Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Surviving the quiet

You really do have to feel for grassroots gig venues. Facing a host of threats to their very viability well documented here and elsewhere, they received a rare boost early in the year with the announcement that their business rates were to be halved. That news, coinciding with the start of Independent Venues Week, gave hope that their importance to the cultural ecosystem might belatedly be acknowledged. But any tentative optimism has since been obliterated by the cataclysmic impact of coronavirus, a challenge to trump all others.

It should come as no surprise to learn that, as someone who regularly writes about the vital role that such spaces play and the difference they make to people and communities (most recently with respect to the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds and the old Station in Newcastle), I'm lending my support to the Music Venue Trust's Save Our Venues campaign.

It's estimated that well in excess of 500 venues are in serious danger of permanent closure. Frank Turner, who has repeatedly made the case for the value of grassroots venues, has helped to save the Joiners in Southampton with proceeds raised from a live-streamed gig, while the crowdfunding target set by its South Coast near-neighbour the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth was achieved in less than a day, with additional donations now going into the central campaign fund. But many more venues remain in difficulty, including (for instance) the Lexington and the Windmill in London and, closer to home and my heart, Clwb and the Moon.

And inevitably it's not just venues that are at risk of going under - deprived of the advertising revenue they need to survive, many music magazines and websites are also staring into the abyss. Loud And Quiet is one of the best around - but the announcement of an annual subscription package is being billed as their last roll of the dice.

Here's hoping as many publications and venues as possible can pull through - because ultimately the health of the nation's music industry is not just all about the music, maaaan.

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