On Monday the Prime Minister will give a statement outlining how we move forward with the government roadmap on lifting restrictions. This 30 minute speech has the potential to create enormous optimism within the grassroots music venue sector. Dependent on public health factors, and the government’s approach to them, this announcement could finally kickstart the process of reviving live music. Regrettably, we also have to acknowledge that the announcement runs an equal risk of undoing 16 months of work by tens of thousands of people to Save Our Venues unless the government carefully manages any decision to delay reopening. Failure to take immediate action to support the sector could tip many hundreds of grassroots music venues into the abyss.
Throughout this pandemic Music Venue Trust has worked closely with central government and its departments and agencies to protect the grassroots music sector. We have been grateful for the support and funding that has been allocated but have to remind the government that the systems to allocate it and distribute it have created a number of issues. Many venues were left out of support and others are still awaiting payments they should have received months ago.
The issue is not simply about a delay in re-opening or lifting restrictions. It may on the surface look like a short and manageable pause. But there is no provision in place to bridge the resultant funding gap should this occur. Without some certainty on exactly when grassroots music venues can start trading at full capacity again the majority of the sector, already barely surviving on life support, could flat line.
This is not an exaggeration; with no funding in place to mitigate any delay in reopening we will see mass evictions and foreclosures by landlords and creditors who ran out of patience a long time ago. The risk of business closures, widespread redundancies and the decimation of our sector is as real now as it was in April 2020.
Through the incredible work, support and amazing resilience of all those that work in venues, artists, music fans, local councils and central government we have survived everything this pandemic has thrown at us. We are still here.
When the Prime Minister addresses the nation on Monday it will be the most important 30 minutes in the entire history of our sector. The government has the tools it needs to avert a disaster, whatever decisions it needs to make. It has allocated an additional £300 million to support the cultural sector; the Prime Minister or the Culture Secretary can swiftly announce that this money will be immediately released to tackle the challenges caused by any delay to reopening. They can ensure confidence with a clear statement that they won’t let grassroots music venues go to the wall.
15 months ago, Music Venue Trust set out to Save Our Venues and Reopen Every Venue Safely. We need the Prime Minister and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to do the right thing on Monday and give us the certainty the sector needs that that mission can be completed.
Don’t fail us now.