IDLES playing Bedford Esquires

MVT helps out Bedford Esquires

As reported by BBC, the Music Venue Trust has been able to help Bedford Esquires with a grant of £5000 to support essential maintenance required to keep the venue safe and open. Esquires said in a statement on their Facebook page “We are very pleased to announce that we have been awarded a grant of £5000 to help towards the cost of essential maintenance, that has helped further future-proof the venue for many years to come. The funding has come at a time where the venue spent out over £35,000 in just 2 weeks on major works and we are very thankful to Music Venue Trust for awarding us the grant as part of their ‘Pipeline Investment Fund’.

This help comes at a time when attendances are still struggling to return pre-COVID levels and venues are being hit by increased costs due to rises in inflation and heating costs. Many venues just don’t have funds to cover emergencies and venues and promoters are wary of increasing the cost of tickets or prices at the bar as customers are also struggling too.

As Esquires explain “from the outside looking in, it can often appear like everything is rosy, with loads of new exciting shows being regularly announced and high attendances given the circumstances we all find ourselves in. In our case, we had a 25 year old fire system condemned at a time we had further electrical issues, alongside our main boiler being written off.”

The support of Music Venue Trust is proving vital to many grassroots venues. But even so, many are still closing. MVT believes one grassroots venue is closing down every week. Westgarth Social in my home town of Middlesbrough closed earlier in the month, leaving Middlesbrough without any venues for small touring bands to visit and few places for local musicians to play.

Both Esquires and MVT highlight how the music industry could support itself better. As MVT points out “£5000 equates to just 50% of a a 50p contribution from a £100 ticket at a 20,000 capacity arena for just one night. 0.5% .We could help two venues to survive every time that one arena opens. There are 960 venues like Esquires in the UK, we could support every single one of them like this from just 50p, 0.5%, on just 480 shows.”.

Without these small venues, there wouldn’t be the pipeline of new acts. MVT’s suggestion of the 22 large arenas in the UK adding a surcharge to say 50 shows a year, could create a sizeable recovery fund for the rest of the sector. While football is less than perfect, there is some redistribution of Premier League money throughout the game. But music has nothing equivalent. As MVT says “We have proposed to the music industry a deal that features an affordable contribution from each ticket that we collectively control and that works. It would stop grassroots music venues closing down, create the investment needed, improve things for artists and audiences, and start to rebuild the sector everyone in the industry needs.”. Surely this isn’t too much to ask?