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UK reports progress on first-ever 5G festival

The world’s first-ever 5G-powered festival is on track to take place early next year in the UK, following another successful round of trials.

Led by 5G specialist Digital Catapult and funded by the department for digital, culture, media & sport (DCMS), the 5G Festival will combine elements of live, in-person performance, remote collaboration and augmented reality.

The most recent trials utilised a group of experienced session musicians called The Remotes (‘the most data divided band in the UK’) to test how much audio latency (delay) can be tolerated for a group of performers to be able to play together remotely.

The vocalist, bass player, lead guitarist and keyboard player were set up to play in either the Concert Hall or the Founders Room in the Brighton Dome whilst 60 miles away at Metropolis Studios in London a drummer and another vocalist were located.

With musical direction from Kojo Samuel (Stormzy, Jess Glynne and Dave), the group performed using augmented reality (AR) glasses, livestreaming through a 5G network-ready 360° content distribution platform and an innovative immersive audio mixing interface.

“We were able to start pushing the boundaries of what 5G and immersive technology is able to do”

Though the band couldn’t perform together physically – or take cues from each other – in real life, the individual performers were able to collaborate using technology to recreate the same kind of rehearsal/performance as a band performing together on one stage.

For the audience, the technology will create a more ’emotionally connected experience’ in-venue and through AR, virtual reality and 360° video will enable streaming into their own homes on their preferred viewing device, or from one venue to another.

The next trials will introduce a third venue for testing the spatial hybrid elements, culminating in a live public event due to take place in March 2022.

“These trials were a major success with the network performing as expected and we were able to start pushing the boundaries of what 5G and immersive technology is able to do,” says Dritan Kaleshi, director of 5G Technology at Digital Catapult.

“It was actually quite an emotional experience for all involved – for the first time in such a long while, we’re hearing and seeing live music being performed, from an incredible band across two iconic venues. It feels real now. This collaboration of organisations is a creative and technical tour de force, and the effort which has been poured into this project is now starting to bear fruit.”

“This collaboration of organisations is a creative and technical tour de force”

The 5G Festival is part of the wider £200 million 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme (5GTT) funded by DCMS, that will produce a 5G powered, virtual, live immersive collaboration platform for artists.

It is hoped that the 5G Festival will help create a more sustainable live music industry and help to future-proof business models for venues and festivals adversely affected by global risks (such as coronavirus and climate change).

Digital Catapult is spearheading the project along with Warner Music Group, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, Telefonica, London’s Metropolis Studios and Sonosphere (immersive audio and live streaming).

Audiotonix (audio mixing consoles and AoIP networking), Mativision (5G, 360° immersive live streaming and distribution platform), LiveFrom (blockchain ticketing) and Wired Sussex (Brighton 5G testbed partner) are also involved.

 


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Touring now possible in 19/27 EU countries: DCMS

All but eight EU member states have confirmed that British artists will not need visas or work permits when European touring resumes, the UK government announced today (4 August).

Following conversations between Britain and individual European Union countries, UK musicians and performers can enjoy visa-free short-term touring in 19 of the bloc’s 27 nations, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

British authorities said in January they were pursuing a bilateral solution after the UK and EU failed to reach an EU-wide agreement on the deadlock facing touring artists.

According to DCMS, the governments of Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden have all confirmed that British artists will not need a visa or work permit when entering those countries to undertake “short-term” tours.

“We are actively engaging with the remaining EU member states that do not allow visa- and permit-free touring”

A DCMS spokesperson tells IQ the definition of a short-term tour varies from country to country, but is up to a maximum of three months. Full information, they add, will be available on each EU member state’s UK embassy website.

Absent from the list are major touring markets such as Spain and Portugal, as well as Greece, Croatia, Romania, Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria. The department says is “actively engaging with the remaining EU member states that do not allow visa- and permit-free touring” has made formal approaches to them “to align their arrangements with the UK’s generous rules, which allow touring performers and support staff to come to the UK for up to three months without a visa”.

“We recognise challenges remain around touring, and we are continuing to work closely with the industry,” says DCMS in a statement. “We want to ensure that when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, touring can resume and our world-leading creative and cultural artists can continue to travel widely, learning their craft, growing their audiences and showing the best of British creativity to the world.”

Today’s announcement follows a special parliamentary committee in June which saw lawmakers, industry professionals and stars such as Elton John slam the government over its failure to secure an exemption to post-Brexit freedom-of-movement rules for musicians.

Responding to the announcement from DCMS, a spokesperson for the #LetTheMusicMove campaign criticises the department’s “spin” and says the government must provide the music industry with a country-by-country breakdown of the exact requirements for touring artists.

“Despite the spin, this statement represents an admission of failure”

“We continue to cooperate in good faith with government and officials on the critical issue of EU touring. However, the latest announcement is nothing more than we already knew,” they say. “It remains that the UK’s music industry is in a far less advantageous position now than it was pre-January.

“Despite the spin, this statement represents an admission of failure: Failure to fulfil the promises made by government about securing our industry’s future during negotiations, failure to ‘fix’ the issue, as per the PM’s statement of March this year, and failure to provide certainty around touring in almost a third of EU countries, eight months after the music industry was dealt a no-deal scenario.

“We launched #LetTheMusicMove in June, which saw thousands of artists sign up to highlight the crisis that our industry finds itself in. Yet there has been no political representation in the meetings on the issues for months, let alone any signal that the government is ‘straining every sinew’ to help our £6bn sector.

“If there is a serious intention to fix the problems created by the government’s failure in negotiations, they must start by being honest with our sector and the public about the current status regarding EU touring. As a start, the government must publish full details on a country-by-country basis, outlining the exact requirements for touring performers and crew across all 27 member states.”

 


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Hope on the horizon for UK cancellation insurance?

After an ongoing battle for event cancellation insurance in the UK, the government has indicated it will intervene if commercial insurance is still unavailable when the country is scheduled to fully reopen.

In yesterday afternoon’s (13 May) DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) select committee meeting, secretary of state Oliver Dowden said that if events still cannot go ahead by stage four of the roadmap (21 June) because of market failure with commercial insurance, the government would “intervene in the same way we did with Film & TV“.

When Dowden was asked whether festivals and events should write off this summer, he answered “no”.

“My first priority is to make sure we get the events industry up and running, which requires us to reach stage four by 21 June,” said Dowden.

“Once we get to that point, if events still can’t go ahead because of the failure of a commercial insurance market, we stand ready to use government intervention in exactly the same way we did with Film & TV. I’ve had extensive discussions with the prime minister and chancellor on this but we must first know if something can go ahead, and if the final barrier is lack of commercial insurance then we can go about acting.”

When Dowden was asked whether festivals and events should write off this summer, he answered “no”.

In yesterday’s IQ Recovery Sessions, Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn revealed the formation of an ‘Events Indemnity Sprint Group’, which has been tasked by the government with finding solutions to the issue of events insurance.

When asked whether the government’s plan to intervene is coming “too late”, Dowden responded: “Through the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) we have acted – particularly round two and with round three. There are challenges around bringing forward indemnity and insurance, firstly in not knowing we can fully go ahead with events from 21 June.

“It is not reasonable to expect the taxpayer to provide indemnity if it is not possible for the events to happen. There are also questions in relation to scope. At this stage, it would be better to get clarity exactly where the gap lies when things open, to then determine the extent of government intervention to fill the final mile.”

A recent AIF (Association of Independent Festivals) member survey revealed that 92.5% of respondents do not plan on staging their events without some form of government-backed insurance or indemnity scheme, with the measure being described as vital not optional.

“We stand ready to use government intervention in exactly the same way we did with Film & TV”

According to the association, more than 25% of the UK music festivals have already been cancelled due to a lack of government-backed insurance, including Glastonbury, Download and Boomtown.

Tim Thornhill of specialist brokers Tysers Insurance tells IQ: “On 21 June many more events this summer will have cancelled because of the pressure to pay deposits to the supply chain and increasing financial exposure of organisers as time is needed to plan and build events.

“This is despite the UK being ‘completely on track at the moment with the roadmap with the vaccination rolling out as planned’ said Dowden who has a ‘single-minded determination to get full reopening from the 21st June’. This determination and optimism need to be accompanied by setting up a government-backed insurance programme immediately. The planning and announcement of insurance need to run concurrently with the planning of safe events with the Events Research Programme (ERP) and successful pilots.”

The results of the UK government’s ERP will determine how larger events can take place in step four of the roadmap.

Insurance schemes have already been announced in Germany (€2.5bn), Austria (€300m), the Netherlands (€300m), Belgium (€60m), Norway (€34m) Denmark (DKK 500m) and Estonia (€6m).

Read more about the issue of event cancellation insurance via specialist brokers here.

 


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Working guidance for UK festivals updated

Working guidance for UK festival organisers has been updated to provide ‘support and strategic direction’ in the planning of events until the results of the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) and reviews on social distancing and Covid-Status Certification later this summer.

The new interim briefing builds upon planning considerations published last year on the Purple Guide website, which covered eight key themes and Covid-19 safety measures including medical and welfare arrangements, crowd considerations and specific mitigation measures.


As well as providing direction until the conclusions of the ERP, the briefing note has been developed to:

The document has again been produced in conjunction with leading practitioners from the festival industry including the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF); the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO); the Events Industry Forum (EIF), and Attitude Is Everything.

“[This guidance] is an important step in ensuring that festivals can return safely”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Public Health England (PHE) also provided input on the development of the guidance, which has been co-authored by Emma Parkinson (Coventry University) and Jennifer Mackley (Mackley Projects and Events Ltd).

“This interim guidance briefing provides strategic direction to festival organisers and includes practical mitigation measures to help them continue to plan for this summer and beyond,” says Paul Reed, CEO of AIF.

“I’d like to thank Emma Parkinson and Jennifer Mackley in particular for their work, and colleagues from across the festival sector and within DCMS and PHE for their contributions to this important step in ensuring that festivals can return safely”.

Steve Heap, general secretary of AFO, added: “Having lost almost all of the industry’s 2020 events, festival organisers are very keen to stage whatever is safely possible over the remainder of this year’s season. To do that, clear guidance is needed. The publication of this document, free to all on the Purple Guide website, provides that guidance, written by experienced festival managers with the leadership of AIF.”

Jim Winship, secretary of the EIF, added: “Festivals form an important part of the outdoor event economy and also contribute significantly to social wellbeing. They also take many forms and this guidance should help to enable at least some festivals to go ahead this summer.”

The guidance is live on The Purple Guide site here.

Additionally, the group is hosting a webinar with various contributors outlining the briefing note and taking questions. Details will be announced shortly on the AIF website here.

 


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NAO publishes results of investigation into CRF funding

The National Audit Office (NAO), the UK’s public spending watchdog, has found that just over half of the grants and loans awarded as part of the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) had been paid out as of February.

In a report, Investigation into the Culture Recovery Fund, published this morning (12 March), the NAO reveals that of the £830 million in CRF funding awarded so far, only £495m had been paid by 19 February.

The CRF, which was set up last year to assist entertainment, arts and leisure businesses forced to close as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, received an extra £300m in last week’s budget, bringing total funding across three rounds to £1.87bn. For music and live entertainment businesses, funding is administered by Artists Council England.

Meg Hillier MP, chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, has urged payments to be sped up. “The culture, arts and heritage sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, with many organisations now having been closed for nearly a year,” she says. “Many across the sector will have welcomed the funding announced last summer.

“But eight months later, more than half of the £1 billion made available so far is still waiting in the wings. With the sector’s shutdown already past government’s worst-case scenario [of March 2021], DCMS needs to get support out to organisations while there are still organisations left to support.”

“Many businesses are awaiting the outcome of the CRF 2, which will be fundamental to their future”

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) attributes the delay to the necessary “safeguards taxpayers would expect to see in such a huge investment”.

“Applications are being processed for a £400m second round of grants and loans, and an additional £300m announced at the Budget will help the hardest hit reopen and recover,” they add. “This brings direct support for the culture sector to almost £2bn.”

The NAO’s report also found that two grants to be awarded by Arts Council England (ACE), worth nearly £0.5m, were withdrawn after they were found to be based on fraudulent claims.

“ACE told us that in no cases where a grant had been paid out had fraud been identified,” add the report’s authors.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night-Time Industries Association, also urges DCMS and ACE to speed up payments where possible.

“Many businesses are awaiting the outcome of the CRF 2, which will be fundamental to their future, and ultimately have an impact on the cultural tapestry of this country for years to come,” he says.

 


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MPs, UK industry make fresh call for govt-backed insurance

The British parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has written to the chancellor of the exchequer to ask for a government-backed insurance scheme for concerts and festivals, or risk “a summer without festivals”.

In the letter to Rishi Sunak, the cross-party group of members of parliament warn that festival organisers and investors are unable to risk the repeating losses they sustained in 2020 unless events can be insured against cancellation. According to the committee, the commercial insurance market is not expected to offer Covid-19 cancellation cover until at least 2022.

To save the festival summer, the MPs, backed by 40 industry associations including industry umbrella groups LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) and UK Music, are urging government to extend existing underwriting schemes, such as the £500 million fund set up for the film and television sector, to “other creative industries”, including live music, to give festival operators the ability to get on with organising their events.

Julian Knight MP, chair of the DCMS Committee, comments: “The government is telling us that life should be getting back to normal by the summer, but unless it can provide a safety net it will be a summer without festivals. The industry says that without government-backed insurance, many festivals and live music events just won’t happen because organisers can’t risk getting their fingers burnt for a second year.

“The committee has heard from festival organisers that this is a matter of urgency. Insurance must be the first step in unlocking the huge contribution that festivals make to our economy, protecting not only the supply chains but the musicians who rely on them for work.

“Without a government-backed insurance scheme it will be impossible to get festivals back this summer”

“The government already offers a level of cover to the film and television industries; now is the time to extend support to other creative industries or risk losing some of our best loved and world-renowned festivals.”

Tim Thornhill, director of entertainment and port at Tysers Insurance Brokers, is similarly supportive. He says: “It has been estimated that over 40% of the insurer losses at Lloyd’s of London relating to coronavirus were as a result of event cancellation claims, which far outweighs the proportion of premium.

“Now is the time for the Treasury and other departments to proactively engage with insurance brokers and the live sector itself to come up with a solution.”

“We wholeheartedly support the DCMS Committee’s letter to the prime minster and chancellor calling on them to support UK festivals before it is too late,” says Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE. “Our festivals are the envy of the world, contributing £1.76 billion to the economy and supporting 85,000 jobs every year.

“Without a government-backed insurance scheme it will be impossible to get festivals back this summer, as the months of planning and preparation it takes to create these culturally significant events means that decisions need be made now. We are grateful for the DCMS Committee for understanding the urgency of this issue, for listening to the sector and supporting our calls for further support.

Government-backed insurance funds for events are already in place in Austria and Germany, with the Netherlands also considering whether to adopt a similar scheme.

 


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Live streams exempted from new UK lockdown

The new lockdown measures which come into force in England tomorrow (5 November) will not affect upcoming livestreamed concerts, the UK culture secretary has confirmed.

In a Twitter thread, Oliver Dowden, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sports (DCMS), explained that venues are places of work (people in England are still allowed to travel to work where necessary) and so are exempt from the restrictions, which come to an end on 2 December.



Venues are also allowed to open for rehearsals during the lockdown period.

Among the high-profile streaming concerts taking place in England during lockdown are Niall Horan and Kylie Minogue, a double header for concert streaming specialist Driift, which take place at the Royal Albert Hall London and in a specially created digital world, respectively.

ATC Management’s Ric Salmon, the CEO of Driift, tells IQ he’s “delighted livestreaming has an exemption, and that all Driift shows will continue as planned, including Niall Horan and Kylie Minogue this Saturday, and the Vamps on 21 November 21.

“Given the disruption everyone’s currently facing elsewhere, it’s absolutely crucial that artists, musicians, crew and all in the wider music sector can still have this outlet for work, and we can keep building what is proving to be a vibrant and long-term business that audiences love.”

 


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UK’s new job scheme: Live still faces ‘grim future’

The UK’s live industry has reacted to the government’s new Jobs Support Scheme and Winter Economy Plan, unveiled earlier today by chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The emergency scheme will see the government and firms top up workers’ wages, covering up to two-thirds of their hours for the next six months, after the furlough scheme ends on 31 October. This means employers will have to pay 55% of an employee’s pay and the government will cover 22%.

As part of the Winter Economy Plan, the temporary reduction of VAT rates from 20% to 5% for the hospitality sector will remain in place until 31 March 2021, rather than 13 January.

The announcements have garnered lukewarm reactions from some of the industry’s key figures – many of which have emphasised that the new scheme will only go part way to sustaining the sector.

“We welcome this economy-wide intervention from the chancellor. However, it still leaves many hundreds of thousands of workers in events, arts and cultural parts of the economy with a grim future,” says Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee chair Julian Knight.

“The truth is, three times as many people in these sectors are currently on furlough than the national average, which suggests that the Job Support Scheme may not be able to stop unprecedented redundancies and many organisations from facing extinction.”

“It still leaves many hundreds of thousands of workers in cultural parts of the economy with a grim future”

Earlier today, the chair of the DCMS Committee today made recommendations to Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, calling for immediate and robust action by the government to prevent culture sector from collapse.

Elsewhere, Michael Kill, CEO at Night Time Industries Association, says he’s grateful and relieved that the News Jobs Support Scheme is throwing a “much-needed lifeline to hundreds of thousands of workers in the night-time economy,” but stresses that more support will be needed.

“We are seeking more clarity about what this announcement means for the majority of businesses in the night-time economy who do not know when, or if, they will be able to reopen their doors. These businesses cannot be allowed to collapse as the diversity and creativity of the UK’s night-time economy will die with them.

“We are also very concerned that the extension of business support loans will result in more painful debt for those already overburdened financially, many of whom are languishing in up to three-quarters of commercial rent debt with no certainty on when this will be due.

“More support will be needed. The majority of our sector is still unable to even open and trade. Night-time economy businesses have been unfairly targeted by the new 10 pm curfew, which we believe has no scientific basis and will prevent businesses from rebuilding the necessary revenue to stay afloat. The government must rethink this curfew and consider further sector-specific support for our industry if it wants to save Britain’s most loved cultural institutions.”

“No part of the live music industry is in a position to pay 55% of its employees’ salaries”

Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, says: “The measures announced today do not address the need for the UK government to support different sectors of our society which are subject to different restrictions because of its own actions to control the virus. This is a very specific challenge to the live music industry, which is not permitted to trade by government restrictions but has not seen any sector support directly offered in this financial intervention.”

“No part of the live music industry is in a position to pay 55% of its employees’ salaries in order to access the government support which is entirely conditional on doing that,” he adds.

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), has also weighed in, saying: “While the extension to the VAT cut is welcome, these measures are not even a band-aid for a sector that remains severely wounded.

“Festivals support 85,000 jobs in the UK and our most recent member surveys suggest redundancies of at least 50.5% across the sector, some of which have unfortunately already taken place.

“With the sector still not generating any income at all this year, many employers will simply not be in a position to pay 55% of their employees’ salaries to access the support offered by the government’s new job support scheme.

“This remains a broad-brush approach, and we urgently need targeted support.

“We are awaiting the outcome of Cultural Recovery Fund applications on 5th October and this will determine if the independent festival sector will in fact receive the support that it urgently requires.”

News of the Jobs Support Scheme follows the government’s previous announcement of a new 10 pm curfew, as part of a slate of new restrictions intended to combat a second wave of Covid-19.

Concert venues and theatres will be allowed to stay open past a new 10 pm curfew, though only if the performance has already started.

 


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UK live industry backs urgent call to action

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee is urging the UK government to take robust and immediate action to save the culture sector from collapse.

The committee is calling on DCMS to implement a number of recommendations that would enable venues and stadiums to plan for a full return to live when it is safe to do so.

Key organisations from the UK’s live music industry such as the Concert Promoters Association (CPA), Music Venue Trust (MVT) and the National Arenas Association (NAA) have supported the call-to-action.

“We welcome the DCMS select committee again calling on the government for a conditional date for reopening, greater clarity of guidance and further funding for our industry,” says Phil Bowdery, chair of the CPA.

“Today Rishi Sunak must provide the support that the UK’s Live Music industry desperately needs. We support over 210,000 jobs and previous promises of support are yet to materialise. Without real funding for our employees, freelancers and supporting businesses our industry simply won’t survive.”

“Today Rishi Sunak must provide the support that the UK’s Live Music industry desperately needs”

Lucy Noble, chairperson of NAA says: “80% of our staff across our 23 arenas have been furloughed and as the scheme is coming to an end we are being forced into some decisions that we never wanted to make. While we cannot operate at full capacity, most of our shows cannot go ahead and an extension of support for our staff would be enormously welcomed.”

Mark Davyd from MVT says: “This is a vital report from the DCMS select committee that comes at a crunch point for the UK’s grassroots artists, staff and venues. We strongly urge the government to act in its recommendations”

The committee has warned that a sector which contributed £32.3 billion to the UK economy in 2018, is facing mass redundancies without an extension to the job retention scheme for the arts and leisure sectors.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil a plan aimed at minimising further unemployment later today. The new measures are expected to replace the furlough scheme, which is set to expire next month.

Earlier this week, the UK government announced a new 10 pm curfew as part of a slate of new restrictions intended to combat a second wave of Covid-19.

Concert venues and theatres will be allowed to stay open past a new 10 pm curfew, though only if the performance has already started.

 


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UK grassroots music venues saved by emergency grants

Iconic London venues The Troubadour and The Clapham Grand are among the 135 at-risk grassroots music venues across England that have been saved by the £3.36 million Emergency Grassroot Music Venues Fund.

The fund, which was announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and forms part of the UK government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, was topped up by an addition £1.1m from the original £2.25m pot to help as many venues as possible.

The Arts Council England has now awarded the grants of up to £80,000 to help some of the country’s most vulnerable venues cover on-going running costs incurred during closure, including rent and utilities.

Emergency grants of the maximum amount have been awarded to venues including The Troubador (cap. 136), where Adele and Ed Sheeran performed in the early days of their career, and The Clapham Grand (cap. 1,250), where the UK recently held its first socially distanced show since the coronavirus lockdown in March.

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, says: “This government is here for culture and these grants today show we are determined to help our exceptional music industry weather the Covid storm and come back stronger.

“This fund will ensure these music venues survive to create the Adeles and Ed Sheerans of the future”

“Grassroots music venues are where the magic starts and these emergency grants from our £1.57 billion fund will ensure these music venues survive to create the Adeles and Ed Sheerans of the future.

“I encourage music fans to help too by supporting music and cultural events as they start to get going again.  We need a collective effort to help the things we love through Covid.”

Mark Davyd, Music Venue Trust, says: “We warmly welcome this first distribution from the Culture Recovery Fund which will ensure that the short term future of these venues is secured while we continue to work on how we can ensure their long term sustainability.”

“Both DCMS and Arts Council England have worked very quickly to fully understand the imminent risk of permanent closure faced by a significant number of grassroots music venues across the country, and the funding they’ve brought forward creates a real breathing space for under pressure venues.”

Elswhere in the country, the recently saved Manchester venues, Deaf Institute and Gorilla have been granted £15,000 and £31,000 respectively. The full list of recipients can be viewed here.


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