Iconic grassroots music venues make open plea for financial support

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle - Credit: Archant

Venues including the Hampstead Jazz Club, Electric Ballroom, Dingwalls and Aces and Eights warn they could face closure without a package of Government support

The exterior of The Roundhouse, in Chalk Farm Road. Picture: John Williams

The exterior of The Roundhouse, in Chalk Farm Road. Picture: John Williams - Credit: John Williams Photography.co.uk

Iconic venues have signed an open plea urging the government to “do the right thing” to save live music.

The Roundhouse, The Dublin Castle, The Jazz Cafe and The Electric Ballroom are among the owners and operators of the UK’s “Grassroots Music Venues” to sign the open letter.

To prevent the closure of hundreds of gig spaces, the 800-member Music Venue Trust has requested a plan of Government support from July to September including a £50 million funding package and reduction on VAT on future ticket sales.

“Our venues are the fundamental foundations and cornerstone on which our world beating £5.2 billion per year music industry has been built for the last 60 years,” they said. “Without our Grassroots Music Venues, there would be no Beatles. No Stones, no Led Zeppelin, no Duran Duran, no Sade, no Oasis, no Skunk Anansie, no Adele, no Ed Sheeran, no Dua Lipa. They are essential to the UK music industry bouncing back at any time in the future.”

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

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

In addition to fostering the next generation of music stars, they offer training, rehearsal spaces, and recording opportunities to young people in their communities.

“Thousands of cultural professionals get their first taste of working in the creative industries in our venues, including those who go on to work in areas other than music. Grassroots Music Venues sit at the very heart of our creative nation.”

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Closed since March 20, they say that public health advice is clear, singing, dancing and being in a confined space close are high-risk activities.

“Coming together with friends and communities to dance and sing with your favourite artists is the very core and purpose of why we exist. Our sector has complied with the Public Health guidance. We did the right thing. We closed to protect our communities and we explored every option to reopen safely. We understand that in order to protect the public, it should not be done until the health guidance changes. It is now time for the government to do the right thing.”

Aces and Eights in Tufnell Park, The Blues Kitchen in Camden Town, The Fiddler’s Elbow in Kentish Town, Hampstead Jazz Club, The Unicorn Camden, The Camden Assembly, and London Irish Centre in Camden Town have also signed the letter.

Some, including the Jazz Cafe have launched their own fundraisers. The Camden Irish Centre, which also provides services to vulnerable people of Irish heritage, held a fundraiser and auction on June 11 hosted by Patron Dermot O’Leary.

The Fiddler’s Elbow is £7,000 towards its £15,000 target and owner Dan Maiden has said without additional support, venues like his which operate on the smallest of margins, “will close and become a block of flats”.

“We will need financial support until people are safe and content with mixing close together,” he adds.

Aces and Eights which has just celebrated its 10th birthday has launched a £10,000 crowdfunding campaign to pay rent, bills and operating costs as well as financial support to furloughed staff. They fear that even when bars and venues reopen they will only be able to operate at 20-25 percent capacity “which is simply uneconomical for the majority of businesses”.

Meanwhile the Hampstead Jazz Club is hoping to reopen on October 1.

Donate to the Grassroots Music Venue appeal at www.gofundme.com/f/2pt5g8k