Kerry McCarthy Labour MP for Bristol East
Kerry writes for the Fishponds and St George & Redfield Voice, 21 May 2020.
As we enter another week of lockdown, albeit with slightly relaxed rules, it’s clear we’ll be living with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic for a long time to come.
There’s a very real danger that even with Government support, some businesses that have been forced to close during lockdown will never reopen. Bars, clubs and music venues are some of those businesses most at risk.
I’ve always said that one of the things I love most about Bristol is its diverse music scene – I know that’s something I share with many of my constituents. But even before the pandemic struck, many of our independent venues faced the threat of closure. And now coronavirus has thrown a whole new challenge into the mix.
Of course, preserving our independent venues isn’t just important for cultural reasons – they’re also an important source of jobs in Bristol and a way to attract visitors to our city and boost our economy. Live music contributes more than £1 billion to the UK economy as a whole. It’s so important we preserve this vital industry.
That’s why the Music Venue Trust has launched #SaveOurVenues – a campaign to draw together fundraising activity aimed at preventing the permanent closure of these vital venues due to coronavirus. They’re bringing together artists who want to help, with the venues they love, and providing an easy way for music fans to financially support the resultant live streams.
And on Saturday (May 23rd), Colston Hall will virtually ‘host’ the Bristol Takeover Online, a digital festival in partnership with the Music Venue Trust, and curated in collaboration with some of our best loved venues. A line up of new talent and special guests will be live streamed via YouTube, with viewers asked to donate what they would normally spend on a gig ticket via the event’s crowdfunder page.
Although it’s impossible to replicate the shared experience of a gig in lockdown, it’s been fantastic to see fans and artists coming together around things like the Takeover Online. As the weeks go on, I know that many of us are getting through by imagining the joy we’ll feel when this is over and we’re able to once again take part in the activities we used to take for granted. For me, that means the irreplaceable communion that you only feel at a gig by a band you love. The one thing that will help make the wait more bearable is taking action now to make sure we’re talking about when we next get to go to our best loved Bristol venues – not if.