The coronavirus pandemic has forced grassroots music venues up and down the UK to close their doors. Without any regular income, many are now at imminent risk of being closed down permanently.
We asked Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, to take us behind the scenes at an organisation fighting to save these venues, and the culture that depends on them, at all costs.
Here’s what he had to say.
'Music Venue Trust was created in 2014 as a response to a huge downturn in the number of trading venues on the UK touring circuit at grassroots level.
'Between 2007 and 2015, 35 percent of all the grassroots music venues in the UK disappeared from the map. Iconic names like the Duchess of York in Leeds, Princess Charlotte in Leicester and even London’s legendary Marquee had simply vanished from the map and no one seemed to have done anything to stop it.
‘January 2020 was first time in over 17 years when the number of trading grassroots music venues was higher than at the start of the previous year. COVID-19 hit at the exact moment when the sector had finally stopped the rot.’
'MVT established a registered charity with the specific cause to protect, secure and improve grassroots music venues. Since 2015, the Trust has worked with Government, the cultural sector and the music industry to understand the causes of closures and remove them from threatening the future of grassroots music venues. It has changed law, created public funding, established sector support and galvanised a disparate and fiercely independent sector into a coherent network prepared to take action to protect itself.'
'January 2020 was first time in over 17 years that the number of trading grassroots music venues was higher than at the start of the previous year. COVID-19 hit at the exact moment when the sector had finally stopped the rot and was working its way back.
‘Until the Government announces the next phase of support, and how they intend to make sure venues can make it through this crisis to reconnect with artists and audiences, the venues are on their own.’
'The crisis immediately threatens the permanent closure of 556 venues right across the UK. They received initial support from the Government sufficient enough to get them through the first few weeks of the crisis. The value of that financial support expired on Monday 27 April. Until the Government announces the next phase of support, and how they intend to make sure venues can make it through this crisis to reconnect with artists and audiences, the venues are on their own.'
'On the day that the Government help expired, MVT launched the #SaveOurVenues campaign. The aim and concept are simple. Artists, music fans and local communities all love and cherish these venues. They are special to them, so let’s give them the tools they need to do what Government hasn’t been able to do; Save Our Venues. Artists can choose to host a virtual event to directly support a venue they love. Music fans and local communities can get behind their local venue that means something to them and donate to make sure it is able to reopen when this is all over.'
‘MVT and grassroots music venues are big believers in something Joe Strummer said: ‘Without people, you’re nothing’.
'To support this initiative, Music Venue Trust is running a Grassroots Music Venue Crisis Service. We have lawyers, licensing specialists, rent negotiators and loss adjusters on hand, all free for venues to access, to get them the best deal they can get and make sure every penny donated goes as far as it can to ensure the venue can open.
'The MVT Crisis Service ensures every venue in the UK is getting the support it needs to make it through this.
'There’s a lot of negativity and bleak predictions around, but MVT and grassroots music venues are big believers in something Joe Strummer said: ‘Without people, you’re nothing’.
'We have the people, and because of those people, this sector is determined to pull through.'
Find out more about how you can save your local grassroots music venue.