The Holbeck Underground Ballroom has been an experiment for the last two years.
We had little to spend on marketing but we spread the word about what we were up to the best we could.
If you were doing something creative in the region and the use of 5 railway arches in South Leeds could be of use in the endeavour then you would be welcome. If you had money we’d take it off you, if you didn’t then we’d ask you to contribute in ways that you could.
Beyond that we would give you keys, let you come and go as you please and try to say yes to everything you asked for.
And- in any of the ways that we should care about – it worked. There are groups who use the space weekly, there are new pieces that have only ever been seen in the HUB. We have had club nights, bands, dance rehearsals, film shoots, youth theatre, improvisation groups, metal workers, students, historians, paella makers, mobile fish and chip shops and a woman who covered herself in paint and threw herself at walls.
Hundreds and hundreds of strangers have been given the keys to where we store EVERYTHING the company owns and we’ve been robbed once. By someone who didn’t have keys so they could only steal stuff that was thin enough to get through the bars in the gates (the answer is plasma screens).
Despite some shockingly bad Saturday mornings- and the 3 times that the roof burst and the place flooded- the amount of positive, good willed achievement that’s been managed is extraordinary.
A central part of Slung Low’s plans for the next 3 years is to continue running in the HUB. And to continue running it in the same way and doing the same as we have been doing for the last 18 months.
One of the best things about the HUB has been the ease with which groups can access the space and the freedom that the style of the place has given- as there is the pressure to expand and develop I am aware that those are the very things that might be lost.
So we intend to run the HUB exactly like we have and with the same level of freedom (and slightly carefree attitude to being robbed).
But obviously that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to develop and improve upon.
One of the simple ways we’re developing is by including our big yellow van in the offer the HUB can make. We’ve insured our rather lovely transit van so that other arts companies can borrow it.
And we are opening up the HUB to public performance. We’ve applied for a public licence so that we can more reliably present more performance work to the public.
We’ll be continuing our programme of Christmas Fayre type events where we bring people together to sell goods, tell stories, sing songs and eat food. But alongside this style of event we’ll be much more active in the future in hosting performance work.
To start this programme we have the rather wonderful Tassos Stevens at the HUB tonight with his Jimmy Stewart show. It’ll be (much inspired by Hannah Nicklin’s Performance in the Pub amongst others) pay what you can (details here www.slunglow.org if you fancy popping along you’d be really welcome).
The other thing we’ll be doing is planting an allotment at the HUB.
It is an ambition of ours to reach the point where we are producing an amount of food at the HUB that would have a positive impact on the people who use the HUB.
Because the large yard at the HUB has to be used in many different ways we have decided to plant our new and extended allotment in old baths which we can put on wheel and move around when we need to. A mobile market garden.
The allotment will be planted at the end of March by people who have used the HUB in the last few months. I reckon we’ll be eating an awful lot of salad and aubergine by the end of August.
Later this year we’ll be moving a hive of bees on to site and looking into next year we’ll be taking over little plots of abandoned land around the HUB to plant additional crops (much inspired by this rather fantastic project here (www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk).
Hopefully year on year we’ll be increasing the impact that the planting will have, providing more food for more people using the HUB. You’ll all have to come round for dinner come harvest time.
Details of the Holbeck Underground Ballroom can be found at Slung Low’s website here: www.slunglow.org