Save The Cellar, Save Oxford

Oxford’s best underground music venue is under threat of closure, with the landlords St Michael’s & All Saint’s Charities intending to redevelop the basement site into a retail space. We can’t let that happen. 

The Tung has spent the last week collecting testimonials from some of the people we’ve partied with at The Cellar. Please sign the petition, and help try to save this Oxford institution. 

 Cassels. Photo credit: Ian Wallman

Cassels. Photo credit: Ian Wallman

Anna Richmond, Editor of The Tung

Intrinsic to the fabric of Oxford is its music scene, but without venues the scene is in trouble. Gone are the days of The Zodiac (now the O2 Academy), and Baby Love has been reclaimed by Oriel. The Cellar is one of the last bastions of underground nights for stalwart music fans and newcomers alike.

I don’t remember how old I was or what I was going to see the first time I hung a left off Cornmarket, tripped down a dodgy looking alleyway and descended into the belly of The Cellar, but that doesn’t really matter. Once I had, I’d discovered a whole new Oxford. I’d spent my late teens taking the bus into the city centre to down vodka cokes and Jagerbombs in some of the less inspiring Saturday night destinations, and all the while I’d been ignorant of the diamond in the rough that lay beneath. After that first night, WKD-soaked carpets were swapped for concrete, Jagerbombs were swapped for Red Stripes, and Radio 1 EDM was swapped for I guess pretty much anything that wasn’t Radio 1 EDM. 

Once I was in my first year at university, the love affair got serious. Not only did I manage to catch some great bands and producers (shout out to TEED, Objekt, and Boddika for introducing me to electronic music in my first year), the venue also gave the youth of Oxford opportunities to cut their teeth as night-runners and promoters. House and techno party Subverse and garage night LoveShy were so much a part of the fabric of my university experience that its impossible to recall those years without spontaneously imagining floors swimming in beer, and ceilings dripping with sweat.

Without venues like The Cellar, Oxford would never have been able to call itself the birthplace of Radiohead, Supergrass, Foals, Glass Animals, Stornoway, and countless more inimitable talent. Without The Cellar I, as a music fan, wouldn’t have had access to the kind of music that would later have formed the bedrock of my early career. I needed it then, Oxford needs it now, and the burgeoning talent of the city needs it way past its current 2018 closing date. It’s so much more important that a new Lush. 

Needless to say, it’s not just about me. Read on for testimonials from others for whom the Cellar holds a special place in their hearts. 

 Ollie Steadman of Stornoway.  Credit: GRP Hood 2013

Ollie Steadman of Stornoway. 
Credit: GRP Hood 2013

Jimmy Hetherington, Sound Engineer at The Cellar

As the sound engineer at The Cellar, I can say it's been an amazing place to work. Some of the best times for me? Well, it's hard to remember as there has been so many. I once got to mix one of my favourite bands, Deerhoof. I'm not sure how to explain how much I love this band in words. That was definitely a high point of my career and I spent the whole gig smiling from ear-to-ear. 

Other great times at the Cellar for me - mostly gigs - were Foals playing their last small local venue show there, that was pretty insane. Packed to capacity, a queue outside with people not being able to gain entrance, and Foals playing a Nirvana cover to express their influences. There're lots more memories of great acts coming up through the ranks, such as Fuck Buttons and Metronomy to name a couple. I used to promote local bands at The Cellar and as I was recently told I gave Stornoway their very first gig, not to mention I worked with them on tour. So I mixed their first and last show, both were emotional in different ways. How's that for a community and culture spirited hub of a venue!

The Cellar is an important venue and hub for the community and Oxford music culture. It’s an amazing spring board for promoters, young bands, DJs and MCs. I've seen a lot of these guys be a part of, and contribute to The Cellar’s reputation. 

The Cellar has been an important part of my career path as well, I started working the as an amateur sound engineer about 13 years ago, I’m now what I like to call “semi-professional'. Despite working with other venues I've kept my foot in with The Cellar, mainly because I love it so much. Personally, I'm not sure what I’d do without it.

 The LoveShy DJs go in. 

The LoveShy DJs go in. 

Miles Lawrence, co-founder of LoveShy

The Cellar is the beating heart of Oxford's underground electronic music scene. It's sad to hear that it may be closing due to the property owner wanting to turn it into a retail space. As a university student in Oxford, the Cellar provided my education in the UK sounds of jungle, drum'n'bass, garage, dubstep, and grime. Organising and DJing at nights there gave me some of my happiest memories of my time at university, and the confidence to start pursuing a career in music afterwards. Without the Cellar, a place where the city's musicians, DJs, and event organisers can practice and socialise, the talents of future generations may well be wasted. Losing the Cellar would mean losing the city's lifeline to the UK's fantastic national music scene. I have many fond memories of this great venue and the people who run it, and I hope that it will be able to live on.

Sybil Gillespie, co-founder of SIREN

The Cellar is a very special place, and I would be heartbroken to see it go. It’s the first place I was introduced to electronic music, the first club I found where people go just to enjoy the music on offer, as well as the first place I played as set as a DJ (on Virtual DJ Software on my laptop for a charity event - but still, the seed was sewn). As a hardcore indie nerd from the age of 14 it was very exciting whilst at University in Oxford to discover a whole new musical world of electronic music. Once I’d discovered it, I probably went out to The Cellar most weeks until I finished. 

When I graduated I decided to pursue seriously my interest in electronic music, and see if I could work in music as a career. I now work in London in Rye Wax, a record shop selling electronic music on vinyl, as well as for an electronic music magazine, and also as a DJ in my own right. I am also part of the SIREN collective, made up of women & non-binary DJs, producers and visual artists which we started in early 2016 with the aim of diversifying line-ups in dance music.  None of this would have happened for me if this interest hadn’t been nurtured by my time going out and experiencing this music at The Cellar whilst I was at University, making me realise that it might be possible to pursue music seriously. I wholeheartedly reject any attempt to turn this amazing community hub into another generic retail space.

Celia Stevenson, The Cellar mega-enthusiast

One time I went to cellar in my first year and I found this secret little corridor or alleyway and I never found it again and maybe I dreamt it!  I liked to jump and bang on the ceiling a lot, especially when The Cellar was so rammed that you couldn’t move sideways. And standing on the ledge of the stage looking over the club! I also really like the room to the side for doing more leaping about. And the weird series of corridors. And how you can sneak into the DJ booth. And hiding my coat behind the games machines! Only got stolen twice! 

Gr9 night plan: Get a bit pissed in a location of your choosing (3 goats head, cheap Sam Smith Pints, right round the corner – ideal!). Go to cellar when it opens to beat the q! Get stamp. Go to someone’s room/house, wait a bit. Return to cellar. Smugly walk past chumps in the queue, great. Flash your stamp. Get a drink – only ever halves otherwise you will spill it, and you hate dancing with a drink. Have a dance. Have a cig. Have a dance. Have a cig. Have a dance. 

If it’s too busy at the bar or on the dance floor, go next door to PT, have a time out, and wait for the crowd to thin. Return. Dance and shout a lot. Get with someone you will awkwardly see and studiously ignore the same time next week. Tell them you’ve been hurt before. Lose them somehow. Do more dance. Tell stranger in the queue for the loo how you found and lost the love of your life all in one night. Fight your way onto stage. Jump up and down and touch the ceiling. Alienate everyone. Suddenly outside on the street. You’ve lost everyone you care about. Walk home down Cornmarket. Wake up. Call cellar, arrange time to pick up your phone.

Sign the petition here. 
Comment on the planning application here
Advice from Music Venue Trust on how the public can help here
Tweet #SaveTheCellar