The Music Venue Trust have launched a new campaign to save 30 UK venues still in danger of being lost forever in the wake of coronavirus restrictions. See the full list and how you can help below.
Last month, the music industry celebrated over 1,000 venues, festivals and theatres being awarded the first share of the £1.57billion Cultural Recovery Fund to survive until April and weather the storm of closures and complications brought on by the coronavirus pandemic – before a second round of funding was announced rescued another wave of arts spaces and organisations, a third saw a number of large clubs receive upwards of £1million each and finally the likes of The Academy Group and London’s Social and Ronnie Scott’s were awarded large sums at the weekend.
An impressive 89 per cent of England’s grassroots music venues who applied for the Arts Council grants were successful, meaning that hundreds will be receiving a share of over £41million and largely mothballed until at least April when it is hoped that full-capacity gigs might be able to safely return. Now, the MVT are focussing their #SaveOurVenues campaign on the 30 UK music venues who received either no funding or not enough to survive.
MVT’s new #SaveThe30 ‘Traffic Light’ campaign will highlight the venues considered safe, at risk or in imminent danger between now and March 31. Venues in ‘critical’ red status include The Lexington in London, Brixton Windmill, The Venue in Derby, The Railway Inn in Winchester, The Gellions in Inverness and The Lantern in Halifax.
“If we don’t act to save them right now, we do expect a large number of them to be permanently closed – it’s as simple as that,” Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd told NME. “This is the final option. Unless a significant movement is made in the next four weeks, we should expect them to start closing in the middle of December.”
He continued: “Without the public and artists getting behind the #SaveOurVenues campaign, 500 venues would already have closed since March. The fact that we’re now looking at over 400 being safe is a remarkable achievement. If everyone comes back with the same support, we could genuinely save these 30 venues.”
Davyd added: “If people want these local venues to still be there when this is over there is a very clear call to action: choose a venue, get donating, get writing, get calling, get organised. Save them all. Reopen Every Venue Safely.”
One iconic venue “still in serious peril” is London’s Lexington, which was one of the very few successful CRF applicants to receive less than what was needed, having been awarded under 40 per cent of the funding they applied for.
“It was a grieving process. I was distraught and in tears for weeks, it felt so unfair” Lexington manager Stacey Thomas told NME. “We want to come out of this and still be this cultural pillar in the community and to be able to ensure the long-term survival of our staff and freelancers.
“It is only with our dedicated team that we can continue to provide opportunities to thousands of artists at the earliest stages of their careers. We’re not going to be able to do this without help.”
The Venue in Derby has had no government support of any kind since it held its last gig on March 7 before the first lockdown. Still having to pay rent, bills, insurance and more, now the Midlands indie hotspot finds itself on the critical list too.
“We’re a 500-cap venue who have had the likes of Foals, Wolf Alice, Frank Turner, Catfish & The Bottlemen on our stage,” The Venue’s manager Brett James told NME. “We love what we do and we do it for other people. It would be a massive shame to lose that.
“For a small city like Derby, losing a place like The Venue would be significant. There are only a couple of venues here. We bring some of the biggest names to the city, and without us that stops basically. We’ve done loads for our community and help out where we can, but would be really grateful if people could just help us out now.”
One of the capital’s most beloved venues, The Windmill in Brixton has been renowned as a hub for championing new music for decades. Despite having put on over 70 socially-distanced shows since March, now the South London also finds itself at real risk of permanent closure.
“Our venue doesn’t look like much, but the rent is quite high,” The Windmill’s booker Tim Perry told NME. “There’s that, plus standing orders and all the money we’re losing due to capacity limits and the curfew. If you multiply that through to the end of March, we’ll be about £57,000 in the hole.
He continued: “This year we were going to have a stage at South By South West, we were going to have a stage at Wide Awake Festival in Brockwell Park, all the pieces seemed to be coming together, and then this virus came.
“After lockdown we actually had a lot of fun doing socially-distanced seated gigs. We showed our commitment to doing our best and always paid the bands. That’s what it’s about – providing jobs, experiences and opportunities. If you can support that in any way, then that would be great.”
The Gellions is the oldest licensed premises in Inverness and has been trading since 1841. For years, they’ve been championing local talent from the Highlands. Now, hit by COVID restrictions, they may stay silent forever.
“We book more Scottish music than any venue in the world,” owner and director Gavin Stevenson told NME. “We booked over 600 live gigs last year and we’re a critical asset to the live music scene of the Highlands. We provide regular employment to dozens of local musicians.
“We’re not able to trade our normal hours, we’re not able to have live music or even background music in Scotland. With the different COVID safety measures, our capacity is reduced by 75 per cent. We’re a music venue who can’t have music in a tourist town with no tourism. It’s going to be a very challenging winter.”
Paul Mandry fell in love with The Grand Elektra in Hastings as a gig-going teenager, back when it was called The Crypt. He worked as a doorman there for 25 years, always vowing to one day run it should the opportunity arise. That day came several years ago shortly after his 40th birthday. Now, the venue that has welcomed the likes of Muse, Carl Cox and Gil Scott-Heron while also providing an essential hub for the town, is also in danger of closing its doors for good.
“We’re a seaside town, so off-season when it’s not busy and vibrant, we’re a shining light for the locals,” Mandry told NME. “You can come and watch live music, DJs and comedy, whatever floats your boat. We’re the heart and soul of the town. If the youth and the people who use us didn’t have us, then god knows what would happen. Yates would become the destination for a lot of people. That’s when I’d probably move away.”
He continued: “We’re really important for the growth and character of the town. It’s about freedom. Venues provide an escape, and there’s very little of that anywhere else. We’re rebels with a cause. I’ve invested in the town because I believe in the town. From the supply chain to the guy on the til, they’re an essential part of society. This is the last bastion of freedom. Where else can you let loose?
“Good venues are a honeypot for good people who want to do good for the community. Music venues and good people give us a glimmer of hope.”
Meanwhile, The Lantern in Halifax opened just three years ago as the town’s first purpose-built music venue in around 50 years – welcoming the likes of She Drew The Gun, Pigs Pigs Pigs, Stealing Sheep, Baxter Dury, Martha & The Vandellas, I Am Kloot and feeding a thriving punk scene. Now, they too are falling victim to spiralling costs with limited income and little funding.
“Halifax isn’t a city, so we don’t have the luxury of easily being able to put on trendy bands all the time, you’ve got to really hit hard to make that happen,” manager Ben Adey told NME. “The venue is very much loved in the town and supported. If the venue wasn’t there, it would leave a pretty big hole.
“We just can’t wait to get back to what we’re doing. We’re here, we’re still fighting for it, we don’t want to ask too much because we know everyone’s having a tough time, but any way you can support us would be brilliant. We really want to be here to bring you music and have the community back.”
The Railway Inn in Winchester has been putting on live music for over 40 years, welcoming the likes of Ed Sheeran, Frank Turner, Dua Lipa, PJ Harvey, Laura Marling and many Americana scene acts to international acclaim. Having initially gained some early emergency funding and crowdfunding, they were then found to be ineligible for the Cultural Recovery Fund. Now, owner and operator David Lloyd says that “there isn’t long left in us financially, without getting to a point where we’d be trading insolvent for the rest of our lives”.
“People know what The Railway is in Austin,” Lloyd told NME. “The ethos and love that a venue can provide goes across the sea. When I started it was about the pub and the music. Six years later I’ve realised that it’s the community that drives everything. We call them The Railway Family because they look after each other. Our venue feels more like a living room, really.”
“We’re the only place of our kind in the city, putting on hundreds of shows a year for local artists and touring artists as well as comics and small theatre groups. Without that, there would be a community with no home.”
The 30 venues still in danger are:
The Venue #38
Waterloo Music Bar
The Four Horsemen
The Rossi Bar
The Hot Tin
Beehive Jazz Cafe
Hootananny Music Bar
The Post Bar
The Waiting Room
The Railway Inn
While the Cultural Recovery Fund news is welcomed for venues, many fear that workers and road crew are being “ignored” by government schemes.
Many industry spokespeople representing musicians, crew workers and other freelancers and self-employed continue to call for a tailored sector-specific support package to help them survive until full capacity live music can return – including a ‘Seat Out To Help Out’ scheme.