We need these small gig venues now more than ever
January 30, 2023 7:00 AM(Has been updated 3:38 pm)
In October 1989 a band called Seymour headlined a gig at the small Cricketers Pub near the Oval tube station in south London. It was a lively, frenetic performance, and it was enough to convince the record label Food to sign up and change their name to Blur.
This summer they will reunite for two shows at Wembley Stadium. But while Blur became one of his biggest bands in the ’90s, The Crickets have long held their doors open, as have the many smaller venues across the country that helped launch the band’s career. It’s been closed. According to a report submitted to the Mayor of London in 2015, London has lost a staggering 35% of his number of live venues over the past eight years.
Running a small venue and advocating for rookie or leftfield talent while still making ends meet is no small feat. But the last few years have proven particularly difficult. Despite helping to nurture artists as diverse as Ed Sheeran and punk-rock noisemakers Idles, the venue remains hampered by noise complaints, town center redevelopment projects, and often onerous rent and fee increases. had to deal with.
Even after the pandemic, the UK’s grassroots venue network is far from safe. Many promoters are reporting a drop in viewership brought on by the cost of living crisis, but rising energy prices (estimated by one trade group to equate to a 300% increase on average) ), many promoters literally struggle to keep up with viewership. lights up.
It is against this backdrop that the annual Independent Venue Week will be held nationwide on January 30th. IVW was launched in 2013 with the aim of raising awareness of the grassroots venue circuit and supporting venues through a financially precarious and relatively quiet start to the year.
Since then, the event has grown in size and stature. In the year of its 10th anniversary, there are more than 200 locations where you can see works by celebrities and local artists across genres. The gigs take place everywhere from established new band venues and art centers to the backrooms of small pubs (the smallest venue involved is the stunning Greyston Unity in Halifax, which seats just 35 people). people).
Radiohead drummer Philip Selway returns as one of this year’s IVW ambassadors. Like Blur, Radiohead’s early years traveled around the country in vans, traveling to Southampton’s Joiner’s Arms, Bath His Moles, Hull He’s Adelphi (a converted terraced house in the back streets of Hull), among others. We stopped at the legendary launch pad venue. For him to survive 30 years after Thom Yorke graced the stage.
“This kind of venue was very important to us,” says Selway. “The relationships within the band are built on these tours. Having the ability to, and making that connection, is a very important part of the band’s progress.
But Independent Venue Week isn’t just about going to see live music. It is also a celebration of the communities that have formed around these venues and the vibrant social and creative environments they help foster.
Founder Sybil Bell said:
This is as true as it gets. As a teenager, I left the small village of Essex where I grew up and moved to Harrow to study at university. Two or three nights a week, I would go to the venue, The Square, to not only see bands, but also meet and chat with new people. In fact, I learned more about literature, politics, film, and music at The Square bar than I ever did in my life. It was full of energy and ideas and creative minds. And I really cried the day it was demolished after the developers submitted plans to redevelop the site.It’s now an NCP parking lot.
But there are venues across the UK that embody the spirit of The Square, and many are in financial trouble. The question is how can we help them survive and nurture a new generation of artists.
One possibility is a growing belief among grassroots organizations that the UK’s leading concert promoters and festival organizers need to put their hands in their pockets to support the venues that deliver their headline artists. I’m here.
As one insider told me:
Until then, Britain’s ground-floor promoter legions keep fighting, waving the flag of new artists and pop stars around the corner. You might be surprised at how great a little gig can be. people are nice The atmosphere is intimate and intense. You may also see Blur of him next.
To celebrate Independent Venue Week, Steve Lamack will host the BBC Radio 6 Music Show (4pm-7pm) at Ramsgate Music Hall (January 30th), Birmingham Hare & Hounds (January 31st) and Norwich. Broadcast from The Arts Center (February 1), KU Stockton. (Feb 2) and Glasgow Stereo (Feb 3).