One of the UK’s most popular and well-respected independent music venues, The Owl Sanctuary in Norwich, is set to close at the end of the month after being bought by local property developer Richard Pratt.
The closure of the venue - which has held a number of gigs from the best of Norwich’s own music scene, underground bands from as far away as Japan and Brazil, and acts that have gone on to find commercial success like Mercury Prize-nominated Slaves - was announced in an emotional Facebook post which garnered over 7,000 likes and 5,000 shares in the hours following its publication.
It is believed Pratt, who also owns the furniture store situated next door to the venue, plans to knock down the buildings in order to build a block of flats in their place. According to the Eastern Daily Press, he described how he had been trying to buy the pub for three or four years as an “investment” and that, while he has “no plans for the property at the moment,” it is “common knowledge” he has planning permission for the building next door.
The announcement of the closure has prompted a huge outcry from Norwich punters and beyond, and an official campaign has been set up in an attempt to save it. The Give a Hoot campaign is urging supporters of the Owl to nominate the pub as a Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Asset of Community Value, which would prevent its demolition or change into anything other than a pub.
Supporters are being urged to donate to a JustGiving page set up to aid the owners, and to sign a petition designed to be sent to local city councillors. Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, also weighed in on the matter, pledging to do what he can to help the venue.
Thousands of social media posts across both Facebook and Twitter also demonstrated the massive popular support behind the venue, its ethos and staff, and The Norwich Soup Movement, which is also based on the premises, with comments expressing sadness at the situation, condolences and gratitude to the owners and staff, and determination to stop the closure going ahead.
In a recent Facebook post, it was stated the venue’s owner will be meeting with the council to tell them more about the venue’s work concerning “local arts, community and culture” in order for them to evaluate the request to be listed as an Asset of Community Value, after the CAMRA nominations campaign was successful.
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