After winning the 2015 NH Social Venture Innovation Challenge, a statewide “idea stage” competition for new social and environmental ventures, Old Sol Music Hall, Inc. was established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization for the purpose of establishing and maintaining the former Rex Theatre in Manchester as a concert venue and community space.
In March 2016, Old Sol convened a Community Visioning Session at the NH Institute of Art, which was attended by over-100 community members, including arts, business, nonprofit, and political leaders. Propelled by the positive response, Old Sol proposed a public/private/nonprofit partnership to purchase, renovate, and reopen the Rex Theatre.
Over the next year, Old Sol organized concerts, hands-on service projects, and other civic engagement events in Manchester to demonstrate its program model. For example, at Old Sol’s first annual Summer Serve-a-thon & Concert, 100+ volunteers assembled 20,000 meals from dry ingredients, which were donated to the NH Food Bank, New Horizons, and other local organizations supporting families experiencing food insecurity. To celebrate the volunteers’ service impact, Old Sol produced a free concert in Victory Park, which was attended by volunteers, community members, and live music fans from across Greater Manchester.
In February 2017, after months of negotiations, it was announced that Old Sol and the Manchester Development Corporation were unable to agree to terms for the purchase and sale of the Rex Theatre. Later that same week, plans for mid-size live music venues were announced in both Nashua and Concord, raising concerns about the viability of three venues with similar capacities within a 20-mile radius. In light of these developments, Old Sol’s leadership made the decision to regroup and consider next steps for the organization.
Old Sol remains committed to delivering a unique blend of cultural and civic programming as a means of building social capital, especially among Millennials living and working in the southern tier of the state. It has requested grant funding to re-envision a sustainable, impactful programming model that will serve both the state’s southern tier and the organization well for years to come.