The Music Venue Trust have thanked everyone who has supported them this year, and vowed that all venues can be saved in 2021 with more “people power” and with gigs look set to return in the spring.
The MVT has continued to work to protect and preserve live music in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced gig spaces across the country to close their doors. Last month, the organisation launched a campaign to save 30 UK venues that were still in danger of being lost forever in the wake of coronavirus restrictions after not being eligible for the government’s £1.57billion Cultural Recovery Fund.
After securing a huge total of over £80 million in donations and government grants this year through their #SaveOurVenues campaign – rescuing the futures of over 400 UK grassroots venues until March 31, 2021 – the MVT announced their plans to a further aid 24 venues with £230,000 of funding. It’s the latest in a series of huge accomplishments to save the struggling live music scene, and MVT CEO Mark Davyd quoted Joe Strummer in his reasoning for why: “Without people, you’re nothing”.
“When we look at where donations are coming from and when they spike, it is very closely linked to the coverage we receive from the NME,” said Davyd. “What that means is that NME readers are taking action and making a huge difference to keep these venues alive. We want to make it incredibly clear to the NME and its readers that the Music Venue Trust are merely standing in front of the work done by the public, by artists and by good samaritans.”
He continued: “This is the result of people power. When Music Venue Trust and NME were first talking about this crisis in March, we were looking at the very real closure of 500 venues. In a very short space of time, now not even one of the 30 left on our critical list looks like it will actually be closing imminently as we feared. It’s quite an astonishing achievement and it belongs as much to the writers and readers of the NME as anyone.”
Earlier this week, the 100 Club in London confirmed that they would be piloting a new ventilation system next month that aims to wipe out 99.99 per cent of dangerous airborne pathogens, such as coronavirus, within buildings. Davyd cited this and a number of other projects and breakthroughs as promising signs on the horizons of gig-goers.
“We can realistically predict that a lot of venues will start to open up in April,” he told NME. “I know that everything seems quite bleak at the moment with the tier system, but there’s a lot of stuff happening in science with progress in rapid testing and progress with the vaccine. I don’t think that we’ll be at full capacity, but I think we’ll see a very large amount of venues able to open safely with risk mitigation. If we can get these venues to April, we can be confident that they’ll survive.”
However, Davyd said there was still much work to be done and urged music venues to continue to support Crowdfunding where possible and/or write to their local MPs if a venue in their area is in danger.
“Everyone’s done an incredible job,” said Davyd. “I won’t tell you which one, but the chief of one local council got in touch to say, ‘Please can you stop people from sending us any more letters – we promised we’re going to do something’.”
“I genuinely believe that if you really get yourself organised and get a really strong and powerful voice from people directly then you can achieve absolutely amazing stuff. We can get there, keep writing letters, keep Tweeting, keep on supporting your local venue. They can all make it if we try.”
Voicing optimism for 2021, Davyd added: “In January we will be announcing full details of a process by which we hope to bring back live music very safely in early Spring. We’re working on trialling that at The 100 Club and you’ll be seeing more of that in the new year. We’re prepared to listen to the science, work with government and come up with something that keep gig-goers safe and gets them back into the live music environment that they love.”
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but it is being done.”
Let’s just say in a crappy year for #livemusic #hospitality POP are ending it on a high we are forever indebted to @musicvenuetrust their support #savethe30 along with @jreynoldsMP @MattKershaw_ @MayorofGM @Sacha_Lord & our donors https://t.co/WKdoadwHtt have a cool Christmas ?
— POP (@CorpPOPHyde) December 18, 2020
One of the 30 venues still on the MVT’s critical list is POP in Hyde, Cheshire.
“We haven’t been able to generate our own income since March,” POP founder Jax Francis told NME. “We were lucky in that we got some money from The National Lottery, but that’s run out through paying rent each month. Any savings that we had are now long gone because we’ve had bills to pay. 2020 was always going to be our year, but unfortunately it wasn’t.”
Describing POP as “much more than a music venue,” Jax said that they’d also been offering mental health drop-ins and activities throughout the week before COVID shut them down.
“People have said that if we weren’t there, they wouldn’t be with us now,” she continued. “We’re a safe space for people aged nine to 92, as well as a place for gigs.”
She went on: “We’re the only venue locally that does all-age gigs. We do showcases for bands as young as 13. If we lose that, it will be horrendous. When I was young and a punk it was safer for me to be at gigs than it was to be at home because I came from a really dysfunctional environment. The fact that we can offer the same thing in a space that’s DBS-checked means the world. We see young bands getting signed so we know that it’s really valuable.”
She added: “We’re based in a really deprived area, so to see people donating like they have has really blown us away. It’s humbling and feels like people are sharing our vision.”
Please help our friend Ian Fletcher to keep the Blackpool Waterloo venue stay alive. We love playing there and get looked after better than anywhere in the world.https://t.co/JLbU16wpNY
— Ginger Wildheart (@GingerWildheart) November 13, 2020
Ian Fletcher, managing director of Waterloo in Blackpool, said that his venue faced a similar predicament.
“The situation at the moment is that it’s all pretty dire,” he told NME. “No one in government knows their arse from their elbow and the rules don’t make sense. You can go to Asda where it’s rammed and chaotic, but you can’t go and sit in a controlled environment and watch a show.”
He continued: “Over the years, we’ve turned a pub into a venue and then into a community hub. We were one of the fastest growing small venues in the country until March. We went from local bands to big touring bands and established acts that wanted to play in front of 350 people.”
Praising the support they’ve received so far, Fletcher said: “The community spirit we’ve seen has been great. The sad thing is that we can’t repay everyone by putting a show on. It’s bad for people’s wellbeing to not be able to go out, see some music and let some steam off.”
Fletcher added that for Blackpool to lose Waterloo would be unthinkable. “A lot of people know Blackpool as a cabaret town,” he said. “For live music, it’s not got a lot. It’s very important for the town and people in the North West who travel for music, Without us, there would be nothing here and that would be a shame.”
Last month, The Music Venue Trust yesterday released a statement in response to the British government’s tiered coronavirus measures, asking them to reconsider “specific challenges” they present to grassroots venues while calling them “inconsistent and illogical”. The UK’s nightclubs have also warned that they face “extinction” without government support and clarity.
NME named the Music Venue Trust among our People Of The Year for 2020.