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Music Venue Trust calls for action on venue ownership, as Doncaster’s Woolpack Live is sold

By | Published on Monday 8 February 2021

Music Venue Trust

The Music Venue Trust has called for “a very public discussion” about the way in which grassroots live music venues are owned in the UK. This comes after The Woolpack Live in Doncaster has announced its closure, after the building in which it was housed was sold.

“The loss of this building is a reminder to the music industry, the government, and the cultural sector that the issue of ownership remains the most significant cause of grassroots music venue closures”, says the Music Venue Trust. “It isn’t new, we have been discussing it with those stakeholders for six years. [The COVID] crisis is simply magnifying the problem so we can see it very clearly”.

It adds that 93% of music venues rent the property they use and landlords “very often, don’t share our ambition for live music to thrive in our local communities”.

“They are invested in bricks and mortar and the income it can generate”, it goes on. “Music Venue Trust isn’t here to criticise them. But we need to have a very public discussion about whether this model of ownership supports creativity, culture, or music in the way we all need and want it to”.

“No other cultural sector in the UK is owned in this way”, it insists. “Not our theatres, art galleries, museums, libraries, opera houses. No other grassroots music venue network in the world is owned to this extent in this manner. The UK is unique in allowing such an ownership model. The UK is also the country in the world suffering the highest number of permanent closures of its music venues; everywhere has challenges, ours are magnified and amplified five-fold by the issue of ownership”.

Back in 2018, the MVT announced a ‘pipeline investment fund’, calling on the music industry to provide money to support small venues – which in part would include buying up freeholds, in order to provide such venues with protected status. Then in 2019, it also called on the government to act, by providing funding, tax relief and extending a ‘statutory right of consultation’ that exists for theatres to music venues.

Obviously, not long after that, the pandemic hit and the MVT’s main focus became making sure that grassroots venues can avoid going out of business while being shut down for months on end. But the closure of The Woolpack Live shows that the issues faced by venues before the pandemic still remain.

On a positive note, working with the MVT, the Woolpack’s management have managed to remove their PA, lighting and other equipment before losing access to their former home. They will seek new premises once restrictions on live music are lifted.

In some other good news, the MVT also had an update last week on those venues specifically at risk because of COVID. It has now removed thirteen venues from its previously published ‘red list’ – those being the venues at imminent risk of permanent closure.

On that development, MVT CEO Mark Davyd said: “We want to thank every artist, every audience member, every member of our community for taking direct action which means we are able to remove these thirteen venues from the red list right now”.

“The love shown for these venues continues to demonstrate how important they are to people and to our towns and cities”, he added. “Music Venue Trust is committed to reopening every venue safely and we are going to carry on working through this crisis until that outcome is achieved”.

The now safe venues are:

Arden Inn, Accrington
Backstage, Kinross
Boulevard, Wigan
Four Horsemen, Bournemouth
Gellions, Inverness
Hootenanny, Inverness
Plot 22, Sheffield
Rossi Bar, Brighton
Strange Brew, Bristol
The Brunswick, Hove
The Grand Elektra/The Crypt, Hastings
The Railway Inn, Winchester
Waterloo Bar, Blackpool