The Rivoli Ballroom: A cunning plan

Members of the 'Save the Rivoli Ballroom' Facebook group recently received an email from one of the members, James MacDonald, outlining what can only be described as an ambitious plan.

It's no secret that the Rivoli Ballroom has been advertised for sale - albeit to the right buyer. The current owner, Bill, is ready to retire after 15 years running the Ballroom, but wants to leave the building in safe hands.

The recent listing of the building means that it's no longer at threat from being bulldozed by developers, but there is still a risk that the venue could be bought and turned into something less sympathetic to its history, or given the current climate could fail to attract the right buyer and fall into disrepair.

In his email, James proposes that all those who take an interest in the ballroom join forces to... buy the Rivoli. The price? Well, that would start with a cool £1m down-payment. From there - who knows?

We've since managed to contact James, and he's allowed us to share the next email in the saga, which will be winging its way to Facebook group members soon:


"Thanks to those that got back to me with useful feedback; it seems that the two biggest concerns are:

- Bill, the owner, who seems to have some rather unrealistic ideas what his venue is worth and can pull in, and this may get in the way of meaningful negotiations

- The venue itself is in a rather poor state, has some issues around it and may need some work/ investment to make it the venue what it could be (which is to be expected).

Thanks to those that have offered their help and expertise. Great to see quite a number of people, with all sorts of experience, are committed to making this happen. Instead of having one big meeting, I think the best way to move forward, will be to break the process into a few stages, each stage using the relevant experience of the participants.

Stage 1: PLAN DEVELOPMENT: This will be a smallish meeting with people who have had experience of community-led enterprise and other business-type experience. A small group will save time and be able to get in-depth with the nitty-gritty. We will need to hammer out how to incorporate the enterprise that best protects the community’s interest, crunch the numbers for projecting revenue streams, etc. With this we can approach Bill, the owner, with a proposal. If he accepts, we can move onto Stage 2.

Stage 2: FUNDRAISING: This will be a brainstorming session on how to raise a downpayment and other investment. Hopefully, we will be able to use the Rivoli Ballrooms for some fundraising events. This stage will be relevant to those who have fundraising and event experience, and anyone else who would like to help out, but is unsure what they can contribute. From this, we will be able to create an Action Plan, and start organising.

Stage 3: BUY-OUT: If all goes to plan, this will be the moment, where we sign some sort of agreement with the owner and some transfer of ownership/ rights to an overarching “organising committee” will take place, when the committee will take on the responsibility of running and managing the Ballroom. From then on, it’ll be open to put events on, throw ideas at, and all the good stuff.

Everyone’s contribution will be essential to make this happen, whether in time, effort or money. So thanks again for your interest. The first stage will be the hardest; that is to get Bill to accept a reasonable offer that is affordable for us. We will keep you informed as to the progress through the stages, and look forward to getting together soon."



Now, this masterplan is of course still in the early stages, and no doubt the accountants and lawyers amongst you will have fun finding flaws, but we have to admire James for sticking his neck out and trying to make this dream a reality. What do you think - pie in the sky, or power to the people?

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

6.5 million pounds for 15 years work? I think the council should compulsory purchase order the place and give him a thick ear, the greedy so and so.

Brockley Jon said...

FYI dear Facebook-less readers, anon is referencing the original message from James on Facebook.

However, it isn't clear whether this is the money he's put in (blimey) or the money he expects out (double blimey).

jon s said...

Why offer to buy it???

Just lease it off Bill to an ltd liability company where Bill is given 20% of the shares (the remaining 80% going to whoever buys them or provides specific expertise e.g. events marketing) and run it as a going concern.

I'd give another 20% to the ambassador theatre group to tie up a distribution of supply channel, i.e. get them to send their productions there!!

fabhat said...

It was Bill's expectation that the Rivoli can pull in 3 mill a year that amazed me...if that was the case you could just pay a manager a (hefty) fee and semi retire on the profits...
Would be great if something could be done as it is a fabulous place.

shb said...

3 million sounds unlikely given how little it's open at the moment - I suppose filming's pretty lucrative though.
Theatre-wise, I don't think the Rivoli would work as a receiving house but I'd like to see Punchdrunk do something site specific in there - would raise awareness of the venue too.

fabhat said...

SHB - filming is lucrative up to a point, but not more than about 4-5k a day and stills shoots more like 1k. That's still not going to get three mill a year in income...so someone is going to have to go over the figures with a fine tooth comb.

Brockley Jon said...

Yeah, I think we've all established the "3m a year" figure was just a tad OTT, as James states in his message :)

Headhunter said...

Sounds like he's got some seriously overblown ideas of what the place is worth and how much revenue he could get out of it. I think his overblown valuations led to the original concerns that the place would get bulldozed and turned into flats as that's the only way there would ever be sufficient returns

The Cat Man said...

Why dont they dismantle it and pop it up on the site of the postal delivery office so its near Brockley station.

Better still, the school on Revelon Rd is closing in a yr or two, put it there instead.

Headhunter said...

It's already near Crofton Park station, a move to Brockley station wouldn't make much difference and do you think that the residents of Revelon Rd would relish a night venue/club on their doorstep?

Anonymous said...

It would make an excellent Gentlemen's Burlesque...

Headhunter said...

You mean gay club? They could paint the front pink and have drag shows...

Anonymous said...

wholefood supermarket?

Anonymous said...

Brockley currently has enough wholefoods and organic rye breads to sustain an entire motorway protest group for a hundred years...

Anonymous said...

they already have drag nights don't they?

Headhunter said...

They used to have some drag/burlesque night thing there once a month but then it transferred to some other ballroom in Bloomsbury or something. I don't think they have much other than those jive nights any more

ade said...

perhaps a partnership with Goldsmiths would work? for larger fashion shows and interactive art exhibitions...

Anonymous said...

how about a bookies to give Portland some compo....?

Anonymous said...

the main thing that occurs is that voting rights on decisions would be in proportion to investment made by each person, not per head....

betamatt said...

I hope this comes off - I've thought for ages that the Rivoli would make a great gig venue. I suppose it's a little off the beaten track for many though - despite it being opposite Crofton Park station.
Although once the ELL arrives at Brockley and Honor Oak...

Brockley Jon said...

Indeed, I think it would make a great occassional gig venue for the bands that want something different, and it worked for the White Stripes last year (although it gets very hot apparantly).

I also enquired about hiring it for a wedding reception (cost to be negotiated!) but the owner was not interested in the slightest. Shame.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes wonder if the easy navigational nature of the tube spells the end to "best kept secret in Lewisham" Brockley. I won't be using the tube - it wouldn't take me anywhere I want to go - but it will sure as hell bring people, and Foxtons, here...

patrick1971 said...

Jon - why weren't they interested in hiring it out for a wedding reception? I was thinking that it would make a great function venue and was considering making enquiries for a friend's upcoming 40th.

Anonymous said...

'best kept secret' ought to be consigned to the cliche bin along with 'undiscovered gem' and 'up an comming area'!!

I want to be connected to the rest of London - otherwise why live here?

Anonymous said...

If I wanted to be connected to the best of london I'm not sure I would've moved to the borough of Lewisham - but I like the decrease in house price that comes from living on the doorstep of a shithole.

Headhunter said...

I don't think the fall in house prices is likely to be restricted to the "doorstep of a shithole"! I think we're all in for a rough ride and if anything, property anywhere in London is probably less likely to be affected

Jt said...

Not the best time to retire if your pension is the proceeds from the sale of a property like the ballroom.

Anonymous said...

posting this from my phone. Clever that.

Transpontine said...

I've been to parties there, some friends of mine hired it out for a joint 40th. Good luck with these plans, I hope it can be made to work. I think people would need to be realistic about both the value of the site (presumably declining rapidly along with house prices) and about how much income it gets or could get - I am sure the running costs are quite high, it also needs quite a bit of renovation/maintenance. On the other hand it could be used more than it is (weddings, parties etc.) There is also a flat there isn't there, where Bill and family live? Would this be part of the deal?

Brockley Jon said...

Patrick (& transpontine), yep, it would make the perfect function venue, and has quite a large room out the back as well as the main room. It has mobile disco stuff all ready to go, and a nice bar too.

I don't really know why the bloke wasn't interested, it was a point blank "NO", but I suspect it's because the owner is very precious over it and fears that rowdy wedding receptions will eventually take their toll on it. I certainly can't remember ever going to a wedding reception where anything got trashed!?

Anonymous said...

Ermmm . . . in the 70s I worked at a place which had at least one and sometimes several receptions every saturday & rooms were regularly trashed . . .

The shebang I remember in particular was the one where the bride was arrested, handcuffed and marched away when she continued attacking the groom after the plod had arrived.

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