*Editor notes* This article first appeared in the January Edition of [WAM] Magazine but following today news about Old Town House closing in April (read more here). We look forward to supporting the venue for the next three months – Lee**
With 11 years experience working at Pyramid & Parr Hall, Jen Burgess signed the contract to bring the Old Town House on Buttermarket Street back to life.
Doors were opened whilst juggling things around her day job alongside business partner, Cait (of much celebrated Roughneck Riot), and whole host of friends and family who have given their time to get the doors open.
Almost two years later, Jen alongside husband Garreth continue to fly the flag for live music in the town, proving not to just be a home for the couple (literally), but for the those who come in through the door and leave as friends.
Jen tells us: “There’s certainly times when it’s not ideal-living over the bar, especially If you want to have a quiet night in for example!”
What was set up based on a passion for live music and love of the DIY Scene, is now a beautiful space for musicians, be they local or national or even international!
Determination to make a place for like-minded people to come together, Old Town House was reopened in Mid June 2017 after a number of failed attempts to sustain the venue with name changes and a number of different landlords over the years.
Like the punk scene OTH rose from, the local community got involved to bring the venture to live after contracts were signed on April 1st. The key aim, to make their new
venture a “Safe Place for everyone”, inclusive of all kinds of music and tastes. Whilst the venue is keen to involve all genres of music, it is very much punk, Ska and rock which takes up the calendar. It is these nights which have not only helped local bands get an opportunity on the touring scene, but brought international artists to Warrington.
Many of the live events are free entry.
Those who wish to show their gratitude have the opportunity buy band merchandise or to put money into a tin pot on the bar which helps to offset costs.Highlights for Jen often comes when they playhost to big names on the circuit and this includes Russian anti-fascism Rap and hard core-punk band ‘Moscow Death Brigade’ who share many of the same ideals with the events bar.
AgendA, an LGBT group has also found a home here, having put on a number of highly popular events. Reiterating that an inclusive safe place is important for everyone can be found on a sign behind the bar; ‘Don’t be a Dick’.
“We won’t accept anybodies prejudices” – Jen
Whilst we talk, it is clear that the venue is turning newcomers into regulars and regulars into friends. However the core members of OTH continue to not take a wage as they have since day one, and it has been a struggle to keep afloat in what is an incredibly tough economic climate which sees around 18 pubs close each week across the UK.
This led to the owners putting out a crowd funder in July 2018, to help raise money to keep the venue open. “There was a few who thought we shouldn’t be going about things the way we were, as far as we’re concerned, we’re a community space, trying to do something as unconventional as we are- and it was incredibly to see how much people wanted to help a DIY venue, be that with their time, their money or their ideas”.
As well as live music, the pub offers board game nights, quiz nights as well as a food menu where everything on the menu can be made for vegetarian/ vegan diets (all vegan “meats” are homemade).
Looking forward to 2019, Jen is focusing on “getting better” at everything including marketing, and embracing the opportunity to to learn every day and ensure a sustainability on its own.
Looking back on her time running the Old Town House, she is proud however to know that “the venue has always been ran the way they wanted to do so and they have never compromised on their visions which makes the space unique.
They gave us the chance to be on stage and it opened opportunities for us.
– Liam Fraser, Hollow Vandals
It’s become a rallying point for the resurgence of the Town’s music scene. most importantly it’s a place I call home.
– Kyle Richardson-Nickle, Passionflower
It epitomises what a live music venue is all about. They really have put Warrington on the map – Mark Hodgkins, TicNoToc