Future Yard in Birkenhead.

See below for symposium running order and itinerary.

Collective Futures
"Community Music Venues are a vital part of the UK's cultural landscape, and we want more of them. Collective Futures is an exciting opportunity to strengthen and formalise the network between existing community venues, funders and key stakeholders in the community business sector. We want to connect all those who have a role to play in the growth of cultural community infrastructure, and facilitate skills and knowledge sharing so that more people across the UK feel supported and empowered to bring more Community Music Venues into existence." - Lenny Watson, Sister Midnight

Future Yard and Sister Midnight are ideally placed to bring these discussions together, both operating in this ever-changing world during a tumultuous past few years. Sister Midnight was established in Deptford in 2018, and quickly became an important part of the local music scene as a place where people could come together in celebration of South East London’s music culture. Having been forced to move out of that space during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have just raised £260,000 via a community crowdfunding campaign to help them open Lewisham’s first community-owned live music venue.

Future Yard had similarly auspicious beginnings, opening in 2020 during the height of COVID-19 restrictions. After months of waiting and building, the venue and artist hub opened on Argyle Street in Birkenhead, with the dual mission of becoming the first carbon neutral grassroots music venue in the North of England and of shaping a new music future for Birkenhead.

"No Community Music Venue is the same, each responds to the unique characteristics, needs and dynamics of the community they serve. Collective Futures is an opportunity to hear from Community Music Venues who have embraced this model, share successes, challenges, structures and impacts. We believe there should be a Community Music Venue in every town and city in the UK, working collaboratively in solidarity with similar venues across the country. Collective Futures is the start of that vision." - Craig Pennington, Future Yard
Collective Futures

Future Yard, 75 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, CH41 6AB (accessibility information)

Daytime Symposium, 12.30pm – 6pm
Tickets £0/£10 – Pay If You Can (£10 suggested donation)

Evening Show, 7.30pm – 11pm (live) + late DJs
Goat Girl (headline) + Trout + Thalia’s Grace
Tickets £15*

*We have a number of tickets for the show allocated through Future Yard’s Neighbourhood Programme for people who are unable to afford it. These will be allocated on the day of the event to anyone attending the symposium who would like to claim one.


The Collective Futures symposium will start with a panel discussion hosted by Future Yard and Sister Midnight which will introduce the idea of Community Music Venues, what they look like, who they’re for and what challenges they face.
Attendees will then split up into three breakout groups for three workshops (see below for topics). Key contributors will be stationary in the workshop topic where they have the most to contribute, while the attendees will rotate through each topic.
The day will end with a discussion around how we work at a nationwide level to support a growing movement of Community Music venues.

Live Room Doors – 12.30pm

Opening Panel – 1pm-2pm

Workshop 1 – 2.15pm-3.15pm
FINANCE + FUNDRAISING: How are Community Music Venues financed and what funding opportunities are available?
This workshop will explore how and why community music venue models can be more sustainable than traditional venue models. The conversation will look at how not-for-profit organisations are better able to attract funding and investment from a range of sources, including grants, social impact lending and community investment.
Featuring Music Venues Trust, Nesta, Crowdfunder, Co-operatives UK

Workshop 2 – 3.15pm-4pm
SOCIAL IMPACT + COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Understanding the positive impacts Community Music Venues create
This workshop will explore the wide ranging impacts that Community Music Venues can have within their neighbourhoods and how we can measure and evaluate these impacts over time, developing a deeper and more valuable understanding of the social value music venues create. Community Music Venues can only truly flourish if they are shaped by – and have the interests of – local people at their core. Ensuring that local people are richly and meaningfully involved in the shaping of programmes and activities should be at the heart of what it means to be a Community Music Venue.
Featuring Arts Council England, Plunkett Foundation, Youth Music, Unconvention, Independent Venue Week

Workshop 3 – 4.15pm-5pm
PLACEMAKING + SHAPERS OF CHANGE: Community Music Venues as a Transformational Opportunity
Music venues have a unique power to shape places, create opportunities for local people and shift perceptions of both locals and out-of-towners alike. This soft, cultural power is vital, as towns and cities seek to find their own USPs and points of difference, in an ever homogenised world. Through mutually-beneficial partnerships, venues can collaborate with local authorities and stakeholders, playing a central role in regeneration and placemaking, ensuring sustainable positive impact.
Featuring Future Yard CIC, Kindred LCR, The Regenda Group, Magenta Living, Wirral Council

Closing Session – 5.15pm-6pm

Networking – 6pm

Evening Show Doors – 7pm

Venue open from 10am, kitchen open 12pm-9pm. Please note – we operate a cashless bar.

Collective Futures


Live Room doors open at 7pm
7.30pm – Thalia’s Grace
8.30pm – Trout
9.30pm – Goat Girl
11pm curfew

NB – Times subject to change. Please check Future Yard social media for latest updates on the day of the show.

Tickets available on the door.
Venue open all day from 10am – bar closes at 12am. Kitchen open 12pm-9pm.

Community Music Venues reimagine the role of a traditional music venue, providing a transformational opportunity for local people and places. Through community-led programming, training, development and neighbourhood activities, they play the role of a key anchor institution in a place, reimagine what their town means in the world and create life-changing opportunities in the process.

Community Music Venues are accountable to – and often owned by – the community they’re at the heart of. Numerous structures exist, including Community Benefit Societies, Co-Operatives, Community Interest Companies; but the core premise is consistent: Community Music Venues exist to benefit their local neighbourhoods, not shareholders.

And ideally not absent landlords either. Grassroots Music Venues are the R&D department of the UK music industry, a sector worth over £5bn to the UK economy. 94% of these venues do not own their own building, with most operating on short term, precarious leases. Which other major sectors have an R&D department structured in this way?

Community Music Venues provide a model to address this, with alternative approaches providing access to investment and funding. But through their structure and activities, the relationship they develop with local communities is fundamentally deeper, more profound and more sustainable.

Music Venues have been closing at an alarming rate in recent years, as the pressures of gentrification in urban centres, lack of access to investment and changing audience behaviours were exacerbated by COVID-19. The cost of living crisis has provided the latest, seemingly grave challenge.

If Music Venues are to thrive and take their place at the heart of local communities, we need to embrace new approaches. Collective Futures is the start of this vision.