Debts force £15m pop music heritage centre into insolvency

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The Independent Culture

The National Centre for Popular Music called in insolvency experts to take over the running of the cash-strapped attraction. The £15m centre in Sheffield opened in March to mixed reviews and struggled to attract the number of visitors it had hoped for.

The National Centre for Popular Music called in insolvency experts to take over the running of the cash-strapped attraction. The £15m centre in Sheffield opened in March to mixed reviews and struggled to attract the number of visitors it had hoped for.

Now the insolvency practitioners PricewaterhouseCoopers have been brought in after the companies that run the centre, Music Heritage Ltd and Music Heritage Enterprises Ltd, were unable to pay their debts, making the centre technically insolvent. The centre's directors are proposing company voluntary arrangements, an insolvency procedure whereby a company's directors come to a compromise with its creditors, to ease the financial crisis and start afresh.

A creditors' meeting has been called for 2 November but the centre will continue to trade normally while creditors consider the company's proposals. If the creditors refuse the proposal, the business may go into liquidation.

The centre, which received £11m in National Lottery funding, expected 400,000 people to visit annually but only 104,000 had been through the doors in the first six months.

The figures prompted managers to cut 16 of the 79 jobs and to appoint a new director, Martin King, who took up his post this month with a responsibility to increase visitors.

Sheffield won the battle to house the national pop centre after a fierce tussle with higher-profile bidders, including London and Liverpool.

The centre's futuristic design, likened to stainless-steel curling stones or saucepans, won acclaim for the architect Nigel Coates but its contents received less favourable reviews.

Critics said the centre's hands-on approach, where visitors were encouraged to try playing instruments or mixing videos, was limited and complained at the lack of rock memorabilia.

The problems at the centre are the latest in a series to hit new attractions in Yorkshire. The Royal Armouries in Leeds was almost forced to close earlier this year because of a £20m debt and the Earth Centre near Doncaster, which was billed as the world's first "green" theme park, announced job losses after lower-than-expected visitor numbers.

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