We need our grassroots music venues now more than ever. #saveourvenues.
Updated: May 1, 2021
It seems a bit ridiculous that it’s 2020 and the importance of the arts still needs to be reiterated. Even more so during this weird time; what would we have done during lockdown without books to read, music to listen to, TV to watch? So why then, given that we rely on the arts so much, are they deemed meaningless and not worthy of government support? I wrote a blog post at the beginning of the lockdown documenting the worries of local musicians and the serious implications COVID-19 had for them and their work. Those worries remain but, now with the very real threat of closures and redundancies, the uncertainty has escalated into fears of how the arts sector, particularly grassroots venues, will be able to afford to continue as lockdown restrictions ease.
Small music venues depend on the local community, their businesses thrive on the intimate experience that is a gig and so the absence of this has presented tremendous struggle. As music fans, and just nice people who don’t want to see these venues die out, it is so important that we help as much as we can, whether that be donating the cost of a pint (what you’d normally spend there on a weekly basis anyway) to your local music venue, donating more generously or signing petitions. But with the effects of lockdown taking a toll on everyone, music venues cannot rely on donations alone and that’s where government help should be stepping in. And yet here we are, no government support and no clarity on how exactly the arts will come out of lockdown whilst still adhering to the social distancing guidelines. The five-stage plan presented by Oliver Dowden is vague and overly simple. It could’ve been written by anyone.
So if, by some other-worldly miracle, Boris Johnson reads feminist blogs and sees this article, let’s just set out simply why these smaller music venues are so important.
· Well firstly there’s the obvious – they provide a means of making a living. From the event organisers, to the bar staff and to the musicians who play there, they are a home away from home for many people. Once the furlough scheme has ended, or employers are required to top up the remainder which the furlough does not cover, how many jobs will continue to be lost whilst these places aren’t open for business as usual?
· Secondly, another obvious one, grassroots venues are a hub for allowing talent to spark, manifest and thrive. There is something so special about the intimacy of a small music venue – bands are passionate about their music and genuinely love playing to an equally enthusiastic audience. This level of interaction between performer and fans, where everyone knows everyone, cannot be replicated in a larger venue. Not to mention, they are where budding artists kick-start their careers. This begs the question: what are the long-term effects of small venues being taken away? Our music scene definitely would not be as eclectic, and it would not exist as it does today.
· Thirdly, not only are grassroots venues insanely important for the artists and bands who play there, but they benefit the community in such a unique way. Similar to the way you’d go down to the pub for a pint and a catchup at the end of the day, these venues at risk of closure are hearts of small communities. But they provide something more; yes, you can socialize with your friends like you would at your local, but here you can bond with other people over MUSIC. As cheesy as it sounds, music really does bring people together. Everyone is there for one common reason: to listen to who is playing and because they just love music.
· Finally, a point which is particularly relevant to the global situation which can sometimes seem stifling and never ending is that small music venues are a form of escapism and the mental health benefits of them are enormous. We already know that music can affect our wellbeing in so many ways, but being amongst like-minded people, listening to music, dancing, talking and just being in such a warm environment away from the confines of home or work can bring us out of the confines of our own minds. This is needed now more than ever.
The grassroots music venue charity, Music Venue Trust, has launched the national campaign, ‘Save Our Venues’, in the face of the threat that they might disappear. The arts and culture industry contributes more than £23billion a year to the economy; another reason as to why it’s so baffling that the government are reluctant to take it seriously and it has fallen to a charity to help amidst the crisis. The campaign has been around for a few months now, with it following on from the Grassroots Music Venue Crisis fund, but now the campaign desperately needs to be shared. I have linked the #saveourvenues’ website below, where you can also find out about upcoming fundraising events. If you can donate then do, it would be devastating to see grassroots music venues decline and the knock-on effect it would have on the wider industry would be so hard to recover from.
(As well as this, try to donate directly to your local music venue if you can)
Sign the petition - https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-uk-s-arts-and-cultural-industries?bucket=&source=facebook-share-button&time=1593426684&utm_campaign=&utm_medium=socialshare&utm_source=facebook&share=316cd5f6-36d1-46c5-a78e-58dc3f35ec20&fbclid=IwAR2zYSK0M3ATsaOBaY5L_ipXd7kxn9Cp0rEGeby30rxGgVWDuSFc1kVi8O0