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The Future of the UK Music Scene is in Our Hands as 556 Grassroots Venues Face Closure – Including Two in Leeds

· Ali Turner · Independents

Will grassroots music venues be there when this is over?

Quidrophenia at Oporto, Leeds

Oporto and BOOM Leeds are among 556 music venues in the UK that are at risk of closing due to coronavirus – let’s fight to keep them open.

Grassroots music venues play an important role in the development of British music. They nurture local talent and provide a platform for artists to develop their music and build their careers. But they also operate on small margins and they don’t have a big stockpile of cash, so many of them are now at risk of closing. Within just 8 weeks, we could lose 556 independent music venues in the UK, including two here in Leeds.


Credit: adamstealslight

In response to this… oh god, we’re going to say it… unprecedented crisis, the Music Venue Trust has launched #SaveOurVenues, a new campaign to help protect and preserve the UK’s grassroots music venues. It will bring together artists, venues and fans to help raise funds and financially support these much-loved independents. Because without them, the UK’s live music scene will all but die.

“We provide a platform for musicians and artists of all styles, not driven by purely commercial motives, but a genuine passion for music, we’re a place to not just play and watch music, but to talk about it, plot and share your ideas with others,” Nicholas Simcock, Live Music & Events Manager at Oporto explained – they’re one of the venues that’s currently at risk of closing.

“We’re a stepping stone for creative people both locally and internationally, a safe first place to perform and see your potential new favourite artist. It’s not just the mega stars we’ve had perform like Lewis Capaldi and Michael Kiwanuka though, but alternative, underground acts who want no more than to connect with people in intimate spaces and share those experiences. You just don’t get that in massive spaces.”

That’s what we would be losing if they closed their doors. Not just a bricks-and-mortar venue, but a community, one that has helped to start careers and shape the Leeds music scene. It’s a place where bands are formed and projects are started, a beginning, an idea – and without it, Leeds will be a less interesting place. Of course, it’s also a bloody good night out and we’d miss that too.

But closure is exactly what’s on the table if we don’t step in and help. Even with the government’s small business support package, they’re in dire straights. “We’ve been shut for well over a month, so no one is buying our delicious drinks or yummy vegan junk food from Knave’s Kitchen, but also ticket sales have pretty much stopped even for events at the end of the year amidst the uncertainly of how long this will last,” Simcock confessed. “This complete standstill with regards to cashflow means even with the council and government support we can’t cover our substantial bills for much longer.”

So how can you help? Oporto has joined the Music Venue Trust’s #SaveOurVenues. There’s one big pot that will be used to support all 556 venues taking part, but every venue has their own individual fundraiser too, so you can help save your local music venues. Both Oporto and BOOM Leeds, the other local venue that’s at risk, have set a £10,000 target – they’re a long way off and they need your help. Any donation, no matter how small, will make a difference.

But that’s not the only way you can help. Talk to them, share their posts, tell your friends and get the word out because this is an immense challenge and it’s going to take an army of music fans to save them. There’s an extra incentive here – artists from across the country are adding their voice to the campaign by performing online gigs to raise money for #SaveOurVenues. From Roxanne de Bastion to Frank Turner, this is your chance to watch a live gig from your living room and put the ‘ticket price’ to a good cause.

“The UK live music industry is staring into the abyss right now. I’m not able to save the whole thing on my own, but I decided to do a series of livestream shows to raise money for specific independent venues that I know and love, and that are in serious risk of disappearing right now,” Turner told us. “The success of these shows demonstrated the love that exists between music fans and their favourite grassroots music venues so the #saveourvenues campaign is a brilliant way of building on that and hopefully giving artists and music fans a chance to get involved and play a big part in helping them survive.”

The future of grassroots music venues is in your hands, so ask yourself this – what would the world be like without them in it? Then make a donation.