Legendary music venue Moles in Bath closes after 45 years

The legendary Bath venue Moles has closed its doors for the last time after 45 years.

The venue had played host to the likes of Ed Sheeran, Blur, Fatboy Slim, The Killers, Radiohead, The Smiths and IDLES since it opened in 1978 and was one of the last surviving venues from Oasis‘ first tour.

Moles announced it would be shutting with immediate effect in a statement on Facebook, in which it cited the cost of living crisis and “huge rent rates, along with massively increased costs on everything from utilities to stock” as reasons for its closure. All future events at the venue have been cancelled.

“We’ve weathered many things over the years, including a fire and a pandemic in the last 10 years alone, but this cost of living crisis has crippled the grassroots music sector. Although that is not the only problem, it has accentuated it,” the statement began. “Huge rent rates, along with massively increased costs on everything from utilities to stock, are all factors. This has been compounded by our customers also feeling the impact of the crisis.

“We are not the only grassroots music venue to close in the past year. Over 120 other venues have closed as well, which is over 15% of the sector. Places that mean as much to others as Moles means to us.”

It went on: “Meanwhile, the live sector at arena level and above is having a bumper year with record profits. While all these venues have closed, 7 new arenas are being built that will generate hundreds of millions a year. There needs to be a major shake-up of the live sector, with the big players supporting the grassroots where it all begins to secure that pipeline of talent. This is something that Music Venue Trust has been saying for years; maybe now the industry will listen.

“We were one of the last venues remaining from the first Oasis tour. Of the estimated 366 grassroots venues Ed Sheeran played before making it big, 150 have closed. This decimation of the sector has to stop now. Unless bands have these stages to play, where will they hone their talents and become these huge artists that fill these arenas and stadiums around the world?

“But venues like Moles are also more than just talent incubators; they are also so important to communities. People meet their future partners in them, they make friends for life, they discover their new favorite band and sing their hearts out while forgetting their troubles for a few hours. And sometimes they can just be somewhere they feel safe and not alone. The importance of these venues can never be overstated. We hope that whoever takes the building over will keep it as a live music venue as without it, Bath will have lost so much.”

The statement concluded by asking supporters to “join us in raising a glass to the last 45 years of glorious music, good times, friends, and memories.” It added: “And thank you to everyone who has ever worked here; we achieved a lot, and it couldn’t have been done without them. And all the bands and DJs that have played, and all of you who came down, bought a ticket, and danced and sang, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

“Today, we are heartbroken, but the good memories will last forever, and for that, we will always be grateful.”

The Music Venue Trust released a statement of own, in which it described Moles as “a casualty of a music industry that’s lost touch”.

“GMVs, the lifeblood of creativity, are in crisis! 15% of venues closed, 84 in CRISIS. The Music Venue Trust SCREAMS for industry support! The Pipeline Investment Fund needs EVERY ticket at arenas & stadiums to contribute £1, ensuring venues like Moles can nurture future artists.”

CEO Mark Davyd added: “Venues like Moles are going out of business, while nurturing artists that generate millions.” This is a betrayal of the roots that birthed festival and arena headliners.

“France mandates a 3.5% levy on major live music events to support grassroots. TODAY, we DEMAND the UK government do the same. Unless the music industry wakes up NOW, legislation is the only lifeline.”

In a press release, the MVT added that the closure of Moles spelled particularly bad news for the grassroots sector because it had a reputation in the organisation as “one of the best loved and most efficiently run venues in the country”.

The organisation has written to the government to plea for further action to be taken for structural change to keep the industry afloat. It is calling for a compulsory levy to be introduced – either by the industry or through government legislation – on tickets for music events above 5,000 capacity, which would then be reinvested into grassroots music venues.

Benefits frontman Kingsley Hall has since taken to Twitter to lead those calling for greater protection of grassroots music venues.

“Venues like Moles are going to continue to close in towns and cities all over the UK until there’s nothing left,” he said. “Grassroots venues are vanishing at an alarming rate and we can’t just shrug and let it happen.”

Hall continued: “This isn’t just about a single venue going under, it’s about a whole musical culture disappearing in front of our eyes. Things like Independent Venue Week simply aren’t enough, grassroots venues need support all year round because when they go, everything goes.

“Your fresh and humble local musician aspires to play somewhere, and that’s usually to perform at the cool venue near where you live. No venue, no where to play, no aspiration, no acts to watch or be inspired by, no impetus to write.

“Ah but we’ve got arena shows, you know, proper shows, not silly little gigs that only a few hundred people attend. How do you think these bands that want to play enormo-domes work their way up? Plus, what about bands who aren’t interested in arena shows and prefer intimacy? Stop press, not everyone wants to play at arena level. I’ve said this before but for many many many many bands, venues like Moles, or the Westgarth in Middlesbrough are our Wembleys. They’re not stepping stones to us, they’re summits and we love them.”

Enter Shikari had voluntarily launched a similar initiative for their forthcoming tour in February, where they donated £1 from every ticket sold to the Music Venue Trust.

Indeed, the band’s frontman Rou Reynolds took the opportunity during his keynote speech at the MVT’s Venues Day event in October to call 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”.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the UK is set to lose 10 per cent of its grassroots music venues in 2023.

A MVT report from January warned that grassroots gig spaces in the UK are “going over a cliff” – shutting off the pipeline of future talent without urgent government action and investment from new large arenas.

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