Tunbridge Wells’ award-winning venue The Forum has made its love of live music official by becoming a Community Interest Company and Social Enterprise business.
Social Enterprise businesses are on the rise and are a means of putting society ahead of profit.
Among the guests hearing the plans at a Forum party were the Deputy Mayor David Neve and councillor Jane March, cabinet member for tourism, leisure and economic development.
The venue has plans to spend £10,000 to become fully inclusive for all music fans, with new provisions for the disabled and hard of hearing.
Co-owner Richard Simm said The Forum is applying for initial funding to the borough council for a Community Capital Grant of up to £4,000 to install disabled toilets and a hearing loop, which will boost the sound of the music electronically.
It has plans to raise the rest through a raft of new schemes, which follow on from the recent Musicians Club initiative to help up and coming local talents.
“We used to be a limited company, but as of December 3 The Forum became a registered Community Interest Company, which is widely known as a Social Enterprise – a not-for-profit organisation,” Richard Simm explained
“Essentially, it means we can’t earn money from the business. If there is any profit made it will be put straight back into the The Forum. So we can’t take dividends or salaries, and there’s an asset lock.
“The funny thing is the fact that has always been the case – running The Forum is a labour of love, and it’s a very expensive hobby, but that’s what we do. This is like an official stamp confirming it.”
The Forum has achieved national fame since winning the NME’s prestigious Best Small Venue Award four years ago.
At the moment, The Forum only gets sponsorship from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) for Unfest, which launches the town’s summer festival season.
“But we are speaking to the council about applying for that special grant,” said Richard Simm.
“Later in January we will launch the new initiative properly, and we will also launch a Friends of the Forum membership scheme plus a patron scheme to raise funds for improvements.
“Additionally, we would like corporate sponsorship from local employers, and we are talking to the Arts Council at the moment as well TWBC. We are looking at crowdfunding, too. The more money we get the better we can make things. That’s the plan.”
Cllr Jane March said: “Owners Jason Dormon, Richard Simm and Mark Davyd are doing a fantastic job, and I’d like to see more people signing up to the Musicians Club because musicians ought to be supporting each other.
“Music of all kinds fits into what we are looking at for Tunbridge Wells, which is very cultural. We need to encourage that.
“The Forum is amazing. It’s right on the map, and I feel quite honoured to be part of what is happening. They might have to do it little by little but there are some things that they feel really passionately about.
“They want to be open to everyone, to be fully inclusive, and they want to add a hearing loop and disabled facilities because they have so many people coming who enjoy the whole experience of being in a venue like this and being treated normally. That’s what they come here for.”