Facing the music

[Image taken from Moles website – the club is one of the local venues represented by the Trust]

The harsh realities of running a grassroots music venue in Bath have been brought home to the city’s MP Wera Hobhouse who, as Chair of the Music in Education All Party Parliamentary Group, met with members of the Music Venue Trust to discuss the challenges facing local businesses.

The MVT is a UK registered charity which acts to protect, secure, and improve the UK’s grassroots music venue circuit. In Bath, the trust represents seven venues: The Bell Inn, Chapel Arts Centre, Komedia, Moles, The Royal Oak, St Jame Wine Vaults and Walcot House.

Tom Maddicott, the owner of Moles in Bath, spoke with Mrs Hobhouse about the role his venue plays in the city. Moles supports Bath College and local musicians to practise their skills in front of live audiences, while also attracting swathes of visitors by hosting large acts such as Slowthai.

Tom and Wera discussed how the seven grassroots music venues in Bath could have the potential to boost the local economy by encouraging gig-goers to stay in hotels and use local services.

However, there are significant barriers stopping the Bath venues from maximising their potential. Grassroots Music Venues operate, on average, with a 0.2% profit margin. This makes them uniquely vulnerable to external factors such as the cost of living crisis and artist popularity.

Moles also reported that the energy costs for the venue have doubled, and that people are not going out as much as the cost of living crisis continues to pinch.

Under Liberal Democrat proposals, small and medium-sized businesses would be offered government grants covering 80% of the increase in their energy bills for one year, up to a maximum of £50,000.

Wera Hobhouse, Chair of the Music in Education APPG, commented:

“As someone who is deeply passionate about the transformative power of music, I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to support grassroots music venues in Bath.

“These cultural hubs provide an essential platform for emerging local artists and musicians to hone their craft, showcase their talent, and build a dedicated following.

“The challenges facing these venues cannot be ignored. It is abundantly clear that the Energy Bill Support Scheme must be extended to help save venues from collapse.”

“We must protect and support Bath’s businesses so that our local economy and cultural identity can continue to thrive for future generations to enjoy.”

Sophie Asquith, Music Venue Trust Coordinator for England, commented:

“Music Venue Trust (MVT) was extremely pleased to meet with Wera Hobhouse and have the opportunity to communicate the startling facts that our Annual Report, launched in Parliament this year, has brought to light about the Grassroots Music Venue sector. 

“MVT’s mission to protect, preserve and secure Grassroots Music Venues (GMVs) in towns like Bath, and across the UK, has never been more critical. GMVs face unprecedented challenges coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic and aggravated by a cost of living crisis, failures to recognise the importance of GMVs within culture, high overheads and miniscule profit margins. 

“Despite this, the GMV sector remains resilient, determined and proactive, and MVT was encouraged by Wera’s understanding of their value and impact on local and national economy and culture. There is no reason that the live music industry, such as the eight new arenas due to open around the UK, cannot also share these values, step up and reinvest in the talent pipeline that these GMVs represent.”

On a musical note... are you also aware that the BBC is proposing to disband the BBC Singers who are the UK’s only professionally paid choir?

Michael Whitcroft writes:

“Frankly I was so incensed when I heard this and I have been sending to anyone I know who likes music and any choirs I know of.

I noticed that you have included a lot of stuff in your blog about music and concerts and wondered if you would be prepared to send this out to your mailing list?

The petition has already gathered over 100,000 signatures – but the pressure needs to be kept up on the BBC to reverse this decision…the choir are superb…

There is now a petition to stop this on Change.org – this is the link


It would be a tragedy if this was allowed to happen!!

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