Clara Cullen is venue support manager at the Music Venue Trust and has been working to ensure the safety of grassroots venues during Covid-19. Here, she shares her music business story and reveals what she'd say to the Prime Minister, given the chance...
How did you get into music?
“Discovering Banquet Records changed my life and introduced me to indie music, DIY ethics and small venues. This led to me setting up a blog and spending most of my time in venues interviewing bands. I emailed a UK indie label called Lojinx for weeks, telling them how I could help with an upcoming album. I think they were a bit shocked that a 17-year-old could be so relentless and eventually they let me help. I studied history and politics and wanted to do something that combined those interests. It was at university that I discovered the Music Venue Trust (MVT). I badgered my way into helping at Venues Day in 2017. Mark Davyd and Bev Whitrick must have seen potential, as I am still here.”
What’s the hardest part of your job?
“I run our crisis service, which helps venues at imminent risk of closure. The position of music venues has always been precarious, even more so during the current crisis. I have dealt with cases this year where a venue operator also lives in the venue they run. Saving the venue is directly linked to saving their home and family. These stark realities are never far from my mind.”
How was lockdown at the MVT?
“Relentless and rewarding. Although the team is working remotely, our community of venues is closer than ever. The work we have done to help secure funding and represent venues’ views to the government, and to the public with our Save Our Venues campaign, shows that acting quickly with focus and persistence can create positive outcomes.”
The position of music venues has always been precarious
Clara Cullen, MVT
What would you say to the Prime Minister about live music?
“The first thing I would ask him would be the last gig he went to at a grassroots venue. Whether politicians can answer that question often reveals a lot. After that, I would remind him that there are actions his government could take right now to help venues. These include: strengthening planning legislation to protect venues against development, encouraging community ownership of venues and incentivising the creation of a long-term music industry crisis fund through extending the VAT cut on tickets. We need to do these things to ensure that venues, artists, crew, and the wider music ecosystem can be better protected.”
What’s your ultimate ambition?
“To do fulfilling work that supports the mavericks and misfits who run venues. I want to help create an industry where they’re given the respect, recognition and support that has often been lacking.”
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