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London’s First Vinyl Library One Year On

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Elly Rendall and Sophie Austin are two record revolutionaries who one year ago set out to start London’s first vinyl library. Run as a not-for-profit since day one, they aimed to start a space where pre-digital music culture and an intimate spirit can collide with great results. With a small monthly subscription fee you’re able to take your pick from a growing catalogue of vinyl, with a limit of 5 records at a time (although how many times you come back and collect more is up to you). On top of that the Vinyl Library also runs as an event space that people can hire out for anything from reggae-yoga to live music. Things have been going well, but not without a few surprises.

“There’s been a lot of challenges, mainly because it’s an idea that hasn’t been done before,” explains Elly, one of the founders behind the project. “I think there’s been challenges in terms of how much time it’s taken out of our own lives too, we didn’t realise at the beginning how much time it would take to get things off the ground. ”

On the other side…” she says. “There’s been so many people coming forward, donating and volunteering that it just makes the whole thing worthwhile. Its given me more passion towards vinyl. Just being surrounded by it [vinyl] means i know a lot more than I did a year ago. You’re surrounded by history, art and stories basically. That’s what makes it such a special place to be in really, all that colour, art, and culture really does add up to make a really unique space.”

Taking the ‘store’ out of record store and creating a public forum (rammed to the roof with vinyl) is hard work. Being a non-profit doesn’t help either, with the project being far too reliant on the goodwill of others and the blood, sweat and tears of a small few to keep the enterprise going. This doesn’t bother Elly though, who (like many music fanatics) pursues this out of passion rather than for a heavier pocket. Elly states they’ll never start selling records, it will always remain a non-profit, unique music space: “We’re noncommercial, everything goes back into making this work. By the end of the year we’re looking at it being able to cover itself as a community centre. Which basically means we’ll be making enough money out of memberships.”

The business model is a new one but they they don’t plan on keeping it that way for long. Their ambition is to eventually export this anti-retail, music-for-rent format outside the city and to other parts of the UK and beyond.

“In terms of a business, it’s constant work, but it’s no where near where we’d like it to be. We want it to be a working model of something we can put across the city and beyond. We’re looking at least until the end of the year until we have a blueprint we can take around and share with the world. In the next few years we’ll be actually taking it out of the city, I hope. Because we know there are people out there who want something like this and we’re willing to bring it to them.”

The role they take as a library is one they take seriously, but their philanthropic spirit isn’t one that discriminates between ages. The Vinyl Library goes on the road peddling it’s wisdom to children of all ages, as well as as a healthy selection of activities for the over 18s too. “We teach kids a lot about sound and what’s behind it, specifically pre-digital music culture, stuff like that,” she explains. “Here though we do mixing workshops, meditation, reggae yoga, piano lessons… loads. We basically are willing to take in anyone with an idea related to music, movement or art. We’re up for trying things out and seeing what the reaction is!”

On the 5th of July the library will be holding its official Birthday Party with anyone and everyone invited. Otherwise, you can keep updated on the project by liking their Facebook page or visiting their website.

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