Musicians, agents, venues, promoters and most of all the audience, are uniting in a campaign to prevent the collapse of the UK live music scene which they fear will be the case without government support. In Bridgwater, the town’s most popular indie venue, the Cobblestones Pub in Eastover, is at the forefront of a campaign to prevent the potentially terminal closures of venues as income dries up and audiences and performers are separated maybe forever. Owner Graham Hodgson, however, is not sitting back and accepting this and has not just set up a crowdfunding scheme to try to save his own business but has joined up with the national ‘#Save Our Venues’ campaign. Supporters have been sending ‘Save our Venues’ selfies and now Bridgwater Labour Councillors have also added their weight to the fightback.
Bridgwater Town Mayor, Cllr Tony Heywood (Eastover,Labour) was the first to send his support. His own background is in music promotion and he currently chairs the Town’s Cultural Partnership which is heavily affected by the closures which have seen the cancellation of the popular Quayside festival and the new ‘Seed’ community arts project put on hold until lockdown ends.
Tony says “The lockdown has left performers, agents, promoters and technicians without a steady income since the end of March. Most of the UK’s live venues are now at risk of closing before the end of the month,which is devastating news. Of course, major artists will continue to make money through record sales and streaming during the lockdown, but the vast majority of musicians still rely on extensive tours of smaller venues and festivals to provide their income.”
Town Council Backing
Bridgwater Town Council has also been hit by the covid crisis and Council Leader Brian Smedley explains why “ The Town Council generates income from letting the Town Hall. One of our biggest projects of the year is the carnival and the associated concerts. These have all now been cancelled driving a hole into our projected finances. Also, as of this week, our long term plan to take on the ownership of the Bridgwater Arts Centre has come at exactly the time when it shows no sign of re-opening for the foreseeable future. So we are in the same boat as other concert bookers, promoters and agents who have seen their usual means of income vanish.”
What can be done? Cllr Smedley says the only solution can come from the Government which holds the purse strings to recovery. “In the long run ensuring that venues survive and are still there when the shows can start up again should be the task of Governments everywhere. So we are calling on the government to deliver a support package to the industry in line with other countries. Germany is in the process of rolling out a 54bn Euro stimulus to its creative economy and today has announced some limited opening of venues. Obviously live music contributes massively to the UK economy and supports many jobs so the least they could do is provide funding now so that when that past and future income will return venues are still there. But also crucially they should be coming up with an exit plan from lockdown. This is critical for the general economy and obviously for the entertainment industry to know how to prepare itself. ”
Heart of the Community
Cllr Glen Burrows (Eastover) said “Venues such as the Cobblestones are the heart of communities like ours. They do so much more than put on rock gigs, they’re a social centre, they have poetry nights, film evenings. Places like this are exactly what is worth saving about a community. So governments will need to think about how to prop up live entertainment for at least a few months yet.”
This article is also carried on the Westover website here.