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Government’s cultural fund announces grants for 135 English music venues

By | Published on Monday 24 August 2020

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The UK government has announced that the grassroots-music-venue-specific portion of its £1.57 billion fund to support the cultural industries through the COVID-19 crisis has been awarded. Initially set at £2.25 million, the Emergency Grassroot Music Venues Fund was increased to £3.36 million and is to be shared out between 135 venues in England facing imminent closure as a result of the pandemic.

It was announced last month that grassroots music venues would be the first beneficiaries of the cultural support fund. Administered by Arts Council England, grants of up to £80,000 were made available to cover ongoing costs incurred during lockdown. The initial £2.25 million fund was expected to support 150 venues, although the extended fund will reach fewer than that.

“This government is here for culture”, says Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, only slightly perplexingly. “These grants today show we are determined to help our exceptional music industry weather the COVID storm and come back stronger”.

“Grassroots music venues are where the magic starts”, he continues, only slightly perplexingly. “These emergency grants from our £1.57 billion fund will ensure these music venues survive to create the Adeles and Ed Sheerans of the future”.

“I encourage music fans to help too by supporting music and cultural events as they start to get going again”, he adds, apparently under the assumption that because the government said indoor events can go ahead they actually will and venues will all be fine now. “We need a collective effort to help the things we love through COVID”.

Offering a more realistic view, Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust, says: “We warmly welcome this first distribution from the Culture Recovery Fund which will ensure that the short term future of these venues is secured while we continue to work on how we can ensure their long term sustainability”.

“Both [the Department For Digital, Culture, Media And Sport] and Arts Council England have worked very quickly to fully understand the imminent risk of permanent closure faced by a significant number of grassroots music venues across the country”, he went on. “The funding they’ve brought forward creates a real breathing space for under pressure venues”.

The longterm future for music venues remains uncertain, of course, with no real end to the pandemic in sight and no clear picture of when audiences may be able to properly return to live events.

Earlier this month, the government gave the go-ahead for indoor events to take place again in England, although with social distancing measures in place. These restrictions make actually re-opening unviable for many venues – either due to not being able to allow enough people through the doors to even break even or as a result of building layouts that make it impossible to get punters in safely.

Applications for a further £500 million in grants from the wider Cultural Recovery Fund are open to cultural organisations in England until 4 Sep. Music venues are also eligible to apply for that money, as are other music businesses, including festivals and studios.