Venues stage rescue request

Grassroots music scene remains in lockdown

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Owners of the Leeds venue that is the most active in the UK’s grassroots music scene have warned the sector is under threat without urgent action from the government.

Nathan Clark of the Brudenell Social Club believes that an immediate £50 million support package and a cut in VAT on ticket prices will be required to save grassroots venues, which have been forced to close during the coronavirus crisis.

Local bands

The Brudenell hosts more than 500 live events each year. In the past the non-profit-making venue was famous for hosting secret gigs by the Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand, and it is known for supporting local bands and artists.

Clark is one of 40 owners and managers of Yorkshire and Humber venues to put their name to an open letter to the government, saying that grassroots venues underpin the UK’s £5.2 billion a year music industry and that last year they put on 175,000 events across the country.

The owners say they did the right thing in closing their venues and would not wish to re-open until government guidance says so. But although pubs and bars have now been released from lockdown, no solution has yet been found for music venues. A temporary support package and reduction in VAT on ticket sales are “simple, quick and effective measures” that would prevent hundreds of closures of grassroots measures, they say.

The letter – signed by other venues in the region, including the 1 in 12 Club, Bradford, and Huddersfield’s Northern Quarter – says: “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.”

North West signatories to letter – co-ordinated by the Music Venue Trust – include the Albert Hall, Gorilla and Deaf Institute in Manchester, and Telford’s Warehouse in Chester.

Possible support for the hospitality and tourism sector was being debated in the House of Commons as Big Issue North went to press. Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, said: “We are delighted with the debate today in the House of Commons which demonstrates that a clear majority of MPs, from all sides of the house, recognise that a sector-specific deal for grassroots music venues is urgently needed.

“We look forward to working with the government to establish that support deal so that it effectively prevents hundreds of unnecessary venue closures. On 8 June the secretary of state for culture said that a package for the live events industry was ‘imminent’. A sector-specific support package should be brought forward without further delay.”

Image: Jonathan Donahue plays the saw during a Mercury Rev gig at the Brundenell in 2018. John Bentley/Alamy

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