Grassroots music venues in England will be the first cultural organisations to benefit from the government’s £1.57 billion package for the arts, with the most at-risk organisations receiving cash in the “next few weeks”.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed that the first tranche of money – totalling £2.25 million – will fund emergency support grants for music venues at risk of imminent collapse.
It is the first news about how the billion-pound package will be spent, coming nearly three weeks after the initial announcement and following pressure from industry and unions to provide urgent clarification.
A maximum of 150 venues that are at “severe risk of insolvency” are expected to benefit from the new funding, which will be distributed by Arts Council England and will provide grants of up to £80,000 to cover ongoing costs such as rent, bills and maintenance contracts.
Details about how any more of the £1.57 billion will be spent have not yet been announced, though DCMS’ announcement gives an indication of how the department may dispense further funds.
The Music Venue Trust will assist ACE in identifying organisations at particular risk of closure, although venues will also be able to apply for money, with DCMS promising more details in the coming days.
The trust’s strategic director, Beverley Whitrick, said the funds would address urgent, short-term challenges in the sector, which would otherwise face a “wave of permanent closures”.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Without our grassroots music venues, we wouldn’t have the Beatles, Adele or Elton John. Nearly all of our globally successful music stars started out at UK clubs and live music venues – and we must make sure those organisations weather the Covid storm.
“The first £2.25 million of our unprecedented cultural rescue package is targeted at their survival. We’re working to deliver the rest of the £1.57 billion emergency package as quickly as possible, so that we can protect and preserve our precious culture, arts and heritage for future generations.”
Arts Council England chief executive Darren Henley welcomed the news that grassroots venues would be protected, saying they “perform a vital role in England’s music ecology”.
He added: “As well as nurturing the next generation of talent across a huge range of musical genres, these are the places that spark that special connection between audiences and professional musicians. So, we’re very happy to be administering this investment on behalf of DCMS to help make a positive difference to live music venues in villages, towns and cities across the country.”
The announcement was applauded by musicians including singer-songwriter James Bay, and MC and producer Novelist, who described grassroots live venues as “the bedrock of the music industry”.