A message from Dan Read – Festival Coordinator @ Chester Live and Events Manager @ Music Is Now
‘There’s something very important going on across the UK now as I write this entry onto the Chester Live website. A collective effort is being made to save grassroots music venues all across the UK. Music Is Now is proud to stand with 558 UK grassroots music venues in signing Music Venue Trust‘s open letter to the UK Government.
I write this to you today not just as the Events Manager at Music Is Now or even the Festival Coordinator at Chester Live, but as someone who has grown up around our city’s grassroots music venues over the last 30 years and who is desperately concerned about the future of our venues.
Chester’s live music venues are the cornerstone of the city’s live music community, they are the next step for artists to hone their skills to which they learn in local schools and our excellent University. If these venues disappear what encouragement is there for our children to take up music and add to our culture locally?
Over the last 60 years this industry has grown and grown, to the point where it contributed £5.2 billion to the UK economy in 2019.
Thousands of cultural professionals get their first taste of working in the creative industries in our venues, including many of those who go on to work in areas other than music. Our venues sit at the very heart of the creative nation the UK is.
Public Health advice is clear. Singing is a high-risk activity. Dancing is a high-risk activity. Standing close to other people is a high-risk activity. Being in a confined space for a long period is a high-risk activity. This is everything the live music experience offers to us, our friends and our families. If we cannot experience these areas then live music venues cannot survive in the ‘new normal’.
You will be aware that in 2018 12,000 attended the Chester Live Music Festival on Brook Street, Chester. The event not only generated over £250k for the local economy but a community well-being which lasted for well over 12 months. Under the current public health guidelines such events cannot take place. If our venues close Chester Live as a community entity would fold, limiting the opportunities of local artists to perform to a wider audience.
In recent months I have started supporting Chester Music Theatre with their live music program. The venue only re-opened in February 2020 (after being closed for many years), but then had to close again on the 20th March 2020 when the country went into lockdown. Joanne Saunders and myself have many plans for the venue to become a cultural hub for musicians and artists from Chester. However, these plans have been curtailed by lockdown and Public Health Guidance.
As a venue we’ve complied to Public Health Guidance and remained closed. This was the correct thing to do, not only to protect the team but also to protect our local community. We have engaged with government task forces through our membership to the Music Venues Trust who have now submitted an open letter to Parliament today which is available here: https://bit.ly/2YrGuSk
You will see in the coming 24hrs that this campaign will gain a lot of traction in the national and local press.
Chester Music Theatre, like my friends within venues across Chester, cannot make the 2m social distancing work as a live music venue. At best, our capacities drop to 8% – 12% of their original level. Even at 1m social distancing our capacities would only be around 30% of our original level. UK wide most venues can’t comply with these restrictions and if action isn’t taken soon by Government 93% of grassroots music venues will close before the end of 2020.
We want to open, but to do so safely. We aren’t as gung-ho with public health as some of the corporate pub chains. Music Is Now and Chester Live have put all future events on hold. Safety has to be the first and foremost thought in our minds.
Live music events aren’t old fashioned (as I’ve seen written elsewhere) they are just temporarily incompatible with public health.
Social distancing is incompatible with any business selling social interaction, and that is what live music venues deliver within their communities. Positive, social interaction.
I have today contacted our MP, Chris Matheson, and members of our local council to ask them, as our representatives, to please back this campaign, and to support saving our local grassroots music venues in Chester.
Chester’s live music venues are irreplaceable, our community needs them.
I hope everyone can support the Music Venues Trust with this matter.
#dotherightthing #saveourvenues #musicisnow #wearelivemusic’