Government unveils £2.25m emergency package to save grassroots music venues

Government unveils £2.25m emergency package to save grassroots music venues

The government has pledged £2.25 million of emergency funding to support UK grassroots music venues at imminent risk of collapse.

Up to 150 venues across the country are expected to benefit from the pot, which is the first portion of funding from the £1.57 billion arts recue package announced earlier this month by culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

Administered by Arts Council England (ACE), the package will target music venues, including a number identified by the Music Venues Trust, that are at severe risk of insolvency. It will provide grants of up to £80,000 to cover essential on-going costs for venues including rent, utilities, maintenance contracts and other bills to help venues survive the next few months.

Nearly all of our globally successful music stars started out at UK clubs and live music venues - and we must make sure those organisations weather the Covid storm

Oliver Dowden

“Without our grassroots music venues, we wouldn’t have The Beatles, Adele or Elton John," said Dowden. "Nearly all of our globally successful music stars started out at UK clubs and live music venues - and we must make sure those organisations weather the Covid storm. 

“The first £2.25 million of our unprecedented cultural rescue package is targeted at their survival. We’re working to deliver the rest of the £1.57 billion emergency package as quickly as possible, so that we can protect and preserve our precious culture, arts and heritage for future generations.”

Music Venue Trust (MVT) founder and CEO Mark Davyd welcomed the "desperately needed" intervention, which he described as an "interim solution". 

"We will be working closely with grassroots music venues across the country to ensure that this money reaches those in need and has the largest impact," he said. "This interim solution will provide a short term fix for those venues identified as being in crisis but we urgently need information and guidance on when and how venues can access the larger fund, which is so vital to safeguarding their longer term futures.”

The organisation had previously warned the government that the UK grassroots scene required an immediate £50m cash injection to prevent mass closures over the summer.

The MVT's Beverley Whitrick added: "Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes this essential funding for desperate grassroots music venues facing urgent, short term challenges. Without this help, the sector would be facing a wave of permanent closures. Throughout this crisis we have worked closely with DCMS and are delighted that the urgent need for this intervention has been recognised and responded to." 

It is expected that funding will be received by organisations within the next few weeks. Further details on how organisations can apply to the £1.57 billion package will be released in the coming days. 

Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England, said: “Grassroots live music venues perform a vital role in England’s music ecology. As well as nurturing the next generation of talent across a huge range of musical genres, these are the places that spark that special connection between audiences and professional musicians. So, we’re very happy to be administering this investment on behalf of DCMS to help make a positive difference to live music venues in villages, towns and cities across the country.”

The announcement comes 48 hours after the publication of the DCMS committee report on Covid-19's impact on the cultural industries, which concluded that ministers had "consistently failed to recognise the scale of the challenge that the coronavirus crisis presents to culture, sport and tourism". Recommending a sector-specific recovery deal for performing arts, it added the government had been "too slow" to respond to the needs of the sectors during the outbreak.

UK Music acting CEO Tom Kiehl said: “Grassroots music venues are the lifeblood of the music industry. They enable musicians and creators to cultivate their skills, artists to grow their fanbases and allow music fans an opportunity to see their heroes perform live. 

"In normal times they face many challenges yet Covid-19 has meant this foundation of the music industry is on the brink of collapse. UK Music is very grateful to the Government for making this much needed support available and asks that forthcoming details of the full £1.57bn cultural package ensure all those at risk in the music industry have an opportunity to benefit.”

Last week, the government announced indoor performances with socially distanced audiences will be able to take place from August 1, subject to successful trials. 

* For more on the campaign to save grassroots venues, see the new issue of Music Week, out Monday July 27.

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