The Dublin Castle and Hampstead Jazz Club awarded emergency Government grants to stay afloat

PUBLISHED: 15:13 24 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:13 24 August 2020

Madness at the Dublin Castle pub

Madness at the Dublin Castle pub

Jennifer McCord

Struggling grassroots music venues have been awarded thousands of pounds to cover rent and running costs and stave off closure

The Jazz Cafe in Camden Town has launched a crowdfunder campaign to ensure its survivalThe Jazz Cafe in Camden Town has launched a crowdfunder campaign to ensure its survival

Struggling grassroots music venues including The Dublin Castle, the Jazz Cafe and Hampstead Jazz Club have been awarded thousands of pounds in emergency funding to stay afloat.

The 135 venues are the first to benefit from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help arts organisations survive the pandemic.

A total of £3.36m was handed out to cover rent and running costs for the hardest hit facing imminent closure.

The Hampstead Jazz Club in the basement of the Duke of Hamilton was awarded £4,000, the Camden Assembly in Chalk Farm £16,900, The Fiddler’s Elbow in NW5 almost £30,000, and the Jazz Cafe, which has crowdfunded almost £150,000 to pay its £31,000 monthly rent and costs, got £18,000.

One of the venue's gigs pre-lockdown. Picture: The Fiddler's ElbowOne of the venue's gigs pre-lockdown. Picture: The Fiddler's Elbow

Camden Town’s Dublin Castle which helped to launch the careers of Madness, Travis and Blur were awarded £78,583.

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “We are determined to help our exceptional music industry weather the covid storm and come back stronger. Grassroots music venues are where the magic starts and these emergency grants will ensure these music venues survive to create the Adeles and Ed Sheerans of the future.”

Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust, said: “We warmly welcome this first distribution from the Culture Recovery Fund which will ensure that the short term future of these venues is secured while we continue to work on how we can ensure their long term sustainability. Islington-based singer-songwriter Frank Turner said: “These spaces are an irreplaceable part of the live music infrastructure in this country and play a vital role in building the careers of internationally successful artists.”

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Steve Ball from The Columbo Group, who run the Jazz Cafe, have plans to re-open with socially distanced gigs from mid-September.

“The £18,000 grant and the success of the crowdfunder have ensured that we’re not going out of business this year and we’re hugely grateful to everyone who donated and to Arts Council England,” he said.

Henry Conlon, whose family have run The Dublin Castle since 1976, said if small venues closed they would be gone forever because no-one would want one next to their home: “The grant is a massive help to address issues including maintenance of a building that dates back to 1840 - we’re like the humbly crumbly Dublin Castle,” he said.

“But it’s very important that grassroots venues are being recognised as a sector. The music may have changed over the decades, but they are still the ballrooms of romance for the people who go to them, and wherever you are in the world, if you hear a Coldplay song on the radio, you have to remember a lot of these people started in small venues in Camden.

“We have to get the kids out of their bedrooms with their guitars and songs and give them somewhere to play for the first time in front of an audience.”

The pub in Parkway has just reopened Wednesday to Sunday after being closed for five months. “We are just the custodians of the Dublin Castle,” added Conlon.

“The Madness community have been excellent. People are delighted that we are back. The support and messages have been phenomenal, and we feel truly blessed. We never realised how loved we were.”

But although indoor socially-distanced gigs are now allowed, Covid rules stipulating that audiences must be three metres from the singer make it impossible for small venues to reopen.

“We wouldn’t have anyone in the room,” says Conlon, who recalls a Libertines gig three years ago as one “very special night”.

“The band were so drunk they couldn’t remember the words and got the fans on stage to sing while they played. Each band member crowd-surfed to the toilets during the gig but Carl Barat got too much momentum and there’s still a dent in the wall where his head hit the plaster. Eventually I had to turn the lights on and say ‘come on now’. Standing at the door to Parkway as they left, five young people separately told me ‘that was the best gig of my whole life.’”


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