Local Music Venues: We Miss You

Local resident and photographer John Callaway explores the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on grassroots music venues, alongside some of his stunning photography.

Every photograph in this post was taken in the past twelve months at a music venue that may not survive the current COVID pandemic. These venues are not the only ones in and around Portsmouth, they’re just some I’ve visited to watch live music, over the past year. The photographs were taken at the following venues: The Milton Barn, Portsmouth, The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth, The 1865, Southampton, The Engine Rooms, Southampton, The Railway Inn, Winchester.

John Murry & Felix Bechtolsheimer (Curse of Lono) at The Railway. Image by John Callaway 2020.

So why does it matter that they’re currently closed? As a subscriber to the Lester Bangs approach, here’s my starting point-

Don’t ask me why I obsessively look to rock ’n’ roll bands for some kind of model for a better society. I guess it’s just that I glimpsed something beautiful in a flashbulb moment once, and perhaps mistaking it for prophecy have been seeking its fulfilment ever since.

My search has been illuminated by many musicians over the years, aided by the copious, (and I would venture so far as to say spiritual), consumption of alcohol, and sharing the moment with like-minded individuals. To be fair there’s been one or two disappointments during that time, and a few dick-heads in the audience, but you get the picture.

Kirk Brandon (Spear of Destiny) at The 1865. Image by John Callaway 2019.

But there’s something more prosaic than that. The Music Venue Trust, to which some of the above are affiliated, points out that,

since 20 March there have been no events. This is because our sector has complied with the Public Health guidance. We did the right thing. We closed to protect our communities. We engaged with the government task force and we explored every option available to reopen safely and bring live music back. We understand that in order to protect the public, it should not be done until the health guidance changes, and we also know that trying to do it is economic folly which would be financially ruinous; not just for us but for our entire sector.

It is now time for the government to do the right thing. We are represented by Music Venue Trust, who have laid out a simple clear plan to the government of the support our sector needs to survive the next three months (July, August, September) and to recover in the future. It consists of just two steps.

  1. A £50 million financial support package immediately
  2. A reduction on VAT on future ticket sales, bringing tax in UK Grassroots Music Venues into line with our major international competitors

These measures are simple, quick, effective and would prevent the closure of hundreds of Grassroots Music Venues. They are the right thing to do….

Ben Perrier (Los Pepes) at The Wedgewood Rooms. Image by John Callaway 2020.

And the reason for doing this?

Our Grassroots Music Venues are the fundamental foundations and cornerstone on which our world beating £5.2 billion per year music industry has been built for the last 60 years. Without our Grassroots Music Venues, there would be no The Beatles. No The Rolling Stones, no Led Zeppelin, no Duran Duran, no Sade, no Oasis, no Skunk Anansie, no Adele, no Ed Sheeran, no Dua Lipa. Our Grassroots Music Venues are absolutely essential to the whole UK music industry bouncing back at any time in the future.

Our sector delivers training, rehearsal spaces, recording opportunities and career development to thousands of young people and are essential to our communities. We do not just support the next generation of world beating artists. Grassroots Music Venues are where people come together, where they celebrate, where they socialise. Thousands of cultural professionals get their first taste of working in the creative industries in our venues, including many of those who go on to work in areas other than music. Grassroots Music Venues sit at the very heart of our creative nation.

Lisa Kekaula & Bob Vennum, (The Bellrays) at The Wedgewood Rooms. Image by John Callaway 2020.

Please share the above with your MP, donate to the Save Our Venues Campaign, buy music direct from musicians or local record stores where possible.

Thanks for reading this far. Enjoy the rest of the photos.

David Alexander, Eight Rounds Rapid at The Old Barn. Image by John Callaway 2020.
Little Barrie at The Old Barn. Image by John Callaway 2019.
Duncan Reid at The Old Barn. Image by John Callaway 2020.
Julian Cope at The Engine Rooms. Image by John Callaway 2020.
Heidi Cotton (Duncan Reid & The Big Heads) at The Old Barn. Image by John Callaway 2020.
The Rev Rob Green, Fallen Leaves at The Old Barn. Image by John Callaway 2020.

This article was originally published on John Callaway’s website, Ideas & images from Portsmouth and beyond. You can read more of John’s writing on his website and also see his live music photography.

Images by John Callaway.

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