In the midst of the biggest crisis this country has faced since World War Two, many industries are having to turn to public funding in order to keep them going. One area that isn’t get much of a look in though is the performing arts. With many live concerts, performances and shows having to be cancelled and/or postponed, music venues, theatres and stadiums haven’t been able to open for months. Many venues have tried to set up crowd-funding pages in order to help them keep afloat, but this is only a temporary fix and is proving less than effective.
The Snug is only one example. It is a small coffee shop in Atherton, Manchester that features live music and has started appealing for donations, working alongside the Music Venues Trust’s initiative Save Our Venues but so far has only managed to gain £700 out of the £5,000 needed. As a result, The Snug - a much-loved cafe that combines two favourite past-times; listening to music and drinking coffee - has had to temporarily close. Many venues are left relying on public donations to get them through the next couple of months, especially with lockdown restrictions not appearing to be easing any time soon.
Social distancing rules that are currently in place have particularly affected small music venues. Social distancing would be difficult in such small areas. Another concern is the 10pm curfew imposed as of September 24th. Many small venues are also asking for donations of alcohol to replace large stocks that expired in the months of lockdown, and with no customers since, many venues don’t have the money to replace the expired stock.
In order to comply with current government guidelines, venues would have to make sure that people were not together in more than a group of six, and in some cases regarding the local tier system, that the group was not made up of any more than one household. As well as this, all audiences must be seated with a two-metre social distancing rule: a rule that flies in the face of the entire concept of ‘The Snug’. That’s just the difficulty in getting venues open again. But even once they do, there are many more worries, including how likely audiences are to comply. The chief executive of MVT (Music Venue Trust) Mark Davys said: “The Government restrictions have reduced capacity in venues down to 25 percent. Then restrictions on hours, we estimate, has removed something like 50 percent of their income. Venues now have half of their available trading hours and a quarter of their usual audience. By that marker, they are getting 12.5 percent of their income.”
So, with it looking unlikely that live music venues will reopen before Christmas, we now have to ask how many will survive a gig-less winter before the towel has to be thrown in and we have to say goodbye to some of our favourite and most beloved venues.