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We have only days to save successful local arts organisation

Green Party candidate for Cabot Ward, Ani Stafford-Townsend, has appealed to local Bristolians to help save Residence from losing their tenancy at the Milk Bar. In a leaflet delivered to every household in Cabot by Young SouthWest Greens, Ani urges residents to sign Residence's e-petition[1].


The collective of theatre makers, performers, and live artists, have held the tenancy at 11 St Nicholas Street since 2009. Under the Council's now defunct Capacity scheme, Residence benefitted from a peppercorn rent. A success story for the kind of Council investment in cultural regeneration Greens support, Residence can now afford to pay the market rate.

But Residence have been advised that several commercial businesses have put in above-market rate bids for the tenancy, and that the decision is likely to be made on financial value alone. Residence have no alternative venue, and Ani fears a vital piece of Bristol's independent cultural scene will be lost. The decision on the tenancy is due to be made this Friday.

An open letter to Bristol [2] has been published on Residence's website, with signatures including the Director of Mayor George Ferguson's Tobacco Factory; Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner; and senior figures from various local and national cultural institutions.

Ani Stafford-Townsend, Green Party candidate for Cabot Ward, said,

"if commercial retailers can afford to bid over the market value, then they can afford a tenancy elsewhere. Residence will struggle to find an alternative venue that meets their operational needs. There is a big issue here about how the Council uses its landlord status to best support groups like Residence. Every £1 spent in the arts generates £4 for the economy, so supporting Residence is economically sensible too."

Ella GoodArtist and member of Residence, said,

"Residence want to take on the lease at the rate that the council has advertised the property for - we're not asking for a freebie or a hand out. We believe the council should take into account Residence’s six year history of managing and maintaining 11 St Nicholas Street. We've created an artistic hub which has made a huge contribution to the cultural reputation of Bristol. Losing the building means the livelihoods of the seventeen artists who work from there will all be put at risk"

Charlie Bolton, Leader of Council Green Group, said, 

"This would be a great loss for Bristol's vibrant cultural scene. It also raises serious questions about how the Council uses its landlord status to decide on tenancies. Simply going with the highest bidder prevents local residents from shaping their own communities. I call on Officers to look at Residence's track record as a tenant; their reputation locally, regionally, and nationally; and allow them to remain. As a Council, we need to ensure that these decisions aren't made purely financially. Bristol is a community run for residents, not a corporation run for shareholders"


Ani Stafford-Townsend is the Green Party candidate for Cabot Ward in May 2015's local elections.

Charlie Bolton is the Leader of the Green Group on Bristol City Council.

Residence is a community interest company, a group of 17 artists who all make performance in one form or another. They work as a collective, and share a space at 11 St Nicholas Street aka the Milk Bar.

[1] Keep Residence in the Milk Bar! (573 signatures as of 11:25 25/1/15 )

[2] An open letter to Bristol (accessed 11:35, 25/1/15)

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