Arts Council England have rejected a funding application from the charity Music Venue Trust which could jeopardise the future of some smaller venues.
The Guardian report that the charity, whose aim is to “improve and protect UK grassroots music venues for the benefit of venues, communities and upcoming artists” had been encouraged by ACE to make several applications for a sum close to £500,000.
While the council allocated £1.6 billion in its latest round of funding, a total of £367 million went into the music sector – but 85% of the cash was given to opera and classical music.
Strategic director of the Music Venue Trust Beverley Whitrick tells The Guardian: “We are in a critical position with venues. The next ACE funding round is in another four years. We can’t even guess how many venues will close in the next four years.
“That’s not ACE’s fault, but the fact that we cannot build the level of support we want to offer makes it more likely that more venues will close.”
Whitrick continues: “ACE was so open to the idea of why this was needed and it was really encouraging. We thought we were winning the argument about these clubs being cultural venues, so this feels like a slap in the face.”
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ACE chief executive Darren Henley responds: “We are acutely aware of the challenges faced by music venues across the country and will continue to look at ways to work strategically with the sector to address them.”
He reports the council had supported events including Reading’s Readipop, Birmingham’s Capsule, Loud In Libraries, Liverpool’s Sound City and NTS Live.
But Whitrick adds: “If they were commercial, they wouldn’t be dropping like flies. They are the bit at the bottom of the industry that doesn’t make money and helps develop the talent that then gets taken away from them once the artists start being more successful.”
Many smaller venues across the UK, including Manchester’s Roadhouse and the Cockpit in Leeds, have been forced to close their doors in recent years due to noise abatement legislation, rising rents and plans to convert the land they occupy into office space and residential property.
Earlier this year, Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson condemned the closure of small music venues across the UK and called for more to be done to ensure their future.
In 2016, the Sir Charles Napier pub in Blackburn was saved from closure by rock and metal fans, making it the UK’s first community-owned rock venue. Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford put his name behind the campaign and officially opened the venue last September.
Meanwhile, The Flapper pub and gig venue in Birmingham is currently facing demolition to make way for apartments. A petition has been set up via Change.org to try and persuade Birmingham city council, Whitehorse Estate Ltd and Baskerville Wharf to change their plans.
Organisers are looking for 1500 signatures and at the time of writing, are just 94 short of their target.