Next in our series exploring the venues under threat of closure as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown we turn to Bristol with Rob Day taking you through a few of the spaces that are at imminent risk of closure in the city. A few weeks ago we published articles exploring the situation with The World Headquarters in Newcastle, the difficulties facing a few of the venues in Manchester and an interview with Criag Evans of Flying Vinyl about the difficulties facing venues more generally.
When chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his £1.6 Billion investment in the arts there was a moment of hope. Some of that hope still remains but the near miss we saw in Manchester with The Deaf Institue and Gorilla saved from closure at the last minute has shown that this bailout was not designed with Grassroots music venues in mind. We must continue to support these spaces around the country if they are to keep the doors open post lockdown, looking at Bristol today, Leeds tomorrow and London on Friday.
Now that the lingering spectre of redevelopment has been replaced with the new threat from coronavirus lockdown, many live music venues and local businesses have had to adapt in order to stay afloat during these times. United by the efforts of the Music Venue Trust, the live music community of Bristol is putting up a fight. Here are some of the venues that have been affected by the lockdown, and how they are coping with the new pressures put upon then.
The Old England
An alternative live music pub situated in Montpellier. Known for its warm and authentic atmosphere, this iconic venue has played host to a wide range of local bands, and has played a significant role in sustaining the DIY music scene in Bristol for a number of years.
On the Music Venue Trust website, the team at The Old England explain that the venue is gradually accruing debt, and that they need your support to help stay afloat. In order to do this, they have been producing T-shirts and a now mixtape which you can purchase online. On 12th May, they announced on Facebook that the crowdfund setup early on in the lockdown had reached its £5,000 target, and that ‘Should we sail through lockdown bloodied, but not dealt the knockout blow, and have funds remaining, we will invest them in improvements to the venue to improve its user experience.’ In order to ensure that The Old England is able to continue providing Bristol with an ongoing supply of new local talent, head to their website, where details concerning how you can help can be found.
First opening in the summer of 2012, Exchange has since welcomed a plethora of artists through its doors, including Four Tet, Sleaford Mods, Haim, and many more. The venue is a non-profit Community Owned venue, and has battled continuously to remain standing since its opening. Following on from a campaign in 2018, the team have stated that whilst the lockdown will have an inevitably large financial impact upon the business, they should be able to reopen at some point. They have, however, stressed the point that there are many other grassroots venues in Bristol that are at greater risk, and are looking to assist them through the Music Venue Trust. On their website, the Exchange was stated that they will be making the most of this downtime to complete improvements to their venue, including a large awning installation.
Dating back to 1987, The Louisiana has been at the forefront of championing local talent. After a fire at the Fleece, The Louisiana took over many of the gigs due to occur, and has since maintained its role as a staple Bristolian music venue.
In early May this year, the fate of The Louisiana was not looking at all bright, with a £5000 target Crowdfund set up to rescue it from closure. With just days till the Crowfund was due to close, this figure was doubled to £10,000. However, The Louisiana have been running a pizza takeaway service form the venue, ensuring that they have been able to maintain a source of income, and, since they have reopened their doors with social distancing measures in place, it is hoped that the business will be able to recover to the strength it had before.
Pressure upon music venues is nothing new. Rather than seeing this pandemic as a cause for a temporary increase of support, we should see this as a new start; a new level of permanent consideration for the value of our nation’s music venues. If we can use thissobering close shave to increase the protection of venues for good, then we may be sufficiently prepared for the next challenge that the industry may face.