‘York’s in danger of becoming a playground for the wealthy and tourists’

Club Salvation's future is in doubt. Photograph: Club Salvation on Facebook

York must do more to protect its nightclubs and music venues – or risk losing a healthy mix of culture – according to two councillors.

Councillors Jonny Crawshaw and Pete Kilbane praised the city’s attractions – including its museums, theatres and heritage sites – but said nightclubs, bingo halls and football grounds are also important to residents.

But Liberal Democrats highlighted the new Community Stadium, investment in libraries and plans to develop the area around Clifford’s Tower and Piccadilly – saying the future is bright for culture in York.


Club Salvation in George Hudson Street is set to be turned into holiday flats after planning permission was granted.

Society Bar on Rougier Street could be demolished to make way for a new Roman visitor attraction.

And the future of Fibbers is uncertain after club promoter Tim Hornsby said the venue was closing – although the leaseholder of the site said it will remain open. He has been approached for an update.

Bingo halls and football grounds

The Mecca Bingo Hall in York
Cllr Kilbane said York needed to provide entertainment for all. He said:

  • We need to ensure that the city centre has something for everyone who lives here, otherwise York’s in danger of becoming a playground for the wealthy, for tourists and for day trippers.

    It’s not about the business, it’s about the building – once you have lost that space it is difficult to get it back.

    Planning decisions change the nature of the city and we think that those judgements should give equal weight to all cultural venues.

    Bingo halls, football grounds and nightclubs are culturally more significant to many people than theatre, opera and ballet.

He said young people could be forced to look elsewhere for entertainment: “In years to come, if you are an 18 year old living in Rawcliffe and you fancy a big night out, where are you going to go? York or Leeds?

“We are in danger of becoming a dormitory town.

“When you lose a club, it’s very difficult to get a new licence for a similar venue.

“There should be some compensation – the space needs to be replicated somewhere else if it’s going to go.”

Clubs are culture

Jonny Crawshaw. Photograph: York Labour Party / YouTube
Cllr Crawshaw added that nightclubs can count as culture too: “There is a really wide range of what culture means – it is in the eye of the beholder.

“If you’ve got a bad nightclub – make it better – don’t shut it down.

“DJing is a skill and a good DJ is a live act just as much as any other performer – the line between a person with a musical instrument and a DJ has been blurred.

“We need these venues if we are going to have a healthy mix of culture in the city.”

“For bigger name bands, DJs or artists to come to York, they have to have a sense of it being worth their while. We can’t rely on two or three venues – good as they may be – it’s about the reputation of the city.

He added that for more famous bands, DJs and musicians to come to York to perform, the city needs to have a good reputation for hosting events.


Cllr Darryl Smalley, City of York Council’s executive member for culture, said he is keen to work to protect the city’s music venues.

He said: “Last week I listened to French psych-rockers The Big Idea at Victoria Vaults, next week I’ll enjoy the Making a Masterpiece exhibition at York Art Gallery. These are two very different cultural pulls, hosted by equally different venues.

“We shouldn’t get into a battle over what culture is more important. We’re lucky in York to both have great theatres and art galleries, as well as outdoor screenings of Grease – we need this rich variety to continue.

“I’m happy to work with Cllrs Kilbane and Crawshaw about how we might go about protecting music venues in our city. We should recognise however that York does well at the moment, including cultural investments such as the new Community Stadium, Acomb and Clifton libraries and the Castle Gateway scheme. The future is bright for culture in York.”