Today marks the start of Independent Venue Week 2024, a seven-day long celebration of grassroots venues across the country.
Now in its 11th year, the initiative will see 205 independent venues host hundreds of celebratory gigs featuring everyone from globally-recognised artists to up-and-coming talent, with the hope of encouraging fans to buy tickets and support their local venues. You can find the full list of gigs here and buy any remaining tickets here.
Spoken word and hip-hop artist Antony Szmierek has written a poem for the occasion which pays tribute to independent venues, noting that “without these little rooms there’d be no one to fill the ones that are bigger”.
“this is for all the bands that never made it/and for the venues that scream, proudly:/you made it if you played here,” he wrote.
“Antony’s beautiful poem perfectly captures why live music and independent venues are so special to the UK – and have been for decades,” said Independent Venues Week founder Sybil Bell. “These are the spaces where magic happens. They are the bedrock of our culture. But if we don’t use them, then we’ll lose them. I hope people will use IVW as a chance to reconnect with the joy of live music, to have a great night out with friends and to support their local venue.”
Meanwhile, Huw Stephens and Steve Lamacq are presenting their BBC 6 Music Shows from a different grassroots venue every day of Independent Venue Week.
From today (January 29) until February 2, the presenters will be hitting the road to broadcast their shows from grassroots venues across the country and will also host performances from different artists each day.
Lamacq is hosting from Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast today ahead of an Independent Venue Week performance from Ash.
Stephens will be presenting his show from Edinburgh’s Whistle Binkies tomorrow (January 30), where 86TVs will perform later that night; The Fulford Arms in York on January 31 ahead of a gig from NewDad; Polar Bear Music Club in Hull on February 1 where English Teacher will be playing; The Rockin’ Chair in Wrexham (Friday 2nd February) before a live set from Smizierek.
Also appearing at the gigs each night will be artists supported by BBC Music Introducing: Problem Patterns (Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast), Grace & The Flat Boys (Whistle Binkies, Edinburgh), Kindelan (The Fulford Arms, York), Jodie Langford (Polar Bear Music Club, Hull) and Picture Parlour (The Rockin’ Chair, Wrexham).
This year’s Independent Venue Week follows a year that the Music Venue Trust has described as “the worst year for venue closures”, which saw 125 venues abandon live music completely and over half close permanently including the legendary Moles in Bath.
Last week, the MVT shared their full report into the state of the sector for 2023, pointing out the threats venues face include soaring energy prices, landlords increasing rate amounts, supply costs, business rates, licensing issues, noise complaints and the continuing shockwaves of COVID-19.
“This is a disaster: 16 per cent of the grassroots music venues in this country closed in the last 12 months,” MVT CEO Mark Davyd said at the report’s launch at the House of Commons, which was attended by NME. “It’s just not good enough. I stood here 12 months ago, and I’m sorry to be Mystic Meg about this, but I said, ‘If the big companies in this industry don’t get their act together, then hundreds of venues will close’. And guess what? They didn’t get their act together and hundreds of venues have closed. So, I’m afraid you are now going to have to answer for this.
“Don’t go on the cover of Music Week, Billboard, IQ and all these other magazines telling us how brilliant 2023 was for live music when 125 communities lost access to live music that they love. It’s not good enough.”
There is growing demand for a levy on tickets to arena and stadium tickets, which has been touted as a solution for the current situation. Scotland now “seriously considering” the move for £1 from every ticket sold to be invested back into grassroots music venues. Some critics have argued that it is unfair to the consumer to make already costly tickets more expensive, but Enter Shikari have proven that it can be done with their own scheme coming at no extra cost to fans on their 2024 arena tour.