Putting alternative in alternative finance: 1980s hair salon of David Bowie in crowdfunding bid

Cuts was founded by James Lebon in 1981, starting in a basement beneath Kensington Markets. It quickly attracted creative types and brought in musicians, photographers, artists, DJs, filmmakers and fashionistas as customers.

Describing what it was like in the early days, the crowdfunding pitch explains that “Thatcher’s politics clashed with the flamboyant creativity of the new ‘It’ kids and Cuts was central to this [as] the first independent hairdressers in London”.

With the likes of David Bowie walking through the door, other stars to have been groomed at the venue include Boy George, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Sean Penn, Sacha Baron Cohen and Steve McQueen.

While Lebon had become trusted by the rich and famous as well as the general public, he soon fancied a new start in New York in the mid-80s thus Steve Brooks took over management of the new Soho venue and brought in a new team.

Given the business’ rich history, filmmaker Sarah Lewis has been on a quest to capture the evolution from post-punk era to present day. Using the same name as the business itself, feature length documentary Cuts has been in the making for 20 years and Lewis is seeking to generate £50,000 to complete her project.

Lewis’ documentary promises to have captured the evolution of the business itself, Soho as a character, and the changing dynamics of the world around them both.

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“In the beginning we see a carefree utopian workplace within an untarnished vision of trendy London life,” the pitch revealed. “In 2010, problems at Cuts come to a head and ‘We Are Cuts’ is reformed run by Daniel and Pete [part of Steve’s new team].

“As Daniel says ‘Cuts is not dependent on one person, it is made up of all the people who have been here over the decades, and hopefully it will continue well after we have gone, taken over by the next generation.’”

There are, of course, a plethora of crowdfunding channels on the market – from Crowdcube to Seedrs to Indiegogo, entrepreneurs have plenty of options. However, Lewis has chosen to use Phundee, an entertainment-centric channel, for the raise.

In the firm’s own words: “Our mission is to make the crowdfunding process accessible, transparent, social and above all, phun! By providing a democratic funding platform for independent artists in a range of entertainment and arts categories, we can support you in your career and help you develop creative ideas.”

Sounds like exactly the type of platform designed for the likes of comedian Maddy Anholt, who took to Indiegogo in May in a bid to raise money for dating – and taking her new sketch to the Edinburgh Fringe – and former Power Ranger Amy Jo Johnson who used the crowd for her film The Space Between.

Lewis explained she will use the money raised from the Cuts campaign to manage costs involved with post production and also submissions to film festivals.

Like most entrepreneurial stories, Lewis has encountered her share of difficulties. The project was originally started in 1996 with a partner that subsequently decided she wanted to leave the project after four years.

“We filmed in an observational way until 1999 on film covering these global events through the eyes of the Cuts community. We captured the daily comings and goings of the colourful characters, the relationships within the Cuts family and the fabulous haircuts,” said Lewis.

“In 2000, we were unable to get funding to cover the post production of what would have been a very different film than the one that exists today. It had been stressful, Jen no longer wanted to be involved and I moved back to Australia. But once there, the Cuts film never left my mind and over the next 15 years I continued to visit the UK to film the characters and bring the story up to date.”

With 26 days to go, the campaign is 33 per cent funded. Basic rewards including badges, posters and clothing are available for donations of up to £30, while up to £50 can secure a tour of Soho and access to a screening. Elsewhere, £10,000 will bag an executive producer credit.

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Lewis revealed the original expectation was that the film would be completed in just two years. However, the extended time spent on the film has resulted in technological advancements that have enabled her to continue shooting and editing independently, and at minimal expense.

“Little did I know that this venture would take 20 years to be finally finished,” Lewis said. This film is a fascinating piece of recent British cultural history based in Soho that actually shows the changes in peoples lives and the changing global situation over a time span of 30 years. It has been a labour of love that now has an end date in sight.”

Some 64 per cent of business owners expect the alternative finance business to grow in the next two years, and as developments from the likes of Lewis and Anholt loo set to continue, it will certainly emphasise the alternative nature of the disruptive finance model.

Check out the Cuts trailer below.

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