Business News Live Business

Small venues should seek more arts funding, says culture minister

By | Published on Wednesday 21 October 2015

Ed Vaizey

Smaller music venues should apply for more arts funding to help keep their doors open, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said at yesterday’s Venue Day conference in London.

“A vibrant music venue which is breaking new acts has just as much right to be considered a cultural venue as a local or regional theatre”, he said, according to the BBC. This follows the publication of figures by the Greater London Authority showing that 35% of small and medium-sized venues have closed in the capital alone since 2007.

London’s Arts Council England rep Joyce Wilson agreed, telling venue owners in the room: “Not many of you do apply to the Arts Council. It’s really hard to support you if you don’t come and talk to us”.

However, Music Venues Trust head Mark Davyd countered that there were reasons venues weren’t applying for funding beyond simply being “shy”, as Vaizey had suggested.

“What you’re proposing isn’t actually any help to us”, he said. “We don’t have time to fill in hours and hours of very rigorous paperwork. And if I did it, you wouldn’t understand anyway. I want to put on a guy who’s playing white noise through a trumpet for no apparent reason, other than the fact that it might annoy someone and it’s just brilliant. It doesn’t fit in what you’ve got”.

He added that many of the problems facing venues were not rooted in funding actual events, but in maintaining the buildings and equipment that made them possible. “People are walking into these venues and they’re thinking, ‘Wow, live music smells a bit funny’. We need money to be put into infrastructure”.

The GLA report, carried out by London mayor Boris Johnson’s recently set up music venue task force, found that music venues are closing down at a rapid rate in the capital and presented six recommendations to reverse the trend.

The biggest were the creation of a “night mayor” to oversee London’s night-time economy – Vaizey joked that he looked forward to “running to be a nightmare in future elections” – and the adoption of the ‘agent of change’ principle, which would make it the responsibility of property developers to ensure new residential buildings won’t have sound issues with local venues.

The report also urges local authorities to relax business rates for grassroots venues, and update out of date planning and licensing laws – suggesting the setting up of “music zones” in certain areas to encourage live music events.