How to protect the places where we party, from the people who put them on

I always knew it was going to be difficult for these venues but I didn’t think it would start so quickly. An article I wrote earlier this year predicted the lock down would bring unprecedented (there’s that word again) uncertainty to the events industry and that’s exactly what has happened. We need to make sure it doesn’t slide any further.

Lakota in Bristol and Liverpool’s Parr Street are two of the big names already threatened by the anxiety. Many more are expected to struggle with the added pressure. It is becoming increasingly apparent that, without any proof for their ability to make a profit, developers hold all the cards.

With things looking pretty darn bleak at the moment, I’ve collected a number of voices who couldn’t imagine a world without these venues. Bands, DJs, promoters and many, many more within the industry need this world to survive to keep their livelihood going. And us, the punters, need it so we can keep on being us. Here are their stories…

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Adam Ghidouche

Drummer/Management for independent band Pondarosa. Ghidouche is based in Liverpool and other band members are spread across the North during lockdown.

How has Coronavirus affected your own schedule?  

It’s been a blow for us, we had two great gigs booked in for April – firstly supporting The Cheap Thrills at the Arts Club, and also a headline show in Manchester at The Castle for Scruff of the Neck. We’ve been evolving our sound recently and on the back of these gigs I was hoping to record another single and plan some festival dates for the summer and beyond. It’s a real killer to see bands have to postpone album releases and entire tours.

How important are small and independent venues to you as a band?  

Quite simply, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing without small and independent venues. We’re lucky to work with some fantastic promoters like This Feeling and Scruff of the Neck, who put on thousands of bands across the country in all of the best venues in this category. They are the grassroots of the industry and every band, from cover bands in pubs to festival headliners, have played in these venues at some point.

Are you worried about the future of your band due to respectable places to play disappearing?  

I think all bands, at our level and beyond, are worried about venues disappearing. I was really sad to see Jimmy’s in Manchester go, we played probably our favourite gig there in July last year and with the site in Liverpool opening and putting on great nights, they seemed stronger than ever.

Unfortunately, it’s an all too familiar story seeing these venues replaced by flats. You imagine yourself playing at some venues, and before you know it they’ve disappeared before you get the chance to. 

Anything else you’d like to add? 

If anyone has read this and would like to help in any way, there’s a few things you can do. Firstly, if you’d like to help a venue directly, there are a lot of Crowdfunding systems in place at the moment. If you’d like to donate anything, they’d be a good place to start.

Secondly, with bands unable to tour, there are other ways you can help them. Merchandise has taken on a new level of importance in the current climate. If you’d like to support your favourite band, picking up some merch would be great. 

Pondarosa’s newest single “Bright Lights” is available here on Spotify

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Bethany Okogba

Promotions manager at The Leadmill in Sheffield – organises club nights, branding and comedy

Are you worried about your future career being affected by the pressure’s placed on music venues?

Absolutely terrified, I’m not sure how the entire hospitality and events industry will cope with the pandemic during and afterwards. It will most likely be affected for years to come. At the moment I’m furloughed and when I’m back in I’m really not sure what my role will be afterwards. We still need to run events but the events we do and how many people can attend may change dramatically.

The Leadmill are one of the top venues promoting the #SaveOurVenues campaign which you can donate to by clicking here

What do you think can be done to protect more venues?

Funding for the next few years will be crucial for many venues, and the way the government handle the coming months will affect them all massively.

If venues can’t operate at their standard capacity they will most likely be losing money by even opening. So if the government stop furlough pay, tax breaks or funding then venues won’t be able to cope with the money they will lose everyday, especially if that includes paying staff.

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Jay ‘Percy’ Percival

Barman at Sound Food and Drink (52 Duke Street, Liverpool)

Have any places you know been closed in the last couple of years?

Plenty, the Kazimier was the biggest blow. I like many others firmly believed that was the greatest music venue in the country, never mind city. It had the perfect capacity to host gigs of all sizes, truly a big loss to the city.

What do you think are the main reasons places keep closing and what can be done to protect them?

I’m not clued up enough but a lot of the blame gets put on big money developers gentrifying areas of the city (increasing rent fees etc) but truthfully I do not know. It’s not as if the city’s “scenes” are stagnating and not making revenue for these venues either, as the nightlife is constantly booming in Liverpool. So regardless of what the reason behind the closures, it is certainly not a fault of the people.

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Marcus Harris

Writer/Producer/Drummer for London band Baytrees (formerly The Thirst)been playing in bands for around a decade

What do you think has changed from your time playing live with your first band and now with your current one? 

I think the main changes have been the reduction in venues and club nights – at least in London. Also the growth in online interaction platforms

Are you worried about your future career being affected by the pressure’s placed on venues? 

I’m more worried about new bands on the come up or even school n college kids that want to experiment and experience ‘giglife.’ They may never get a chance to. I think if you get to a certain level it wouldn’t matter where you played. However, there is a certain nostalgia with these type of venues and I’d miss ’em.

How important are the smaller and independent venues to the music industry? 

The smaller venues are the real spine of the live music industry. These are the places where promoters, dj’s, engineers, light technicians, bands and artists display and perfect their craft before arenas and festivals. Where ‘kids’ are just that before they grow up. I’ve got so many golden memories of my times in these little venues. Would be a shame and great loss if these no longer existed

Baytrees’ newest single “Myth” is available here on Spotify

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Jonnie Brand

Promotion and brand manager for New Citizens (the company that previously ran Canal Mills in Leeds)

Are you worried about your future career being affected by the pressure’s placed on nightclubs?

I’m worried about my career for a number of reasons; venues closing has never really been one that I have thought of though. I believe there is a very successful career in events/clubs but it is not an easy route and is filled with heartache. Covid-19 has shown the devastating effect that can be caused to an entire industry which people seem as “not necessary”.

What do you think can be done to protect more big name venues?

Go to shows for the artists you want to see. Spend money at the bars. Go out and support. Too often people will comment “I used to love going there” but haven’t been for years and that is a key reason to why arguments can be made for their closure.

Why do you think it’s always nightclubs that seem to close for residential developments?

People grow out of them and feel like it’s a “phase” and don’t see the need for it. Town planners/politicians may argue we need more residential areas because that’s the area of life they’re in – families and children. I think the only way to truly save aspects of youth culture is for more youth to pursue careers in politics and similar areas and to campaign for the student voice. I don’t know much about politics at all, but I would love to see a student party which is run to try and generate change on our behalf.

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Fenton Haslam

Co-owner and resident DJ for underground London event Defunct

Do you think club and venue closure is a problem in London and across the UK?

Yes, club and nightlife culture is a significant part of London’s culture in general. London has a reputation as a nightlife city, if clubs close, the reputation will go with it.

What do you think are the main reasons places keep closing and what can be done to protect them?

Property development and overseas investors into the country have caused some of the closures, this has probably been exacerbated by Brexit. Drugs is an obvious one for closures, but this can be avoided by stricter policies. There’s a lot of reasons really which makes it hard.

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Harry Goulbourn

Co-Owner of Liverpool events company Crackle (Along with Lost Art Soundsystem’s Charlie Lowe & William Kynaston)

Does the lack of independent venues worry you when trying to start parties?

I wouldn’t say that we have a lack of independent venues in Liverpool, we have some amazing venues; Meraki, North Shore Troubadour, Invisible Wind Factory & Kitchen Street to name a few. However, we’re seeing venues across the city closing up due to development works, particularly around the Baltic Triangle, a vibrant area of Liverpool brought to life by the music industry.

Personally, I believe that having a wide range of venues allows for a vibrant music industry and a vibrant music industry creates jobs, economic growth and tourist development.  

What do you think are the main reasons places keep closing and what can be done to protect them?

The government and local council need to cherish and protect areas such as the Baltic Triangle across the whole country. The main reason for closures, from my experience, seems to be that residential developers have more control than venues when it comes to planning. Behind the scenes, things may not be as simple but we need to stop some residential developments being accepted to protect the music industry

Over the last 10-15 years, Liverpool has changed dramatically, through independent businesses and the music industry in particular. We need to keep our city as attractive to tourists/students as possible and the music industry can have a huge impact on this. The economy during these developing years has seen a huge boost in students being attracted to the diverse and vibrant clubbing industry and many of those students now settling in our city with graduate positions. We need to protect that.

A recent study suggested that around 80% of small, independent venues are at risk of closing their doors for good if they can’t find more income before July. If you want to help in any way have a look at the Music Venue Trust to see how you can help

YZ 🙂

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