THE MUSIC Venue Trust (MVT) campaign to raise money to support the grassroots venue sector during the Covid-19 lockdown and aftermath, has passed its original target of £1 million – since raised to £1.5m – through the Crowdfunder website, and that figure does not appear to include a £450,000 donation from the Mayor of London.
It is unclear how much of that money, if any, will reach the venues themselves, rather than being used for administration and consultants’ fees, while MVT says it has appointed 13 part-time regional coordinators. There is some confusion on how many venues are involved.
As the Mayor of London’s payment will be made direct to MVT and Crowdfunder says money not donated through its site cannot be included in its figures, the overall £1.5m has been reached, although the Mayor’s sum is “ring-fenced” for London’s grassroots venues.
MVT says that from an overall 692 grassroots venues, its #saveourvenues was initially acting on behalf of 556 under threat of permanent closure nationwide, including “up to 147” in London.
An MVT press release published on 19 May following a three-week campaign says 140 venues have been removed from its critical list of more than 500, “as a result of donations from music fans, music industry companies and other organisations, alongside important interventions from public bodies such as The London Mayor’s Office, Creative Wales and Arts Council England.”
An interactive map on the #saveourvenues link to the Crowdfunder shows just 163 venues nationwide, including about 27 in London. Those listed include several arts centres and a 1,250-capacity London concert venue.
Last week, around nine venues on the map, including The Boileroom (cap. 300) in Guildford, Cavern Club (220) in Exeter and Wedgwood Rooms (400) arts centre in Portsmouth, were relabelled Out of Risk, while the remainder include The Stables Theatre (538) in Wavendon and London venues Bush Hall (400) in Shepherd’s Bush and The Grand (1,250) in Clapham Junction. No full list of the 556 or 140 appears to be available.
The Greater London Authority previously released the names of 100 live music venues in London, but the Mayor’s spokesperson was unable to provide details of any others.
Alongside #saveourvenues, MVT is running another campaign, Grassroots Music Venues (GMV) Crisis Fund, which also aims to raise £1m. However, it appears to be run on gofundme.com, which shows £14,049 raised towards a target of £50,000 target.
In what seems to be a third initiative, venues with their own Crowdfunder campaigns have agreed to give MVT any excess above their individual target.
Run by CEO Mark Davyd and strategic director Beverley Whitrick, MVT operates a Grassroots Music Venue Crisis Service which offers help in the form of advice from “a team of leading experts” on issues including tenancy, rent and licensing. It is understood that, after an initial free response, venues pay for any further services from the experts.
The Trust promises, “If all practical avenues are exhausted without success, and financial challenges remain, MVT will consider whether it can give direct financial assistance to your venue to alleviate specific challenges”.
Whitrick confirms, “This funding from the Mayor of London means that MVT will be able to increase the support on offer to each and every [London] venue, dedicating invaluable human resources, specialist advice and financial assistance where other measures come up short.”
The Mayor’s spokesperson tells LIVE UK, that MVT “has a proven record of working with the GLA and delivering grants. It will be providing weekly reports to the GLA.”
Some industry observers have questioned the timing of the Mayor’s grant, unless the money is destined for venues needing urgent cash, as being small businesses and likely to have their own professional advisors, they will benefit from government help such as the furloughed staff scheme and rates relief.
“We’re all supporting each other and … [MVT is] putting us on their map as part of the national campaign,” says Nick McDowell, founder and director of The Rec Rooms (350) in Horsham.
“They’re appealing to superstars to pick a venue [for a live-streaming performance] and help with fundraising. Our target is £12,500 and we’re on about £1,600 now. That money will contribute to overheads.”
Mig Schillace at Bristol’s Louisiana (130) says, “Mark and Bev have been fantastic. Before them there was no support network for venues. We should be fine until September but we’re trying to raise £5,000 to cover rent.”
Davyd declined to be interviewed by LIVE UK or give answers to any questions, claiming the magazine has “persistently pursued negative angles on the work of the Music Venue Trust”. He describes LIVE UK as, “A weird internet troll-meets-Sherlock Holmes-on-acid,” but has not raised issues of any inaccuracy.
As regular readers will know, LIVE UK wholeheartedly supports the grassroots music sector and has done so for 15 years.