Just before Christmas last year, the venue The Square in Harlow closed its doors, another victim of plans for redevelopment. In the big scheme of things, this might not seem much, but at a stroke its disappearance ripped the heart out of the local music community.
What’s worrying is that, far from being an isolated incident, this story has been happening all over the country (with increasing regularity) over the past few years.
In the capital, the London Music Task Force reported in 2015, that over the previous eight years, 35 per cent of live venues across the city had shut. Thirty Five per cent!
Others have opened of course, or migrated further afield, but this is a shocking figure, prompted by all manner of factors (new building developments, a colossal rise in business rates, erratic audience numbers etc).
Enter the Music Venue Trust. Formed in 2014 it is the Thunderbirds of live music. Any venue under threat can ask them for help, and in return they’ll take up their case with support from experienced promoters, Council negotiators and legal assistance.
More than that though the MVT has been campaigning for increased recognition of what grassroots music venues do – and their role in local communities.
Picking up some of these threads the latest MVT Venues Day – their annual mini-conference – brought together reps from something like 300 venues around the country last week, to address some of the problems promoters are facing. The list is too long to fully do justice to here, so have a look at their website for details and the successes they’ve chalked up so far. They’ve made some real progress but there’s a long way to go.
Alternatively, for a snapshot of what they’re getting at – and for more on Harlow Square, if you have 10 minutes, have a look at this.