Supergrass frontman: Support for small music venues ‘vital’ for survival


Government support is “vital” to help small music venues survive, according to Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes.

It comes as Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announces the first recipients of the government’s £3.36m Emergency Grassroot Music Venues Fund.

“Fingers crossed some of this money from the government can go towards correcting things, fixing things, helping these venues out because it’s just so vital,” the singer said.

Speaking ahead of a live-streamed performance at The Bullingdon music venue in Oxford as part of Goose Island Presents…, he said: “It’s really concerning, the main stream pop world is a different beast, I think it comes in at a different level.

“It’s a different approach, but for indie music, or for rock and roll bands and artists, that whole idea of starting out with a group of fans that see you in a small room with 100 people, to share that start of a journey with a band is kind of fundamental, it’s the foundation of live music.”

Only recently reunited, Supergrass had been booked to play various festivals this summer, however the COVID-19 pandemic has meant a more muted return to the music scene.

As well as virtual performances, the band is getting ready for its first socially-distanced outdoor gig in Newcastle.

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“There are always going to be teething issues, this is just uncharted territory for everybody, but it’s just great to be involved in live music and for people to get out of their houses and safely watch some rock and roll.”

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This weekend, 135 music venues across England which are at imminent risk of collapse, will be the first to receive a share of the government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund.

Grants of up to £80,000 will help venues cover costs, like rent and utilities. Among the recipients is The Troubadour in London, where Adele and Ed Sheeran performed in the early days of their career, as well as The Jacaranda in Liverpool, where The Beatles played one of their first gigs.

Mr Dowden said: “Of course what really makes a venue is a mosh pit of people jumping up and down – and we’re some way away from that…We realise normal business models can’t operate at the moment and it’s so important that we preserve this really important part of our rich cultural heritage.”

What isn’t entirely clear is how venues were selected. Toni Coe-Brooker is a programming production manager for two venues in Brighton – Green Door Store and the Rossi Bar. While the former was successful in its application for a grant, the latter wasn’t.

“While we’re really grateful that we were able to get one grant… it’s a really unusual situation to be in… we didn’t receive any feedback from it. We can only speculate that it’s because the Rossi Bar is only 18 months old so perhaps it doesn’t have the same clout in terms of its output and our accounts.

“There’s only a certain amount of money and so many venues have gone in for this. I think it’s just that the competition is really, really high.”

At The Horn in St Albans, which has played host to artists ranging from Paul Young to Friendly Fires, owner Adrian Bell is grateful for the grant but knows it’s only a short-term solution.

“It’s going to help us to get through to the end of September… we’ve had amazing support from local people with our funding page which raised over £33,000 and that combined with the emergency funding we’ve now got will see us through to then.

“Whether it’s going to be enough long-term, I doubt it, because we’re not going to get back to 100% normality quickly, so I would think there would have to be extra funding put in place from spring next year.”

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