Plans to close Oxford city centre’s last truly independent gig venue has shocked music-lovers and spurred them into action.

And at the forefront of efforts to save The Cellar have been the musicians, who insist the venue is a crucial platform for new bands.

Among them are Oxford band Flatlands, who play the venue tonight in a show to raise awareness of the club’s plight.

The four-piece of frontman Tom Keogh, drummer Rob Maclennan, bassist Jamie Corish and guitarist Nat Jones, are not just admirers of the club; they cite the venue as being instrumental in their formation and rise.

Tonight they headline a night of local talent alongside local darlings Slatehearts and Who’s Alice to raise awareness of the venue’s plight.

“We’re incredibly excited to be hosting such talented and youthful local acts,” says Tom.

“It’s exactly what The Cellar is all about.

“For us, this is our last hometown gig for a while.

“We’d love to make it a big last show before we move off to study in London. The fact that this has coincided with the news of The Cellar’s potential closing has really made us realise how important it is for music and youth culture in Oxford.”

The Cellar, in Frewin Court, off Cornmarket, is run by Tim Hopkins. It was previously known as The Dolly, which was opened by Tim’s father Adrian on the site of former pub The Corn Dolly.

It has been hosting live music for five decades, playing host to breakthrough local bands like Foals, Stornoway and The Young Knives and international acts such as Mumford & Sons, Crystal Fighters and The National. However, it could close early next year, when the retailer Lush, which is due to move into the new Westgate centre, vacates its shop above the club.

Owners St Michael’s and All Saints’ Charities want to convert the basement to give potential tenants a larger shop or storage space.

Since news of the proposal were broken by our sister paper the Oxford Mail, fans of the subterranean club have thrown themselves into supporting it.

Am online petition to save it topped 13,000 in a little over a week and continues to grow.

That is almost unheard of, and demonstrates the importance and depth of feeling on the issue. In contrast, an Oxford City Council petition opposing a new unitary council for Oxfordshire – a huge issue affecting us all – received less than 8,600 signatures before closing.

Flatlands formed in November 2016, inspired by seeing other bands in the venue.

“We owe so much to The Cellar,” says Tom, who lives in Milton, near Abingdon.

“We started off going to gigs in Oxford, and ended up at a club night at The Cellar – and discovered all these great gigs they had there too. I’ve seen so many amazing bands and some great local acts and that is what inspired us to start our own band.

“We’ve since had the opportunity to play some awesome support slots for the likes of Yonaka, Redfaces and Neon Waltz.

“It was pretty surreal to watch Yonaka playing the main stage of Truck just months after we supported them at The Cellar. The kinds of shows that we’ve played at there have given us a great platform to build on as we move to London.

“We’re incredibly excited for the future and a lot of that is down to The Cellar.”

The band met at Abingdon School, alma mater of Radiohead. Tom describes the band’s sound as indie.

He says: “Our sound largely comes from two scenes: British indie-rock, akin to Will Joseph Cook, Circa Waves and High Tydes, alongside the dance punk vibes of West Coast America. Modern Baseball, The Front Bottoms and Remo Drive are huge for us.”

Tonight’s show sees the lads signing off in Oxford for a while as they head off to university in the capital.

“We are all going to London so this will be our last local gig ‘til Christmas. But by no means are we breaking up and we hope to go on for a long time.”

“We’ve had a really busy summer playing festivals and touring,” says Tom, whose band played a session at Cornbury Festival and appeared on the second stage at Charlbury Riverside. Last night they played a show at hipster ground zero – The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch, east London.

“We’ve got a couple of ace support bands playing with us at The Cellar,” Tom says. “Slate Hearts are right at the forefront of the local grunge revival and Who’s Alice? are a superb indie-pop outfit.”

He stresses it is crucial to keep The Cellar as busy as possible.

“Last Thursday our friends at Rascal Events organised an absolutely packed out night with young local DJs performing, and the week before we saw a number of our friends playing a gig for Din Twins promotion – another local, youth run outfit,” he says.

“It’s absolutely vital that these kinds of events keep going if Oxford is to keep its musical head and shoulders above other similar-sized cities.

“I love the feel of The Cellar – despite its size. I’m really tall - 6ft, 6ins – and when you’re on stage, the ceiling is really low. Once when I was playing I went to rock out and smashed my head on the ceiling! I thought it looked really uncool, but people afterwards told me it was pretty rock & roll.

“That tells you everything about the kind of people you get at The Cellar – they are supportive and positive about new music, and that’s why I fell in love with the scene.

“If you love music, and getting sweaty, you’ll love it there.”

He sighs: “ When I heard it might shut down I thought it was a joke, I didn’t think it would ever close because everybody loves it – especially people in bands.

“We wouldn’t have been able to improve in front of a live audience without it.

“It’s my favourite place and I’d be devastated to see it go – so we want everybody to spread awareness and share the message that The Cellar must stay!”

* Flatlands play The Cellar tonight with support from Slate Hearts and Who’s Alice? Doors at 7.30pm. Tickets from