Our Mission Statement
A Potted History
Over the past 20 years, The Barrel House Ballroom has earned itself a legendary reputation as an intimate gig and live event space, due in no small part, to the creative and adventurous community it serves. Having evolved from an Ad Hoc café gig space into a regular southwest touring venue. We have hosted a huge range of artists, both national and international, such as Aldous Harding, Yolanda Quartney, Willie Mason & Seth Lakeman. The venue’s journey has not been easy and it’s taken us down some interesting paths, that’s for sure, but it’s undeniable how special the venue is to the people of Totnes and anyone who has graced its stage. Despite the usual obstacles facing music venues across the UK over the past 20 years, it has managed to remain independent and adapt to an ever-changing industry. As well as attracting established and up and coming artists for a varied and accessible program, the venue is also firmly part of the local community arts scene, acting as a venue for local festivals, rehearsal space, and host to several music-based initiatives.
In order to secure the financial viability of the venue, the current owners replaced the café with a microbrewery, The Totnes Brewing Co, which through its success as a craft beer bar, has kept the venue upstairs afloat. The Totnes Brewing Co events had fed into the activities of the Ballroom, further enhancing the building’s status as a vital creative hub for artists at all levels of their careers. After years of instability and three sets of owners, 2020 was going to be the start of the venue’s next stage of programming and development but COVID-19 put paid to that and the venue closed in March 2020. Due to the capacity (150 standing) and the layout of the building, it hasn’t been possible to open the venue to the public for gigs until all social distancing measures are dropped. Not only this, The Totnes Brewing Co has also been unable to operate under normal conditions, having dropped its capacity by 50% when open. With barely any income coming in and huge overheads, the future of the venue was not looking great.
But hope… the role of the venue as a creative hub for local artists has enabled the venue to take the next step towards securing its financial future during a huge period of change and instability. Local artists and partners in previous events approached the venue with the idea of using the space as a socially distanced recording studio. The idea took off faster than anyone could have imagined as local artists were keen to keep working and collaborating, and the Ballroom was the ideal space. A grant from the Arts Council’s Emergency Response Fund covered the overheads for the Ballroom and enabled the development of The Sorting Room Studios and ensured the Ballroom was not lost in the short term. During these months we applied for a second grant to help develop this plan and keep the Ballroom in use. In October 2020 we were awarded a much bigger grant by Arts Council England which will enable us to relaunch The Barrel House Ballroom in a more financially viable model in collaboration with The Sorting Room Studio. This will involve working with all our usual programming partners on creating strands of content and hopefully, when permissible, a series of curated music events. The grant will also cover the cost of a new website and enable us to work on a new business plan for the Ballroom that will ensure its future viability in today’s world.
The COVID-19 health emergency has been devastating for the music and hospitality industry and we have been incredibly lucky to be able to survive until now. This is due, in part, to the dedication to, and affection for the venue by local artists, programmers and promoters. And of course, thanks should also go to Arts Council England and The Music Venue Trust, who were able to work with the government to secure and distribute funds quickly and efficiently. We have been lucky in that COVID-19 has actually given us the breathing space and opportunity to reimagine the Barrel House Ballroom and its place within the industry as well as the local community, going forwards.
We are looking forward to having you through the doors soon.
The Barrel House Team.