New Sound System at the Cambridge Corn Exchange

CHRIS MANN: Cambridgeshire music fans are getting a late Christmas present. A new modern sound system costing £200,000 is to be installed at Cambridgeshire’s Corn Exchange, to attract a wider range of performers, and improve the venue’s profitability. It will replace the present system , which is, believe it or not, over twenty years old. Well let’s find out more from Councillor Rod Cantrill, Executive Councillor for Arts, Sports and Public Places. Rod, Good evening to you.
ROD CANTRILL: Good evening Chris.
CHRIS MANN: It’s about twenty years, twenty five now, since the Corn Exchange changed its use and became a major music venue. How long is it now?
ROD CANTRILL: That’s right. We’re celebrating our twenty fifth anniversary this year, and the sound system, as you mentioned, the architecture of it goes back to the original renovation, twenty five years ago.
CHRIS MANN: What was the Corn Exchange before that?
ROD CANTRILL: Well it’s had various purposes in the past, from a venue where there was .. you could get afternoon tea .. to roller skating, to musical concerts. So it has had a varied range of activities, and clearly the purpose of the venue originally was a corn exchange, where one traded corn.
CHRIS MANN: Yes. No more of course. Is it a public building?
ROD CANTRILL: It is. It’s owned by the City Council, and it’s one of the buildings that we do cherish actually. The architecture is something which is quite distinct in the city centre.
CHRIS MANN: It’s very beautiful, both inside and out. So you’ve obviously had, and still continue to have, some really top line artists there, but you need to improve the facilities. Just explain why.
ROD CANTRILL: Well the City Council has embarked on a strategy that we started last year, to improve the performance of the venue, refresh the artists’ slate, but also improve the financial performance. So at the moment, in the last year the financial performance of the venue was that the City Council subsidised it by about £500,000. And in the current financial year we’re seeking to reduce that subsidy by £350,000. And then we’re seeking to reduce it even further by £150,000, over the next two years.
CHRIS MANN: So it will be making money.
ROD CANTRILL: Well, it will break even hopefully. And the plan would be that this investment is a way to actually achieve that additional £150,000.
CHRIS MANN: At the moment you have to actually rent in amps and so on on occasions.
ROD CANTRILL: Indeed. Unfortunately the current provision is not adequate for a modern gig or modern performance, and so we do rent in equipment. And what the investment will enable us to do is a: service existing artists in a better way, but b: also enable us to attract a much more varied artist slate, such as world music, jazz and folk, that at the moment we’re not able to access because they aren’t prepared to come to the venue and actually accept rented equipment.
CHRIS MANN: Oh really! It’s the artists themselves who’ve got the standards, if you like, and won’t lower them?
ROD CANTRILL: Yes. And actually a venue of this nature really does need a modern up to date sound system in order to compete with many other venues around the country.
CHRIS MANN: Well, well done for that. Look forward to it. Rod Cantrell, thank you so much for joining us. Executive Councillor for Arts, Sports and Public Places.

17:55 Friday 6th January 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire