By DJ Monk
The Music Venue Trust has announced a new national campaign – #saveourvenues – to try and save hundreds of grassroots music venues at imminent risk of being closed down – permanently – as a result of the current pandemic crisis.
As ÜR readers know only too well, grassroots venues play a crucial role in the development of music, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills. These venues also play a vital role in the cultural and economic vibrancy of any village, town or city.
According to the MVT, there are currently 556 venues at risk. One of these is The Sugarmill in Stoke-on-Trent, whose chief booker and promoter, Danni Brownsill, told us:
“We’re extremely proud to be a grassroots music venue. These spaces are pipelines for talent and absolute lifelines for the communities they serve and the talents therein. We cannot allow them to be consigned to the past. UK music culture as we know it will simply not exist without these spaces, so it is vital to protect them.”
Another venue on the very long list is one dear to the ÜR team’s hearts – Voodoo in Belfast. Not only is is one of our favourite bars and one of the coolest places to hang out in this dirty old town we call home, but DQ and I actually got married on Voodoo’s stage. However, the venue’s owner has told us that, if they manage to re-open at some stage in the future, then not only will they be facing massive debts but they may not actually be able to stage live gigs!
In support of the new MVT campaign, many artists will be performing “at home” gigs in support of their local venues, chosen from a list of venues currently in crisis which can be found at the campaign website. Each venue will have their own fundraising page with a clear target of the funds it needs to raise to stay afloat throughout this difficult period. Once a target is reached, any excess revenue will go to the central #saveourvenues fund to help the wider grassroots music venue community.
So, how can music fans get involved?
- Donate to a specific venue’s fundraising page by clicking saveourvenues.co.uk to see a list of local venues that urgently need help.
- Watch “at home” shows by artists supporting the #saveourvenues campaign. Show details will be added to the events page at saveourvenues.co.uk
- Donate to the national #saveourvenues fund via saveourvenues.co.uk
- Help spread the word on social media using the hashtag #saveourvenues and the campaign link saveourvenues.co.uk
One of the main drivers of this initiative is Frank Turner, whose recent series of ‘Independent Venue Love’ shows for local venues Nambucca (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.
Frank Turner told us:
“The UK live music industry is staring into the abyss right now. 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 that I know and love, and that are in serious risk of disappearing right now. The success of these shows demonstrated the love that exists between music fans and their favourite grassroots 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 survive.”
One venue saved from closure by Frank’s fundraising gigs is the Tunbridge Wells Forum. Co-founder Jason Dormon said:
“Frank Turner has always championed the grassroots sector, having grown up and learnt his craft in these venues. His generosity and commitment is truly admirable, he inspires live music fans to come together and unite in raising awareness and funds for the UK’s grassroots music venues. We were totally overwhelmed and heartened by Frank’s help and the support and generosity of the local community.”
Music Venue Trust’s CEO Mark Davyd summarized the campaign:
“Without the support of music fans and artists literally hundreds of the UK’s grassroots music venues could go out of business, never to return, in the coming months. Please help to save every single grassroots music venue in the UK so that it can reopen after this crisis and continue to be a home to our musicians and our communities.”
The Music Venue Trust is a registered charity, created in January 2014 to protect, secure and improve the UK live music network by securing the long-term future of iconic grassroots music venues. To date, it has helped the Hull Adelphi, Exeter Cavern, Southampton Joiners, The 100 Club, Band on the Wall, Tunbridge Wells Forum and more. These venues, along with the 500+ others, that have played a crucial role in the development of British music over the last 40 years, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills.
The MVT works to gain recognition of the essential role these venues fulfil, not only for artist development but also for the cultural and music industries, the economy and local communities. The charity aims to preserve and improve venues, making them more efficient and improving the experience for performers and audiences. Long-term, the Trust plans to acquire the freeholds of as many of these vital venues as possible.