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Major UK artists to play grassroots music venues

Major UK artists will “return to their roots” as part of a crowdfunding campaign to help grassroots music venues, which have been struggling to stay open during the Covid-19 crisis.

The crowdfunding campaign, Passport: Back To Our Roots, will open on 17 August when fans can donate a minimum of £5 to help support their favourite venues.

Everyone who donates will be entered into a prize draw to win entry for a show for themselves and a friend.

Among the concerts announced so far are Elbow performing at Night & Day Cafe in Manchester, Everything Everything at Bedford Esquires, Public Service Broadcasting at Amersham Arms in London, and The Slow Readers Club at The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge.

Organisers say the series of one-off intimate gigs will take place when live shows can safely return without social distancing measures, most likely between March and September next year.

The initiative was launched by registered charity and independent grassroots venue Band on the Wall, the Music Venue Trust and Stephen Budd Music (creator of War Child’s Passport: Back to the Bars & Passport: To BRITs Week series).

Sally Cook, co-founder of Passport: Back to Our Roots and director of operations at Band on the Wall says: “This project has been a long time in the making and it’s incredibly exciting to see artists supporting the grassroots venues that form the foundation of the UK’s live music industry, acknowledging their importance and celebrating the unrivalled experience of watching your favourite bands up close and personal, surrounded by friends and united in appreciation for live music in all its loud and sweaty glory.”

“These shows will be awe-inspiring for fans and also a joy for the artists who are helping keep live grassroots venues alive”

Stephen Budd, founder and CEO of Stephen Budd Entertainment says: “I’m delighted to help put this amazing series of shows together. I’m doing this on a not-for-profit basis as I did for the successful War Child shows I helped put together, using the same mechanism we created which has proved so workable and simple for artists and it won’t impact negatively on their own show plans.

“There is nothing like seeing your favourite artist in a venue that is closest to the artist’s hearts. These shows will be awe-inspiring for those fans who are lucky enough to win the prize draw and also a joy for the artists who participate knowing they are helping keep live grassroots venues alive.”

Of all money raised, 80% will go to the Music Venue Trust (MVT), who in turn will distribute half of the amount to the host venue and the other half to their Crisis Fund, which will benefit all UK venues in need of financial support.

The remaining 20% will go to Inner City Music, the charitable organisation that operates Band on the Wall in Manchester, which is responsible for the administration of the project and will cover its overheads.

Aside from its involvement with Passport: Back To Our Roots campaign, MVT also recently partnered with Fightback Brewing Company in support of the #saveourvenues initiative. 

Fightback Lager, which is stocked in over 60 grassroots music venue bars across the UK, now makes a 5p donation to MVT from every pint sold.


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Music legends turn out for agent of change

British artists, politicians and senior music industry figures headed to Westminster this morning in support of John Spellar MP’s bill to enshrine the agent-of-change principle in UK law.

The proposed legislation, announced at Venues Day last October, would require property developers to take into account pre-existing businesses, like music venues, before proceeding with a project, and is backed as a crucial weapon in the fight against venue closures by industry groups such as Music Venue Trust, UK Music and the Musicians’ Union.

The Planning (Agent of Change) Bill has the backing of at least 75 MPs and peers, including former culture minister Ed Vaizey, as well as artists including Sir Paul McCartney, Ray Davies, Glen Matlock, Chrissie Hynde, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Billy Bragg, Craig David, Feargal Sharkey and Brian Eno.

“So many of the bottom rungs of the ladder have been taken away”

Speaking to IQ before the bill’s first reading in parliament today, Mason said he is backing the Spellar bill to protect venues as a lifeline for “young musicians in the 21st century”. “It’s a much tougher environment now than it ever was,” he explained. “So many of the bottom rungs of the ladder have been taken away … it’s important for young people to feel like they could have a career in music if they wanted it.”

J. Willgoose, Esq., one third of Public Service Broadcasting, said it’s important artists who have graduated on from grassroots venues don’t “pull up the ladder behind us”. “We were the beneficiaries of being one of the last generations of musicians who had a fertile, up-and-coming pub and club scene, which we benefited from enormously,” he said.

“If you look at some of the venues we played in early days, and how many of them have now closed, especially in London, it’s a frighteningly high percentage.”

“Moving to a city then complaining about the noise from venues is like moving to the country and complaining about the smell of cow muck”

Bragg told IQ that while agent of change won’t tackle the symptoms of the problems facing music venues – chiefly low interest rates making home ownership the only way to make a solid return on investment, leading to a boom in development – it is “going to put the onus on properly developments to recognise that they’re building in an area which is a cultural hub, and that’s really, really important”. (He joked that moving to a city then complaining about the noise from venues is like “moving to the country and complaining about the smell of cow muck”.)

UK Music chief executive praised the “great turnout” for the pre-bill reading photocall, opposite the houses of parliament, and said he hopes ministers will “listen to the strength of feeling from grassroots campaigners, communities from up and down the country, artists, songwriters and MPs from all parties. It’s time now to back the act and make that change that we need.”

The bill was well received by a majority of MPs – or, in parliamentary jargon, the ayes had it – and will proceed to its second reading on 19 January. Spellar’s presentation of the bill can be viewed on the website.


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