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Owl Sanctuary will move into former strip-club on Norwich’s Timber Hill

PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 February 2016 | UPDATED: 08:24 05 February 2016

Dan Hawcroft at his new premises for the Owl Sanctuary, tucked away in Timberhill. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Dan Hawcroft at his new premises for the Owl Sanctuary, tucked away in Timberhill. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2016

The Owl Sanctuary’s “best kept secret” has been revealed as they announce their new venue - made possible by a crowd-funding campaign - will be a former strip-club on Timber Hill.

Tributes to old friend in new home

Among the silver linings that have come from being forced to find a new home, is the opportunity to remember a friend.

William Croft, a renowned local musician and close friend of pub owner Dan Hawcroft, tragically lost his life in January this year.

And so, as a tribute to a close mate and a regular at the Owl Sanctuary, the gig room at the new venue will be named in his honour.

Mr Hawcroft said: “Will was one of the most talented, kind-hearted musicians I’ve ever met in my life.”

“I thought it would be something that he would’ve liked - to have the venue named after him - it’s something his family will like as well and I’ve spoken to his Mum and she’s really happy with it.”

A website has also been set up by the members of Mr Croft’s former band to commemorate his life as a musician.

Anyone who has any recordings, photos or videos of Mr Croft in action can contact friend and former band member Jacob Solstice by emailing jacob.solstice@gmail.com

Loyal customers were delighted as the team behind the venue confirmed their relaunch has been set for February 19, with a new home secured just days after their final weekend.

The pub on Cattle Market Street closed its doors on Sunday, after staff were told the building had been bought.

But gigs at The Owl Sanctuary Mark Two are already selling out, and owner Dan Hawcroft said they had been “really lucky” to get the new building so soon.

“The bottom line of what we were, we’re a working class pub,” he said. “As long as it’s done with passion we’d give it an ear.

Final push for funds

The crowd-funding campaign which helped secure a new home for the Owl Sanctuary has just two days to run as they continue to push for their target.

Immediately on hearing the news last month, 41-year-old Lizz Page decided to start the drive to raise money for the team.

While the intention was to keep them in their Cattle Market Street home, around £7,000 brought in through donations will help put down a deposit on the new building, with the remainder going to charity.

“The whole thing has been crazy,” said Ms Page. “When I first found out was awake all night thinking it was awful and what could we do. 
“I thought the very least I could do was a crowd-fund. It just exploded, by the end of the first day we had £1,000, and after day three it was £3,000. This was absolutely incredible, and I’ve been blown away by the support the people of Norwich have shown.

“It has not just been regular customers, it has been the community in general, and bands that have played there from all over the world, wanting to help out.

“People go to the Owl not just for gigs but to hang out with like-minded people, because it is an independent venue, and Norwich is all about independence.

“I am just delighted they will be able to get in within a month and hopefully won’t have to cancel any gigs. I hope it will be packed out from the first day.”

To donate to the campaign visit crowdfunding.justgiving.com/owlsanctuary

“To have them come in and completely rip out from underneath us what we were doing, it was heartbreaking, it’s been a horrible couple of months.

“We were really lucky, we got approached by a family called the Turner’s who saw all the stuff in the paper, heard all the stuff on the radio, saw what we were about as people and came to see us. They said, ‘we’ve got an empty club sitting there, do you want to come have a look?”

Mr Hawcroft has now been offered use of the former Fallen Angels strip-club, and work will begin in earnest getting it ready for opening night.

“It’s actually an old strip club, so it was hard for the rest of the team to walk in there and imagine it as a music venue, but I could see it,” he said. “It had the same vibe as what we had in the Owl.

Dan Hawcroft's staff preparing his new premises for the Owl Sanctuary, tucked away in Timberhill. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYDan Hawcroft's staff preparing his new premises for the Owl Sanctuary, tucked away in Timberhill. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It has this sort of tucked away, best kept secret sort of vibe.”

The new pub will have the same capacity spread over two floors, and Mr Hawcroft said they will continue to support local breweries.

“If you can do something positive for the community with a place like that, it’s a result,” he said.

“To take a building like that and do something really positive with it, support local art, support the community, it’s a win-win.”

The former home of the Owl Sanctuary, which has been bought by a new owner, could still be protected as an asset of community value, as talks including CAMRA and Norwich South MP Clive Lewis are ongoing.

“It’s obviously great to see such a well-loved venue has found a new home, and it would have been a real loss had it disappeared,” said Mr Lewis. “They book bands that would not otherwise have come to the city, and have a very loyal clientele.

“This whole episode has shown how little protection there is for the kind of community assets people really value. Even with a community asset listing, it needs to be strengthened so people do have the choice of actually owning these places, and it is not out of reach for ordinary people.

“Ordinary people cannot compete with property developers, because they do not have such big pockets.

“The asset of community value appeal is a CAMRA initiative supported by around 2,000 local people.

“That is still in the process and is still valuable to the extent that should it go through, it offers a little protection for the pub remaining on the site, so would not be as easy for people to turn it into houses.”

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