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‘It's really difficult to see a way back for music in this climate’: The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins fears for the future of live music

Justin Hawkins
(Image credit: Mariano Regidor/Redferns)

The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins has criticised the UK government’s efforts to safeguard the future of the British music industry in the midst of the paralysing coronavirus pandemic. 

Though the campaigning Music Venue Trust have raised over £80 million in donations and government grants this year through their #SaveOurVenuws initiative, theoretically securing the future of over 400 grassroots venues in the UK until March 31, 2021 – the group has also identified 24 UK venues in “imminent danger of permanent closure”, an alarming prospect for a community already hit punishingly hard by Covid-19.

“It doesn’t seem like the arts are a priority anymore,” Hawkins told The Telegraph. “While I was doing music technology at college [circa late-’90s], I remember all the talk being that music was Britain's biggest export after steel, and how important it was as an industry, and as part of our national identity. That way of thinking just seems to have been abandoned in this moment. 

“I know that everyone is suffering, but it's really difficult to see a way back for music, when you can't maintain a venue in this climate. When we do come back and play, where are we supposed to do it? Even in good times, for festivals and venues it’s a lot of outlay and a lot of work, with no guarantee that it's actually going to pay off, so the idea of people actually taking a chance on music is unthinkable right now. We don't feel supported, and it’s all a bit fucked, isn't it?”

Hawkins was speaking to the newspaper after learning that his band’s plans to have 400 fans attend a socially distanced livestream concert at London’s Indigo at The O2 had been scuppered by a new tightening of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. “It seemed like it was all well organised and going to be fine, then suddenly the government changed [the rules],” the singer lamented. The audience-free gig was nonetheless recorded for a live album, Streaming of a White Christmas, scheduled for April 2021, in partnership with Live Here Now.

The Darkness have also begun work on their seventh studio album, the follow-up to 2019’s Easter Is Cancelled.