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Community Ownership Story

In 2007 the owners of Komedia, an arts and entertainment venue operating in Brighton, were invited by BANES Council to convert The Beau Nash into mixed use live entertainment. The Grade 2 listed building had opened in 1908 as the first cinema in the West of England but had sat derelict for a number of years. Komedia Bath opened in November 2008 picking up the National Constructing Excellence Award for the Best Renovation of a Listed Building in the UK. Over the following years, with a wide programme of comedy, music, cabaret, spoken word and community events, Komedia Bath became part of the cultural fabric of the city and the region

In 2017, the owners chose to take the bold step to offer to cede control of the business to the local community, ultimately becoming one of the first community owned venues in the country.

Back then, many pubs had been saved from the threat of closure by their local communities coming together, chipping in and taking ownership. But there wasn’t a model in place for doing the same kind of thing with venues. Still, the owners and management team were inspired by the concept and believed that it was the way forward – setting a model for independent venues across the country. Many others have now done the same, including Bristol’s Exchange, Le Pub in Newport and UPP Oxford. 

We had a target of £350,000 and offered shares for the minimum investment of £250, as well as accepting smaller donations. We enlisted the help of Crowdfunder UK to help us navigate the campaign and our team spent lots of time going out and about to chat with the members of the local community, doing crack-of-dawn radio interviews and even putting on a fundraising gala at the venue to raise awareness of the campaign. 

We are delighted to say that, with your help and some match funding from Big Society Capital, we reached our target 68 days later and were able to begin the legal transition from a Limited Company to a Community Benefit Society. We won’t lie, this part of the process took a lot longer than we had anticipated, but we got there in the end and have been registered with the Financial Conduct Authority under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 as a Community Benefit Society (registration number: 8079) since 2019.

Aside from the impressive sounding legalese, the really cool thing is that this means we now have 227 Members who each own a share of the business and who each have a say when it comes to certain matters of the Society. One investment – whether £250 or £2,500 – means one vote, so no single Member can literally shout louder than anyone else.  

Additionally, becoming a CBS has meant that protections are now in place and Komedia Bath will never trade as anything but a community-focused entertainment venue.

We now have a Board of Directors that consists of  Members, employees and others who have been co-opted from the local community to bring expertise in certain fields – such as accessibility, education, the music industry or the business sector. As well as board meetings, we hold an Annual General Meeting to help steer the venue, allow Members to vote on important decisions and to keep everyone up-to-date with how the business is trading. 

Since converting to a CBS, we have seen some of the strongest years of trading Komedia Bath has ever had – and that’s factoring in a global pandemic and a cost of living crisis. As we have sadly seen so many other venues around the country succumb to these pressures, we consider ourselves extremely lucky to have had the support of our amazing community, and plan to keep on growing and improving on what we do every year. 

Since the very beginning, the Komedia ethos has been rooted in a love of live performance and a belief in its power to add to the sum of human happiness. But, since becoming a CBS, we’ve thought more about what this might mean in the context of our immediate community and have devised a set of core values that we now live by. 

Our Community Values:

We want to ensure that we are here for the long run, providing a diverse array of events for the people of Bath and the surrounding areas. We thank everyone who invested in or donated towards our Community Ownership Campaign in 2017 and helped secure the future of the venue. But, we also rely on the skills and expertise of our small, dedicated management team to keep day-to-day operations running smoothly and successfully. We understand that the venue wouldn’t be where it is today without these people and we make it a priority to provide training, support their growth and invest in them. 

We want to nurture local and upcoming talent, as well as those aspiring towards careers in the events sector. With partnerships now in place with Bath Spa University, The University of Bath and Bath College, we are building strong links between the venue and the local education sector and we are learning from each other. Many of our current team members are students or graduates of our local higher education institutions and countless performers have reached our stages through their courses. 

We want to be part of a vibrant city and we see other entertainment businesses as offering choice for the community, not competition for us. We work with Bath Festivals, Bath Carnival, Bath Fringe, FilmBath, The Children’s Literature Festival, MUW Shed as well lots of other fantastic local organisations and strongly believe that a venue can only succeed if the rest of the arts ecosystem around it is also healthy and supported.

We are a member of the Music Venues Trust and believe that the grassroots music sector has a stronger voice together than as individual entities. 

We want to be accessible to everyone. We’re still working on this goal, but since becoming a CBS, we’ve implemented British Sign Language interpretation at some of our most popular events and we’re proud to run a hugely popular club night exclusively for adults with learning disabilities, in partnership with Bath Mencap. We’re working towards optimising our website in line with Attitude is Everything guidelines for accessibility, have improved staff training on the subject and are always striving towards better inclusivity in our programming and wider approach. 

We want to be a safe space for all artists, customers and staff who enter the building. We are part of Bath BID, work hand in hand with Safe & Secure and provide anti-sexual harassment training to all staff members as part of the #NeverOkayCampaign.

Money isn’t everything. We believe in keeping our ticket prices, drinks prices and booking fees as fair as possible to minimise personal financial status being a barrier to entry. We provide concessionary rate tickets for all of our most popular in-house productions and have an ever-growing programme of free entry events, which are supported by funding from Arts Council England. These include our Sunday afternoon Electric Bar Sessions and our quarterly Free Community Music Festivals, which feature five bands across two stages. All ages are welcome and there is no ticket fee whatsoever. 

Sustainability matters. We care about being a green venue and have slashed the amount of single use plastic we have by eliminating plastic straws and introducing reusable hard plastic cups and a Cup Deposit Scheme. We are currently looking into having solar panels installed on our roof. 

Sharing knowledge is important. As a Community Benefit Society, we believe we have a responsibility to help other venues that are looking to convert to community ownership and will happily discuss our experiences and share what we have learned. Please just ask! 

We care what you think. If you have any feedback about the venue or what we are trying to do, please share your thoughts with us. You can reach us at: info@komediabath.co.uk