Save Our Venues!

Grassroots music venues up and down the UK are in trouble. A lot of trouble. The Moshville Times prides itself on supporting up-and-coming bands as well as well-known international acts. Grassroots venues are essential for smaller bands and are were where many larger bands began their journey to success – such as The Cart & Horses in Maryland, East London being the birthplace of Iron Maiden. Since the UK went into lockdown on 23 March there have been no live music events in these venues (or anywhere else for that matter).

In April the Music Venue Trust launched the “Save Our Venues” campaign, with the aim to prevent over 500 independent UK venues from permanent closure. This crowdfunding campaign has temporarily saved some venues, but the funding will not last them long and further support and government action is required.

Boris Johnson has announced further easing of lockdown measures from 4 July, but with singing, dancing, standing close to others and being in confined spaces deemed to be “high risk activities” live music as we know and love it is not an option.

Grassroots venues have explored every option to reopen but there are none available. In discussions with the Music Venue Trust, venues have all agreed that they need to be hibernated until different guidelines emerge. During this hibernation they need financial support in order to continue to pay rent and business rates as well as other costs. If they were to open in the near future these venues would lose nearly twice the amount of money that they would if they were to remain closed. The loss for grassroots music venue owners / operators over the next 3 months is estimated at £46 million, and over 90% of these venues are likely to close forever by October. This will have a crippling effect on the UK live music industry for decades.

On 23 June over 500 UK music venues wrote an open letter (via the Music Venue Trust) to the government asking for emergency funding to allow them to survive due to restrictions caused by coronavirus. Their clear plan presented to the government detailing the support that the live music sector needs to survive the next three months and to recover in the future consists of a £50 million financial support package immediately, and a reduction on VAT on future ticket sales, bringing tax in UK Grass Music Venues into line with our major international competitors.

Read the open letter to the UK Government below:

We are the owners and operators of the UK’s Grassroots Music Venues.

Our Grassroots Music Venues are the fundamental foundations and cornerstone on which our world beating £5.2 billion per year music industry has been built for the last 60 years. Without our Grassroots Music Venues, there would be no Beatles. No Stones, no Led Zeppelin, no Duran Duran, no Sade, no Oasis, no Skunk Anansie, no Adele, no Ed Sheeran, no Dua Lipa. Our Grassroots Music Venues are absolutely essential to the whole UK music industry bouncing back at any time in the future.

Our sector delivers training, rehearsal spaces, recording opportunities and career development to thousands of young people and are essential to our communities. We do not just support the next generation of world beating artists. Grassroots Music Venues are where people come together, where they celebrate, where they socialise.  Thousands of cultural professionals get their first taste of working in the creative industries in our venues, including many of those who go on to work in areas other than music. Grassroots Music Venues sit at the very heart of our creative nation.

Public Health advice is clear. Singing is a high-risk activity. Dancing is a high-risk activity. Standing close to other people is a high-risk activity. Being in a confined space for a long period is a high-risk activity. These are the four pillars of the live music experience we offer in our venues. Coming together with friends and communities to dance and sing with your favourite artists in any of the 800 grassroots music venues across the UK is the very core and purpose of why we exist.

Last year there were more than 175,000 events in our venues that gave people the experiences they love and the artists the opportunities they need. Since 20 March there have been no events.

This is because our sector has complied with the Public Health guidance. We did the right thing. We closed to protect our communities. We engaged with the government task force and we explored every option available to reopen safely and bring live music back. We understand that in order to protect the public, it should not be done until the health guidance changes and we also know that trying to do it is economic folly which would be financially ruinous; not just for us but for our entire sector.

It is now time for the government to do the right thing.

We are represented by Music Venue Trust, who have laid out a simple clear plan to the government of the support our sector needs to survive the next three months (July, August, September) and to recover in the future. It consists of just two steps.

  1. A £50 million financial support package immediately
  2. A reduction on VAT on future ticket sales, bringing tax in UK Grassroots Music Venues into line with our major international competitors

These measures are simple, quick, effective and would prevent the closure of hundreds of Grassroots Music Venues. They are the right thing to do. We are a dynamic, innovative, and inventive sector. We do not need permanent government intervention to exist. We are not asking to become a permanently subsidised drain on the public purse. We do not need the government to step in and tell us how to run our venues. We need government to take two simple steps and leave us to work out how to do the rest.

We need you to do the right thing.

So what can you do to help save UK grassroots venues from disappearing forever?

Words and header image (Courage My Love at The Borderline) by Katie Frost.

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