As the government lays out a faint road map for the return of live performances, the future still remains unclear for what this will look like for the smaller independent venues whose space renders socially-distanced gigs financially unviable. As the lockdown slowly starts to ease, I spoke to Danny from Mabgate Bleach, one of Leeds’ smallest but most loved venues, to see what the place had been doing to deaden the blow of lockdown. 

At the start of the lockdown, you launched a fundraiser campaign, what has the response been like?

The response was great and really unexpected to be honest. We set ourselves a target of £2000 but realistically hoped for £1000. The fundraiser was primarily for the studio rent which we rely on to put on our events – it really helped out at a time we really needed it. No rehearsals/events/gear rental meant literally no income for a grassroots organisation that is already running a tight ship! 

The venue was pretty quick in setting up a series of livestreams, starting with the Soft Jocks/LUMER performances, was this something you’ve been planning a while? How have the livestreams helped the venue during lockdown? 

We’ve had a production outfit/channel in the set up for about 6 months, stock piling material to release with interviews/podcasts, etc. The Soft Jocks/LUMER was basically just a burst of creative energy in the wake of a realisation of “oh shit lockdown could easily be around the corner”. I think we recorded it 5 or 6 days before official lockdown came in. 2 of our favourite bands that are very much part of the community down here. The livestreams have helped us remind people we still exist over the last few months. It also shows a snippet of the amazing atmosphere our shows have in the intimate space. 

You’ve also set up a Patreon page, which is something that others areas of the arts use but you don’t see many venues using, do you think it’s something that the industry should consider more? Do you see Patreon/similar online patronage playing a more important role in the future?

We arrived at Patreon after deliberating the most efficient ways of distributing a ‘monthly subscription for exclusive content service’. Patreon seemed like a good way for us to get different mediums of content out quickly all under one service. It also obviously means we can reach people outside of our locality who can pay £4 a month for a wide open window of what we get up to.

With the latest government advice continuing to offer little relief for the music sector, what needs to be changed to help support venues like yourself? 

It all comes down to how onerous the social distancing measures are. And also floorspace/capacity. Being a small intimate venue we just can’t open as a venue under any kind of social distancing measures. Unfortunately we wouldn’t be able to get enough people in to make it work financially (or create any kind of venue atmosphere) and we’re not going to push the point when it comes to safety. 

Aside from this we have been tentatively booking some top secret touring acts for post-lockdown and also putting together some T Shirts and a compilation LP to support the space. It will feature one track per artist from our Dark Daze festival (Leeds psych & post-punk festival). Hopefully this will be out in the next month so watch our socials for more announcements on that and dates for Dark Daze 2… 

In the most, part due to the lack of support and guidance on re-opening for music venues and other creatives from the government, we are working with our landlord and neighbouring businesses to transform our outside space into a bookable beer garden on Fridays and Saturdays. Given that we use a different local brewery’s beer for each event we are looking to feature craft ale, good gin and wine with street food, etc. In the current climate we are having to very much think ‘outside the box’ in the hope of bringing some money back into the space. It’s tough times – but we’ll have even tougher times in the future if all our creative independents are allowed to dry up. 

Finally, what’s the 3-band line-up that you’d most like to host once live music returns? 

We’re going fantasy line-up on this… Protomartyr, Tropical Fuck Storm, RATM. 

Support Bleach

To support the fundraising, follow: 

And for Mabgate Bleach’s Patreon page, follow: 

Bleach is close our our hearts here at Pretend as we hosted a party with Loop and Dance Disease there back in 2019.

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