A STALWART of Barnsley’s live music scene has been brought back from the brink - and promises more than just what punters remember.
Paula Price-Davies, new manager of the Old School House on Summer Lane, agrees the venue has become a historic rite of passage for local acts - and before its closure ahead of the pandemic, the club regularly saw packed-out crowds.
She hopes she can restore the venue’s fortunes, while also using her varied arts background to offer new experiences - including comedy, poetry and events - that make use of a newly-refurbished auditorium.
The business, which reopened as the Old School House in 2016, launched a campaign to find new leaseholders last August which quickly drew interest.
“The bar side was open for the Euros but the venue has been closed since last January,” said Paula.
“Covid was the initial reason, then there was the change of management but also a change in interest by the director.
“Before, it was very much heavy rock and punk and goth focused, and - while there's still a place for that, and we will be pulling some old bands into the programme - the aim is to reach a wider variety of audiences.
“We've never had comedy on, for example, but some of the best on the circuit at the minute will be headlining.
“Post-pandemic, it seems that people don't want to commit too far into the future - but one thing I would say has happened is that people who do enjoy live arts have really missed it.
“From a punter's point of view, they really appreciate it now, and I hope people will support us.”
The events space is in the final stages of a huge rework.
False ceilings have been removed to uncover 'beautiful' original support beams and features.
The auditorium will also include new bar facilities and a kitchen, with new windows, plastering and soundproofing.
Paula will be calling on 30 years of experience in the arts.
She was general manager at the Kenton Theatre - the fourth-oldest working theatre in the country - in Henley, where she also worked with the local council on the historic Henley Royal Regatta and Henley Festival.
She's currently split between Barnsley and Oxford but hopes to make more of a base in the town.
Paula has been working with Chris Scarfe, part of the team behind Barnsley Live festival, to make sure the venue - built in 1877 as a school and formerly the Polish Club, also once renamed Barnsley Rock and Blues Venue - can retain its place.
“It has a reputation for nurturing up and coming talent, which something we would love to do,” added Paula.
“One day a month, we'll be looking at putting on up-and-coming bands - that's where I'm looking for that local knowledge.
“I want to get out and about.
“It's quite a thriving scene and it seems to have heritage.
“I know it's something we should be offering, and it's going to be fantastic in the auditorium.
“It's a lovely intimate venue, with great acoustics. It still has its charms.”
The venue is hosting a Barnsley Live launch party on Friday, September 24.
Chris added: “When it was announced that the Old School House was closing, there was a real feeling of despondency amongst the Barnsley music community.
“It was easily the best venue in town for the sound and lighting. So to lose that, after months of little to no live music due to the pandemic, was a real blow.
“But when Paula contacted Barnsley Live to tell us they were reopening their doors, we were determined to include them in this year’s festival somehow.
“They have some really ambitious plans for the place, so we’re excited to see how it pans out.”