Reflections on first year at the Globe

“In 2014, on International Jazz Day (30th April), something extraordinary happened in North East England. Some 200 people who love jazz and other music bought the Globe, an old pub in Newcastle, to create the UK’s first late night bar and music venue that’s owned by a cooperative.”

So begins the promotional video for Jazz.Coop but, unlike many adverts, this is not hype. The purchase of licensed premises in a city centre by a cooperative dedicated to the promotion of an unfashionable musical genre is certainly remarkable. Not for the first time, Newcastle is nurturing new pioneers in the music industry.

The Globe, in Railway Street, presents a wide range of music on two floors several nights a week – jazz, blues, rock, reggae, punk, funk, folk and more. The ground floor space hosts live music, DJ and club nights while the more intimate bar on the first floor is used of jazz and acoustic music. It’s also the nearest pub to the Metro Radio Arena and opens specially when there are appropriate gigs at the 11,000 seat venue to provide reasonably priced refreshment to concert goers.

The cooperative undertook extensive refurbishment during 2014 including the installation of a lift. The Globe is one of the very few small music venues in Tyneside to be fully accessible on both floors.

During the first 12 months under cooperative ownership the Globe has hosted some leading jazz musicians including international smooth jazz legend Chris Standring and the UK’s top hard bop drummer Clark Tracey as well as lots of talented jazzers based in Northern England and Scotland. There have also been many memorable DJ nights including the world number one female DJ Lisa Lashes and former front man of The Specials Terry Hall.

How did this all happen? Like many stories, the tale of the Jazz Coop begins at a funeral – the funeral of Keith Crombie, known locally as The Jazz Man, on 14 January 2013. Crombie had set up and run Newcastle’s Jazz Cafe for over 20 years. This was a unique venue that offered live jazz and blues as well as poetry, theatre and dance in relaxed surroundings that reflected the eccentric personality of the proprietor.

Dave Parker, co-chair of Jazz.Coop, said: “At Keith’s wake a number of people were saying we mustn’t allow what Keith had started to die with him, and some of us talked about setting up a coop. The next day I posted a page on Facebook and the idea took off.”

Within a few weeks a cooperative was legally set up with broad objectives to support the performance and development of jazz, poetry, dance and related arts. During 2013 it established regular jazz nights at various venues in Newcastle while the old Jazz Cafe remained closed.

“We had hoped to buy or lease the Jazz Cafe premises and we had several meetings with the owners, but they decided they wanted to run it themselves,” said Dave Parker. “In the meantime we learned the hard way that it’s nearly impossible to make a jazz club financially sustainable. To make it viable you need to get income from bar sales.”

By lucky coincidence a suitable venue came up for sale. The Globe was being ‘disposed of’ by a pub company wanting to improve the overall profitability of its property portfolio. Since 2010 the tenants, Kerry James and Vicky Tate, had been building the reputation of the Globe as one of the best alternative clubs in Newcastle. They were dismayed that the hard work they had put into establishing the music venue might be lost.

Dave Parker said: “For the Jazz Coop it was ideal that the Globe already had a reputation as a music venue, and not specifically for jazz. We think the best way get more people coming to jazz gigs is to put them on in venues that cater for a wide range of tastes. Also the fact that Vicky and Kerry could continue as tenants was a big benefit for us and them.”

So the will was there, the only difficulty was raising the money. To do this the cooperative held a community share issue, a method that has been used successfully to raise investment for other cooperatively owned ventures including village shops and pubs, sports clubs and renewable energy projects. By April 2014 sufficient shares had been sold to proceed with the purchase of the Globe.

To date nearly 200 people have bought shares in Jazz.Coop, and cooperative is still welcoming new investors. The size of the shareholdings range between £200 and £20,000. All shareholders are members of the cooperative and have one vote regardless of the number of shares they own. The members elect a board of directors to manage the cooperative. The directors are not paid and nor are the many volunteers who help with maintaining the premises and running the jazz events.

Since October 2014, when most of the refurbishment was finished, the Globe has hosted a huge variety of music. Jazz.Coop’s programme includes local, national and international bands playing mainstream, free and vintage jazz, blues, folk and contemporary alt pop.

The autumn jazz programme began with Djangologie, one of the finest exponents of gypsy jazz, supported enthusiastically by Lindy Jazz dancers. In November drummer and composer Clark Tracey brought his talented young quintet to the North East for the first time. Touring musicians from the US included saxophone colossus Benn Clatworthy and smooth jazz guitarist Chris Standring. In spring 2015 Anita Wardell, one of best jazz vocalists in the UK, possibly in the world, ran an exclusive weekend workshop for singers and gave an outstanding performance.

But apart from a few high profile musicians, most of the jazz programme showcases the wealth of local talent including Alan Law, Adam Sinclair, Bradley Johnston, Chris Jelly, Dean Stockdale, Don Forbes, Debra Milne, Emma Fisk, Graham Hardy, Graeme Wilson, Giles Strong, Gabriele Heller, John Rowland, James Birkett, Lindsay Hannon, Mick Shoulder, Michael Lamb, Mark Williams, Pete Gilligan, Pete Tanton, Paul Gowland, Paul Edis, Ruth Lambert, Stuart Finden, Steve Glendinning, Yuya Honami, Zoe Gilby.

Variety is also a key part of the programming on the ground floor as Vicky Tate explains: “The concept of the Globe has very much been about embracing all styles of music, and enabling a space for up and coming DJs, bands and musicians to showcase their talent, alongside established artists. Since the re-opening, we have featured a truly eclectic range of music. Our live music showcase events draw a spotlight on local bands, playing everything from rock and metal, to ska, soul, punk and funk.

“Our DJ events feature music across the spectrum of dance, including house, techno, disco, trance, hard dance, dub, drum n bass and reggae.

“We were honoured to have the front man of The Specials, and ska pioneer, Terry Hall play an exclusive DJ set to a very excited crowd of fans over the Easter weekend. It’s not often you get a chance to get so close to one of your heroes, in such a relaxed and unique environment, and we were delighted to be a part of such an unforgettable event.”

The ground floor has also hosted three of the region’s big bands – Strictly Smokin’, Customs House and Durham University – each one loud and tight and keen to return.

Supporting education and training is one of the main objectives of Jazz.Coop and only a few months after it started it began running monthly jazz workshops in association with Sage Gateshead. These continue to run on the first Saturday of each month at the Sage, and since the refurbishment of the Globe Jazz.Coop has been running a full programme of evening classes for horns, guitars, vocalists and all instruments as well as fortnightly jam sessions.

“The education programme is very successful,” said Dave Parker. “Hundreds of people have attended our workshops and courses and their feedback has been extremely positive.”

Asked how the coop had fared in the first 12 months after the purchase of the Globe, Dave Parker said: “The three Rs – refurbishment, regulations and relationships – have been challenging but the music has been great and that’s what it’s all about.

“Everything we’ve achieved has been without any grant aid or public funding. That’s important because we want to create something that is sustainable in the long term. We are grateful to all the people who have invested time and money to help make this happen.

“I got into this because I love jazz and I believe in cooperation. So often people think they don’t like jazz and then they hear some good live jazz and they suddenly get it. That’s what we want Jazz.Coop to do. And we’ll achieve that by being cooperative and inclusive; by treating all the people we come in contact with as equals and by avoiding divisive debates of what is ‘real jazz’.”

So going back to the claim “something remarkable happened” when Jazz.Coop bought the Globe … it’s true.

The main aim of the owners of the Globe is to promote and develop jazz, not to run a pub and make money. This means that the Globe is fundamentally different from every other music venue in Tyneside. The democratic structure of the co-operative means that it would be almost impossible for it to be bought out or taken over. So it looks as though the collective efforts of those 200 co-operators have provided the volatile live music scene in Newcastle with a lasting asset.

On International Jazz Day 2015 the Globe held a party to celebrate its first anniversary under cooperative ownership. It will be doing the same thing on 30 April 2016, 2017, 2018 etc.