The Music Venue Trust, who act to protect, secure and improve Grassroots Music Venues across the country have boldly asked the Prime Minister to scrap the 2022 Festival of Great Britain and redistribute funds to venues and in-need workers.
You can read the letter here:
Dear Mr. Johnson
We need you to act immediately to legally enforce the temporary closure of Grassroots Music Venues. If you do not act to do so, your government will be responsible for the permanent closure and loss of hundreds of these vital and vibrant parts of our communities in every corner of the United Kingdom.
We are writing to you on behalf of the 661 members of the Music Venues Alliance, a network of Grassroots Music Venues right across the UK. Everyone reading this letter will know one of these spaces, will have houses full of the music made by the artists who started their careers in them. They are the cornerstone of our identity as the world’s leading musical innovators, vital to our £5.2 billion music industry and essential to the culture and social interaction of our communities.
Following your press statement yesterday that the public should avoid pubs, clubs and theatres, this entire network is faced with ruin and permanent closure. In the specific case of these venues, the cause of that closure will not be the Coronavirus. It will be because the government chose to ignore all the advice it received and chose not to act. In your statement, you told the public to enact social distancing, to avoid places where social interaction takes place. Places like Grassroots Music Venues.
Music Venue Trust does not have access to epidemiologists or contagion control specialists. If this is the advice of informed public health officials then we believe it to be the best advice and our network, like everyone else, will want to support it and play their part. Throughout this crisis this is what the members of the Music Venues Alliance have done;follow the public health advice and try to protect our communities.
But yesterday you announced a new and urgent government Public Health policy with no action by the government to deliver it. You created the conditions where these venues are forced to remain open while simultaneously requesting that the public do not go to them. This is not a policy at all. If Public Health demands that these venues should not be used, Public Health demands that the government should act to close them. You cannot ask Grassroots Music Venues and the thousands of people who work in them to pay the cost of a Public Health policy decision that the government needs to take.
Without a direct decision by the government that Grassroots Music Venues should close, these cultural spaces are opened up to unmanageable risks. Those with insurance cannot claim on it. Those with lease agreements based on trade are in breach of their contracts. Rent, mortgage, rates, VAT, Tax, wages will have to be paid and the entire liability falls on the individual venue operator. We work with those venue operators every day; your announcement has provoked a new public health crisis of unmanageable stress and mental health challenges among this community that was completely unnecessary and could have been avoided.
Prior to your statement yesterday, Music Venue Trust supplied a full breakdown to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport detailing the financial cost of mothballing these venues for temporary closure in a planned and constructed action. That action would see them protected and able to reopen when this crisis is over. We laid out the cost for you; £11.4million now to protect the supply chain, people’s jobs, homes, businesses, and £3.7 million per week to maintain them while they are closed. For eight weeks, the total cost would be less than £40 million.
Maybe £40 million sounds like a lot to protect 661 Grassroots Music Venues to some people reading this letter. We aren’t sticking our hand up begging to be a special case, we understand this is a crisis. But we are providing you with logical consequences of acting on public health advice in the short term and how to manage the impact of that decision making in the long term. To help government do that, we provided information to your government on a range of measures you could enact which would reduce and manage this demand on the public purse.
But let’s imagine you didn’t take any of that advice, and it was £40 million. Let’s imagine that in all the other things you are needing to do there is no additional budget at all to protect culture and creative industries. Let’s imagine that you stood up yesterday knowing that this sector could be protected and public health could be protected for £40 million for eight weeks and you didn’t know where it could come from. Let’s imagine that you currently think you have no choice.
We want to propose a simple solution and give you that choice: Cancel the 2022 Festival of Great Britain.
The government has committed £120 million to delivering an event that no one in the public has demanded, and many sectors of the public simply do not want. It has little backing in the cultural and creative industries and is neither urgent nor necessary. The entire Grassroots Music Venue sector can be mothballed for eight weeks and saved permanently for just one third of the money you have already allocated to this single event. With the remaining £80 million we would strongly urge you to create a Cultural Sector Hardship Relief Fund. That fund could take action on grassroots theatres, arts centres, community pubs, any space that is a vital hub of culture and social interaction in our communities.
Music Venue Trust has provided you with all the information you need to take action. We have laid out the challenges, proposed the solutions, and tried to work with government on positive action to manage an immediate public health crisis with long term, structured, achievable solutions. We remain committed to doing that and want you to work with us. The solution is simple, adds nothing to the demands on the public purse and will work:
Cancel the Festival of Britain 2022. Save Britain’s Grassroots Culture.
Sincerely Mark Davyd CEO Music Venue Trust