A new national drive aims to save hundreds of music venues at imminent risk of being closed down permanently.
Last week Rough Trade Bristol announced it been awarded a National Lottery Project Grant to enable it continue supporting grass-roots live music in the city while upgrading equipment and soundproofing.
However, hundreds of other venues might not be so lucky in garnering the support they need from arts councils and funding bodies amid the pandemic. Music Venue Trust, with the help of Republic Media, has launched a campaign to keep them afloat.
Without its independent venues, the live music scene in the UK is in danger of a quiet but painful death. These places play a crucial role in the development of British music, nurturing local talent and providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and performance skills. They are also vital for the cultural and economic vibrancy of any village, town or city.
Currently, 556 venues are at risk including The Sugarmill in Stoke-on-Trent. “We’re extremely proud to be a grass-roots music venue,” says Danni Brownsill, the venue’s chief booker and promoter.
“These spaces are pipelines for talent and lifelines for the communities they serve and the talents therein. We can’t allow them to be consigned to the past. UK music culture as we know it will simply not exist without these spaces – it’s vital to protect them.”
As part of the new campaign, artists will perform at home in support of local venues chosen from a list of those in crisis. Each venue will have its own fund-raising page with a clear target of funds it requires to stay afloat during this difficult period.
Once a target is reached, excess revenue will go to the central #saveourvenues fund to help the wider grass-roots music venue community.
One of the main drivers of the initiative is musician Frank Turner, whose recent series of Independent Venue Love shows for Nambucca in London, The Joiners (Southampton) The Railway Inn (Winchester) and The Forum (Tunbridge Wells) raised thousands of pounds and provided a major inspiration for this campaign.
“The UK live music industry is staring into the abyss,” Turner says. “I’m not able to save the whole thing on my own but I decided to do a series of livestream shows to raise money for specific independent venues I know and love and that are in serious risk of disappearing.
“The success of these shows demonstrated the love that exists between music fans and their favourite grass-roots music venues so the #saveourvenues campaign is a brilliant way of building on that and hopefully giving artists and music fans a chance to get involved and play a big part in helping them to survive.”
The Forum co-founder Jason Dormon says: “Frank Turner has always championed the grass-roots sector, having grown up and learned his craft in these venues. We were overwhelmed and heartened by Frank’s help and the support and generosity of the community.”
Music fans can get involved in the Trust initiative by donating to a specific venue’s fund-raising page or the national #saveourvenues fund, watching the at-home gigs, or spreading the word on social media using the hashtag and campaign link.
Emerging from lock-down to find our venues all but gone would be a miserable prospect. However, those who love live music and are in a position to help can save their favourite local hub and help it stay healthy enough to receive visitors once the covid crisis is over.
“Without the support of music fans and artists, literally hundreds of the UK’s grass-roots music venues could go out of business in the coming months,” says Music Venue Trust chief executive Mark Davyd.
“Please help to save every single grass-roots music venue in the UK so they can reopen after this crisis and continue to be a home to our musicians and communities.”
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