Arts Council England announces second round of funding to support independent venues

Arts Council England announces second round of funding – a further £1.5million for grassroots music venues.

Following the launch of the inaugural £1.5 million Supporting Grassroots Live Music fund in May 2019, Arts Council England (ACE) today announces a second round of investment in the grassroots music sector with a further £1.5million available to March 2021.

Exclusively designed to support promotors and venues working at the grassroots level across all genres of music, the fund has already helped develop venues’ programming and audiences, updated core equipment and facilities, and ensured venues are fully accessible to diverse artists and audiences across England.

Since the fund’s launch, ACE has made 70 awards, investing £1.2million across the country in a range of projects from family friendly gigs to refurbished bathrooms, enabling promoters to experiment with new approaches to programming and helping a number of much-loved grassroots venues upgrade their kit and reach out to new audiences and talent. All remaining funds will be awarded by April 2020.

Across the country, grassroots venues give artists their first experience of playing live in front of an audience. They enable up close access to artists, helping build fan bases, and providing invaluable exposure for performers on their way to the world’s biggest stages. And they also provide those wanting a career in music, off the stage, with the chance to learn their craft up close. ACE investment helps venues attract a wider range of artists, crew and audiences and lets them provide a quality experience once they get there.

For example, a successful application by London’s 100 Club has enabled an emerging female promoter to host a festival, as well as upgrading its sound equipment, building a new website and improving accessibility to the venue.

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said “We’re delighted to have supported grassroots venues and promotors across the country in such a broad range of projects. This investment, alongside other Arts Council project-funded initiatives such as Independent Venue Week and Music Venues Trust, plays an important part in helping the grassroots music sector become more resilient and sustainable. Though there is still work to be done, we hope this additional £1.5m – along with the government’s recently announced business rate reductions for venues in England –will enable many more venues and promotors to thrive within their communities.”

The announcement comes during Independent Venue Week, (IVW) a nationwide celebration of all that grassroots venues offer. Now in its seventh year, IVW highlights why these local gems are so much more than just places for live music: across the country these cultural hubs play a vital role in their communities for people from all walks of life.

Independent Venue Week Founder, Sybil Bell shared her support for the fund: “It’s such fantastic news that this vitally important fund is being made available again. The difference these grants can make to these small, mostly independently owned local businesses is game changing, and seeing the first £1.5million being snapped up goes to show how badly needed it is. We helped support some venues with their successful applications in the last round of funding and we’re here to help many more for the coming period.”

The first round of the fund has been used to support some of the England’s best-known grassroots venues including the Macbeth in London, Hare and Hounds in Birmingham, The Louisiana in Bristol and The Independent in Sunderland.

The Smokehouse in Ipswich, a town and region desperately lacking venues of this size and offering, also received support.

Joe Bailey, Owner of The Smokehouse said “We are so pleased to hear of the extension of this fund. It provides incredible opportunities for venues and hard-working and ambitious promoters across the UK to build and strengthen scenes and attract bigger audiences. The fund is particularly important in supporting live music in places such as Ipswich which suffers from a lack of live music infrastructure.”

Arts Council England is looking forward to receiving applications from many more venues and promoters over the coming year.

Photography: Jamie MacMillan

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