One of the things I love the most about the indie scene in the UK is how kind it is. I like the collective feeling of being part of something – even if it is only a set long. Following the recent wave of closures across the UK of indie bars and clubs, it feels a bit as if we are fighting a losing battle to keep places open. While I operate a strict no Wetherspoons policy, it does seem tougher and tougher for the independents to survive.
This kindness that I’ve experienced and sense of belonging has been vital in my life as a bisexual then lesbian woman, a goth girl then punk grown up and as a music obsessive turned vinyl collector. It’s where, pre–internet, we went to get our kicks. So I was shocked to discover on Facebook that one of my favourite bars in Nottingham had been vandalised.
If you don’t know where the Chameleon is then you are missing out. Just off market square and above the Card Zone on Angel Row. It is a fantastic space for chilled out drinks or hedonistic head banging at gigs. It’s been through a fair few make overs throughout the years but the current space is owned, styled and run by John Rothera and Lauren Insley.
The bar was the target of someone who, presumably, doesn’t understand community. This person felt the need to rip sinks off walls, pull out a live electrical cable from the wall, flood the bathroom, smash window fans, smash lights and also steal neon lights. Who does this sort of thing in this environment? The bar set up a GoFundMe after being begged by patrons to let them help. The response was incredible. The target of £2,700 was smashed in just a few hours and is currently over £4,000.
I asked John and Lauren what the fundraiser and money means to independent business owners.
What inspired you to start the funding campaign
There were no plans for a fundraiser initially; it began merely as a Facebook post intended to inform people what had happened. Working in this industry you obviously expect to have maintenance jobs here and there and the odd bit of graffiti so we’ve never said anything before. But this time it was extensive enough to really hurt so we felt we had to put something out there. The amount of people that suggested doing a fundraiser was overwhelming so we thought, why the hell not!
How has the massive response made you feel?
Obviously, the response has far exceeded anything we could have ever imagined. We expected it to gain some traction after the amount of reactions to the initial Facebook post but I think we reached the target, which I might add was a pretty steep target, in about five hours. We’re totally blown away at people’s generosity and it really shows how supportive the community is.
Why do you think people are so affected by this?
I think it resonated with people down to a few reasons really. The Nottingham DIY music scene is super strong; everyone knows everyone and we have each other’s backs. When things like this happen it strikes a chord because, it’s as much the community’s space as it is ours. Also, the prevalence of independent music venue closures in the media has drawn attention to the difficulty of running a business like this to the forefront of people’s minds. The Maze has sadly just gone so we’ve now pretty much got us, Stuck on a Name and JT Soar that are keeping it underground.
How long have you been running the Chameleon?
We have been here for about four-and-half years now. It originally began with me and a couple of close friends doing things as they had always been done before. We hit some rough patches along the way, some down to licensing and environmental health issues. Lauren decided to match my initial investment around that time. We decided to have a fairly extensive refurbish of the bar area and try to turn the business around. Since then it’s just been us two trying our damnedest to book as many nights into the diary as possible and sell enough decent beer to keep the doors open. Also, I have to mention the fact that Simon the sound engineer has now been here for eight or nine years and, without him, there wouldn’t be a Chameleon.
What changes are you thinking of making with the funds raised?
The fundraiser has gone way beyond what we initially set as a target, which would have been more than enough to fix the damage. We’ve just been in touch with a bar fitting/maintenance company who are coming down over the next few days to see what can be done with the money raised. We’re hoping the bathrooms can be made to be pretty tamper-proof and if there is anything left over we’ll hopefully be able to get a few other jobs done.
Want to donate? Find the fundraiser here