Launching a music venue in a pandemic

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It will be a long time until the UK’s live music sector returns to what it was pre-pandemic. The MIA continue to support and work with our friends and partners at organisations such as PLASA, The MU and Music Venue Trust. Our own part of the music industry depends on Britain’s globally renowned live music scene.

BBC News have published an interesting feature on Craig Pennington, who has been busy measuring out socially-distanced “pods” on the floor of Future Yard in Birkenhead, ready for opening this new small venue amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Craig Pennington originally hoped to open Future Yard in April, and states ‘We had to find a way of getting open’. This article is an interesting look into how music venues are adapting and changing. It includes some thoughts from Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venues Trust, who says that 84 of the organisation’s 900 members have staged some live music so far since lockdown, but just 13 are doing so regularly.

Here’s an excerpt from the article by BBC News

With most gig venues still stuck in a dark and silent stasis, and coronavirus restrictions getting tighter, it’s an unlikely time for new venues to be opening their doors.

Craig Pennington has been busy measuring out socially-distanced “pods” on the floor of Future Yard in Birkenhead. When indie band She Drew The Gun launch the venue to a sell-out crowd of 60 people later, each pair of fans will be allocated a pod in which they can stand and watch – but not dance, sing along or cheer.

If opening a small venue wasn’t arduous and risky enough, doing so amid the Covid-19 crisis – especially with cases rising again – is a logistical migraine and a licence to lose money.

“Launching a live music venue in the midst of a global pandemic is not something I’d advise,” Pennington says with a wry laugh.

And yet he’s going ahead. He got the keys to the building in January, before Covid was really on the radar, initially planning to open in April with a capacity of 350. When the government gave the go-ahead for indoor venues to reopen in England with social distancing in August, Pennington didn’t want to wait much longer.

As well as hosting gigs, Future Yard will offer training for 16- to 24-year-olds in the live music industry, and rehearsal and recording spaces for new local artists.

“It’s just really important that we could get open,” Pennington said on Thursday. “That comes with great pressures financially and also operationally, but it’s something we feel like we’ve got to do.

“If we’d just sat here and mothballed and waited to the point where it made absolute financial sense, potentially it could have been years before we opened.

“Our primary motivation is to really think how we can use a venue like Future Yard to be a positive influence for the local community. We’re here to use music as a powerful lever for social change. This is a moment when we’re needed more than ever, so we just had to find a way of getting open.”

You can read the full article on the BBC’s website here:

‘We had to find a way of getting open’ – launching a music venue in a pandemic