English progressive rock group Zio performs a 2018 show at The Half Moon in London. (Getty Images)

Music Venue Trust’s campaign shows results

The United Kingdom’s Music Venue Trust has removed 140 U.K. grassroots music venues from its “critical list” since initiating the #saveourvenues campaign at the beginning of the month.

The campaign has raised more than 1.5 million pounds ($1.8 million) in donations to help more than 550 grassroots venues survive the economic standstill caused by government-imposed employment bans in reaction to COVID-19.

Intervention from public bodies such as the London mayor’s office, Creative Wales and Arts Council England have also helped. Creative Wales, the culture department of Welsh government, for instance, made funding available specifically for grassroots music venues, and Arts Council England created a crisis fund.

The successful applicants for #saveourvenues funds are not all in the public domain yet, “but we know of over 20 GMVs which made successful applications,” the trust’s strategic director, Beverley Whitrick, told VenuesNow.

Whitrick was reluctant to give out names of venues that had been removed from the trust’s “critical list.” “Believe it or not, these venues then become the target of landlords demanding full rent or other suppliers coming to collect money they might previously have offered to discount. It’s a really tricky situation because each of these venues is only secured for now. No venue in our network is guaranteed to survive a shutdown that currently has no end date,” she said.

The artist community is supporting the campaign with donations and live events, and a number of virtual festivals have also taken place or are scheduled, including Independent Music News Lockdown, Vive Le Rockdown, Bristol Takeover Online and Liverpool Digital Music Festival. Over 150 events have already taken place, with many more lined up in the coming weeks.

None of this means that any of the 140 venues are protected permanently, and the trust is calling for more music industry donations and governmental intervention to help secure venues’ long-term future, particularly around the issue of the rent relief for tenants.

Mark Davyd, founder and CEO of the trust, said in a statement: “The fact we have managed to remove 140 grassroots music venues off of our critical list in the last three weeks is, of course, a cause for celebration, but we are not complacent as this is only a relatively short-term fix.”

Music fans have been doing what they can to chip in.

Nina Jackson of London’s Half Moon told VenuesNow, “We’ve mainly had a really positive response, with almost all ticket buyers holding on to their tickets for over 100 rescheduled shows. Some have been moved twice now and they are still happy to keep them.”

“This doesn’t help us financially, as the ticket companies hold the money until after the gigs have been played, and then we give that to the bands,” she said, “but it’s a huge relief to know our audience and bands are not about to abandon us during this time.”