Readers will recall the turmoil that beloved local music venue, The Talking Heads, underwent throughout 2012 with threats of closure looming in early January resulting in a rallying cry from Southampton music lovers and later an attempted arson attack. All was seemingly going to plan with new owners Guy Benfield and Martin White in charge until news emerged late yesterday evening, just over a year on from when the venue’s troubles began, that land owner Mr A. Bajar had put forward a proposal to convert that site into student flats causing panic among fans and regulars.
The news was first brought to the attention of The Edge through the Candle Club’s twitter account.
I managed to catch up with the venue’s sound engineer and day-to-day manager, Richard Harper, to chat about what this all means.
The planning permission put forward for the student flats has gone through. When was this first put forward to you guys as an idea?
As an idea we knew it was going to happen from the outset. From the beginning it was made clear to Guy [Benfield] that as soon as his lease finishes or as soon as he’s had enough then that would be it and they would redevelop.
At the moment is Guy keen to stay on for the full lease?
And, how long is that?
It’s seven years with the potential for an extension of a further three years.
So, obviously this conflicts somewhat with Southampton’s regeneration of the ‘cultural quarter‘, what are your thoughts on that?
Erm… It’s a massive shame. Obviously Southampton City Council have a say as to whether the application goes through or not. I haven’t looked that deeply into it, I don’t know how much has been approved or when they’re going to approve it, but I think it is one of the constraints it [the process]will have to go through. But, if it’s something they’re looking to push – the culture, music and art of Southampton – then in an ideal world they should keep the place on.
You’re well aware of the Save Our Heads campaign and all that’s going on. There’s going to be people out there who are looking to help the Heads, so how can they go about that in the immediate future?
In the immediate future, they just need to keep coming here. So long as there is business we will stay open. It’s as simple as that. As long as Guy is making money and the pub is making money, we have no reason to close.
And, for those looking to keep the Talking Heads going further into the future, do you reckon that ‘cultural quarter’ aspect of Southampton City Council is something that could be looked in to and exploited in terms of keeping this place open?
Potentially. I know that the land owners do support the venue. It’s basically insurance for them because they obviously went into panic mode when the place shut last year., which was then helped out by Guy when he came. But, if Guy didn’t come in, it would have been redeveloped then. So it’s a bit of insurance for them, but if the application goes through it obviously increases their assets on the venue because they’ve got a large space of land with potential to develop it.
So, the important thing to remember is that at the moment The Talking Heads immediate future is safe.
And, the planning permission is not 100%.
No, not at all. The deadline is mid-February, I think.