Enter Shikari have called for solidarity and progress in securing the future of the UK’s grassroots music venues – urging fans and gig spaces to “show the Tory government and the landlord c**ts that our culture of live music is not for sale”.
- READ MORE: UK grassroots venues “going over a cliff” without urgent government action or investment from arenas
The band were speaking at last week’s Venues Day held by the Music Venue Trust in London, where they received the Outstanding Contribution Award for donating £1 from every ticket sold on their upcoming UK and Ireland arena tour back to the cause of saving grassroots gig spaces.
The news came as it was revealed that the UK is set to lose 10 per cent of its grassroots music venues in 2023 – with calls growing for the “major leagues” of the music industry and larger venues to do more to pay into the ecosystem and save them.
Giving the opening speech at Venues Day last week, drummer Rob Rolfe explained how Enter Shikari were “no strangers to grassroots music venues” and were even playing a key role in restoring The Pioneer Club in their hometown of St Albans.
“Grassroots venues helped us cut our teeth, hone our craft, meet and be inspired by other musicians, and how to be a proper touring band,” said Rolfe. “It was also the platform to help us reach an audience and build our own fanbase.
“It is guaranteed that we would not be where we are today in our career, without grassroots venues – which is why it was a no-brainer for £1 of each ticket from our biggest shows to go to support small venues. If you ask me, this is something that bigger venues should already be doing anyway.”
Rolfe continued: “Grassroots venues are more than just a springboard for artists to go on to bigger things. They can be the heart and soul of communities. They are places where people can find comfort and acceptance that they maybe don’t get in other parts of their lives, and that’s so important in a society where people are growing increasingly isolated. The local venue can often be a safe haven for people who have otherwise had to put up with unwanted stigma, bullying or being unwarrantly vilified elsewhere.”
Frontman Rou Reynolds then provided some “momentary gloom” by paying tribute to the huge number of venues that have recently closed down.
“The Borderline in Soho, The Jailhouse in Coventry, Ironworks in Inverness, The Harlow Square, The Manchester Roadhouse, Studio 24 in Edinburgh – I could spend the rest of our times up here listing the venues that we’ve played that are no longer with us,” he told the crowd gathered at Woolwich Works. “The ones that have been demolished for fancy flats, closed doors due to rising rents, or more recently due to the ongoing energy crisis and lack of governmental support.
“These are venues that supplied rites of passage that would have changed people’s lives; they certainly changed the four of ours. Even with that being said, we certainly don’t realise how important and pivotal these spaces can be. Grassroots venues are a breeding ground for new and exciting, niche and inventive music – a breeding ground for genuine community, and for organic creativity. The grassroots venues circuit is a petri dish that teams with life; life that all popular music then goes on to spawn from.”
- READ MORE: Grassroots venues need “action not kind words” as they had for “disaster” without arena investment
Reynolds spoke of how the music industry at large is dependent on “an influx of new artists” as “the nutrients that keep popular or more mainstream music not just afloat but flourishing”.
“If fresh and underground music isn’t supported or given the spaces to grow, the whole music scene starts to lose nuance, breadth and music itself narrows,” he said. “We will follow other industries in capitalism’s almost pre-ordained route – creating monopolised corporate venue circuits and monopolised artist systems. We’ll have our big artists and big venues, our Tescos and Walmarts, that dominate public spaces and attention who then leave the rest to fight over the scraps.”
Reynolds went on: “Within our current economic system, we must current remind ourselves that music is an art form – a means of human connection. It’s not meant to be competitive, it’s not meant to be a zero-sum game, there are not meant to be winners and losers.”
He then quoted a speech from Sir David Attenborough, given about the early days of public service broadcasting: “The public service broadcaster should produce programmes across the widest spectrum of interests, and would measure his success by the width to some degree of that spectrum. The fact that some parts of that spectrum didn’t get as big an audience of other parts of the spectrum is neither here nor there. Of course they don’t. Why should they?”
Applying Attenborough sentiments to the music scene, Reynolds said: “That’s precisely the point: Why the fuck should they? Success does not solely mean arses on seats or more profit in shareholders pockets. Music, art, culture in its entirety reminds us that that’s the case. Music is a means of human connection, and that’s how its success should be measured.
Drummer Rolfe then concluded by telling the industry gathered that the best way to honour “those fallen comrades” who have lost venues would be “to do everything that’s within our power to ensure that people still have places to go to watch live music in their area and are able to have these pivotal experiences”.
“So let’s put on more gigs, let’s bring people together, let’s offer a platform for musicians, let’s show the Tory government and the landlord c**ts that our culture of live music is not for sale,” he said. “We will not be replaced by another block of fucking flats. They keep cramming more and more people into our towns and cities but take away the very places for us to get together, to communicate, to socialise.
“No wonder we’re becoming more isolated. No, fuck off! Get your hands off our spaces. Looking around this room gives me confidence and a feeling of strength.”
Rolfe then advised everyone to “put pressure on larger venues to support the smaller ones, because the smaller ones are the ones nurturing the artists that will one day be selling out those big arenas” and to “put pressure on local and national government to safeguard our community of live music venues”.
“Over the past few decades we have given this government a lot of money. I think it’s time we took some back,” he added.
“The most powerful thing we can do is demonstrate the positive impact that our grassroots venues can have on people’s lives and communities,” ended Rolfe. “Make it impossible for them to shut us down.”
Despite facing potential catastrophe, the UK grassroots music sector have reported some good news of late. Yesterday (October 23), independent ticketing company Skiddle announced that it will donate 50p from every ticket sold towards saving grassroots music venues. This follows Ticketmaster who announced a plan to allow customers to directly donate to the Music Venue Trust, taxi app FREENOW pledging to donate £1 from every ride to the cause, and Halifax Piece Hall announcing a scheme that will support grassroots music venues in Calderdale borough through MVT’s Pipeline Investment Fund.
The news comes shortly after the UK government announced details of a new review, which will tackle the issues faced by grassroots music venues. The Music Venue Trust previously penned an open letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, while also telling NME that the situation was “as dire as it can be”.
The post Enter Shikari: “Show the Tories and landlord c**ts that our culture of live music is not for sale” appeared first on NME.
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