Categories
Features

Why We Need To #SaveOurVenues

#SaveOurVenues Crowdfunder: click here to donate

If you read my last blog ‘Mental Health, Music and Me’ then you know that I place a great deal of dependence on music, and in particular live music. The live entertainment industry provides a release to millions of people.

There is a famous song that says…

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

They just use your mind
And they never give you credit
It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

Dolly Parton

…and she’s right. Life is tough and we all need something to distract us, or we will go crazy. For some it’s a hobby, for many it is supporting a sporting team and for millions of people its live music.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected every person and every industry in varying ways. For the live music industry it has had disastrous consequences. For the vast majority of people employed in this industry there is no option to work from home and little financial support. Whilst some may qualify for furlough, a large group of freelancers and zero hour workers have been forgotten. People are having to change career in order to be able to live and this opens the very real possibility that if/when venues reopen they won’t have the staff to operate.

You may think that is an exaggeration, but consider the specialist skills required to operate the various technical requirements for a live show. It’s the invisible crew behind the scenes that make the shows happen and these skilled workers will be hard to replace. You can find out more by heading to www.wemakeevents.com.

This alone is a major threat to the future of an industry that contributed £5.2 billion to the UK economy in 2018. Sadly even that concern may be irrelevant however, if there are no venues left to host events. Yes, you are right, large venues like the O2 Arena in London are unlikely to disappear, but huge arenas are the tip of the iceberg. The live music industry is cultivated by its grassroots venues.

These largely independent venues provide the foundations of the live industry. If these foundations are rocked hard enough, for long enough, then the whole house will come down. The sad reality is that many of these venues were facing significant challenges prior to the pandemic. That’s why the Music Venue Trust had to be founded in 2014 to support and champion these venues.

Since the first national lockdown took hold, the Music Venue Trust has put in a superhuman effort to help to save these venues. The Music Venue Trust has launched the #SaveOurVenues campaign and they have been at the forefront of fundraising efforts to help to protect our grassroots infrastructure. Well over 500 venues have been recognised as under threat since April, and there are presently 30 venues on the trusts ‘Red List’. Part of a traffic light rating system for venues, ‘Red List’ venues are regarded as at imminent danger of permanent closure.

You can help #SaveOurVenues by donating to the trusts current fundraiser (www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-our-venues-red-list).

Here you can donate either to an individual venue or the overall campaign. These venues need our help, and if we want to be able to head straight to a gig when safe to do so, we need to act now!

So, why do we need to #SaveOurVenues?

As discussed, millions of people rely on these venues for entertainment or employment. These venues are of immense cultural and economic importance, and simply put, if they close they won’t reopen. One of the biggest threats to these venues under normal circumstances is developers buying venues from landlords and building new flats in their place. It can’t be assumed that if a venue closes it will ever reopen and therefore we must protect these cultural landmarks before it’s too late.

If we look at the bigger picture, not all major artists shoot to fame via a TV talent show. Most artists start out playing to virtually nobody in the back room of a pub before slowly climbing the ladder to larger venues. It’s during this time that bands and artists get to hone their craft and earn their stripes. Consider it a rite of passage. Ed Sheeran, Adele, Radiohead, even The Beatles all started their careers in these venues.

The collapse of the affectionately known ‘toilet circuit’ would have catastrophic effects on our future stars. It would stifle many artists before their breakthrough moment. It would also repress an avenue of influence on young people. How many artists were motivated to pursue music after witnessing their favourite artist pass through town?

A very stark fact is that the closure of these venues will have an unfair effect on the lowest earning members of society. We can’t all afford to travel to other cities or pay for high priced tickets. For some, bands passing through local venues is their only opportunity to enjoy live music. To see these venues close could have harmful effects on entire communities.

There are very real, very serious consequences of our venues closing; consequences for people, for businesses and for the entire music industry. The music industry by its very nature is creative and I will look at the rise of livestreams in my next blog; but for this industry to rise and hopefully thrive post-pandemic, we need to #SaveOurVenues!

How can you help?

You can learn more about the issues facing our venues at the following links:

Save Our Venues
Music Venue Trust
Independent Venue Week
We Make Events

You can donate to the cause:

Save Our Venues National Campaign
Save Our Venues Red List

You buy merchandise to support the campaigns:

Save Our Venues Merchandise
We Make Events Merchandise

You can also write to your local MP about the issue:

Write to my MP

Finally, spread the message! Tell your friends and family, head onto Social Media and encourage others to get involved in the campaign and together we can #SaveOurVenues!

Categories
Features

Mental Health, Music and Me

Photo by Daniel Reche from Pexels

Until recently I was employed in a role that I’d describe as near to my dream job (corny, I know). As you can imagine being told that the job no longer existed didn’t have a positive effect on my mental health. Losing a job you have a great passion for is always going to hurt, but for this moment to occur both just before Christmas and in the midst of a global pandemic… to say stress levels are high would be a significant understatement.

I have naturally experienced numerous emotions since receiving this news – anger, confusion, dread, worry, fear, bitterness, rage, sadness, regret and despair to name a few. My mind of course has considered many negative connotations of this outcome including financial, vocational and personal concerns.

One positive repercussion however is that through one particularly difficult sleepless night, an urge to write emerged. What did I want to write about exactly? Music. My biggest passion in life has always been the combination of “guitars, drums and desperate poetry” as Frank Turner so eloquently put in ‘I Still Believe’. After all, life is full of ups and downs and in-betweens and so is music, with a song for every occasion and every feeling.

My relationship with music started early. I still hear certain songs (see ‘Sultans of Swing’ by Dire Straits) that immediately place me as a small child in the back seat of my parents’ car with my dad driving. The thing with music is that it is visceral. As I listen to the song even now, not only can I picture sitting in that car, I can smell that car, I feel as vulnerable like a child and feel a connection to my father.

We probably all have that one song that they just can’t listen to anymore. You know the one that takes you back in time to a painful moment. Simply walking through a shop, the background music can suddenly put us in a bad place – a traumatic memory, a breakup, the loss of a loved one or perhaps relevantly the loss of a job?

The power of music to control our emotions is immense, it’s uncontrollable even. The right song at the right time can pull you out of the darkest pit of despair. Equally, the wrong song in the wrong moment can destroy even the best of moods. For me it is all about engaging with the music and learning what songs or albums help. Just as we all have that one song that we can’t listen to anymore, I bet we all have that one song or album that is our go to tune when we need a pick-me-up.

I personally have a rather eclectic taste in music, driven mainly by guitars. Put my playlist on random and you’ll find mellow acoustic numbers intermixed with heavy metal numbers so noisy you struggle to decipher the lyrics. No matter my mood, no matter the environment or occasion I find myself in, I can pull myself back with the right melody. Music truly is a powerful elixir.

Live music has particularly played a huge role in fighting the darkest periods of my mental health. I can now openly concede that music has saved my life on a few occasions. In the depths of my despairs, in times gone by, the calendar entry for a potentially great gig has been just the light at the end of the tunnel I’ve needed to step back from the ledge. This may seem irrational to some, but often there is no rationale with mental health. We all need to grab onto the one thing that can centre us when the rollercoaster of life (Ronan Keating – told you my taste was eclectic!) threatens to go off the rails.

Standing in a crowd, watching a band, and getting lost in that moment is a magical experience. It can strip away all the worries in the world, if only for one night. At times of struggle, live music has provided solace to me. Now I find myself in troubling times; job worries, the world in turmoil and a family to support. What I would give to stand in a crowd right now; to watch a band and get lost in the moment. Sadly the universe has other ideas and the very industry that my mental health relies on is standing precariously close to the ledge (thoughts on this situation coming soon!).

Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? Well, the moral of this story is that where there is a will there is a way. As my desire to blog manifested from a dark place, the music industry has found a way to adapt within its dark place. The concept of livestreams and socially distanced gigs would have sent shivers down my spine just six months ago, but now they are a beacon of hope. Hope that we can evolve and rise above any challenge.

Our mental health is a cruel mistress and it will play tricks on us. We can learn to help ourselves however and importantly we can learn to help each other. To quote Mr. Turner again – “Be More Kind”. It’s a simple message but a mantra which benefits everyone and can’t be argued. When the world is cruel, we evolve, and with kindness we can heal wounds, mend relationships and eventually emerge from this mess.

For me music is a crutch. It supports me when I falter. It keeps me going through rough times and it offers hope that things can and will get better. I however am the first to admit that I struggle to talk about mental health. This hasn’t been easy to write, but it’s been cathartic. Talking helps and support is available:

SAMARITANS: Samaritans | Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy | Here to listen

MIND: Mind | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems

I’m hopeful that everything will work out for me. Things seem bleak now, but I have hope.  

Categories
Features

The Reluctant Blogger

For the last few years I couldn’t help but kick myself for not pursuing the art of the blog. Having first dabbled with the form of contemplative writing as early as the early noughties, I couldn’t stop thinking I’d messed up in not continuing even when blogging hit mainstream popularity. Then for years I cut off my nose to spite my face; I decided I’d missed the boat and therefore I ignored constant pressure from peers to try my hand again at the written missive.

That’s not to say I wasn’t writing. I have written live music reviews and articles for a couple of music websites for the last eight years. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has sadly taken this from me for now (more on that over the coming weeks!). Alas, although not the same, my passion for writing was still being satiated by my day job. With a weekly internal newsletter and other ad-hoc communications within my remit, I continued to practice wordsmithery.

That is until now; with an unfortunate if not completely unforeseen change in employment circumstances removing this outlet for writing. So now what? No live music to review, no newsletter to create and nowhere to fulfil my desire to articulate. Enter the rather reluctant blogger…

So, here we are some fifteen plus years after first dabbling with a keyboard and an online presence, from the ashes of two cruelly stolen channels of verbation, rises Full Pelt. A former outlet for live reviews not featured on known websites, now a new opportunity to express my inner thoughts and feelings.

Going forward you can expect blogs, reviews and articles galore; and who knows perhaps some video content if there is enough demand.

As I enter into the new endeavour I hope to entertain and enlighten. If you’d like to know when new content is posted, simply follow us on our social media channels.