Liverpool venue that launched a generation of bands faces closure

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The Independent Culture

A generation after the closure of the Cavern Club, Liverpool is to close down another seminal music venue set up with help from Sir Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono and Pete Townshend and a springboard for some of the city's best-known bands.

The Picket club hosted the first gigs of bands such as The La's, Cast and Space after being created during the 1980s recession to help the city's emerging musicians.

But last night, Philip Hayes, the venue's manager, said The Picket was on the brink of closure despite last-ditch attempts to save it by Travis, Blur and several of Liverpool's music luminaries.

Fran Healy, of Travis, said the venue was the finest the band had played in during its 13-year-career.

"The Picket is the embodiment of what the city of Liverpool has always stood for - the humour, the warmth, the passion, the hospitality, the hope, the simplicity and the depth," he said.

"By destroying The Picket, you are losing a lot more than a building. It cannot be replaced. It's a sad day for the music business, a sad day for the local community and a sad day for Liverpool."

It is 36 years since the city pulled down the original Cavern Club, the home of The Beatles - a decision it has lived to deeply regret. And it is 23 years since it shut Eric's, another legendary club that nurtured a wave of Eighties bands such as Echo and the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, The Mighty Wah! and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

The Picket is part of The People's Centre, which opened 20 years ago, in the wake of the Liverpool to London "People's March for Jobs".

The centre is close to the city's two Cathedrals in two 160-year-old listed buildings that were once the headquarters of Merseyside Police.

It also offers skills training, a crèche, a gymnasium and other facilities aimed primarily at the unemployed.

The centre was launched with a concert by Paul Weller's band The Style Council, Liverpool group The Farm and Scouse playwright Alan Bleasdale, who wrote Boys from The Blackstuff.

The La's cut their first demo tape in The Picket's studio in 1984 ahead of making the single "There She Goes". The studio was set up with donations from Ringo Starr, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello and Phil Collins, among others.

In September last year, it was among the recipients of plaques awarded by the BBC radio station 6Music to the city's musical landmarks. Others included Penny Lane.

But the People's Centre has slipped further and further into the red and now has debts of £500,000.

Grants from Liverpool City Council have fallen by £100,000 a year over the last five years.

Bob Braddock, who is co-ordinator of the centre, said the only way of saving the project was to sell the building and move to smaller premises.

He confirmed that The Picket would not be a part of the smaller centre.

Mr Braddock said: "I am getting bombarded with e-mails but no-one from the British Phonographic Industry to rock stars like Billy Bragg has been able to say, 'This is how you get the money'."

A spokesman for Liverpool City Council said: "A spokesman for Liverpool City Council said: "We cannot be a cash cow. We were the most generous city in the country when it came to giving grants to different community organisations. Clearly we have to balance that with delivering services to people."