Editor's letter fund our fun VICE
Collage: Josh Crumpler

Fund Our Fun: Why Nightlife Is Worth Fighting For

Music and club culture is the only good thing the UK has going for it. If we don’t value it now, we’ll lose it forever.
Emma Garland
London, GB
illustrated by Josh Crumpler

Fund Our Fun is a series celebrating the UK’s music and nightlife industries, and a rallying call to protect them. Read more here, and check out our interactive map of at-risk venues here, to find ways to help your local spaces.

Last year, VICE launched a column called “Fund Our Fun”, dedicated to telling first-person stories of how arts and culture have changed, shaped and enriched our lives. For obvious reasons, the pandemic has centred discussion of arts and culture around their contributions to the economy (which is, famously, loads) – but this is about much more than money. 


The creative industries. The arts. Events and nightlife. Call them what you want, but what we’re really talking about is FUN. Music, film, TV, theatre, radio, galleries, big nights out – these aren’t just job sectors, they’re the reason we work in the first place. They’re how we socialise, how we express ourselves, how we make sense of the world. While conversations regarding their financial impact are vital to their survival, it’s also important to stress why they’re worth fighting for in the first place.

That’s why, this spring, VICE is launching a full campaign under the Fund Our Fun umbrella. With a focus on live music and clubbing, Fund Our Fun will be a celebration of British nightlife and a rallying call to protect the spaces in which so much of our lives take place. The spaces where we meet up with friends, get off with strangers and temporarily forget the rest of the world. The spaces where memories are made (even if they are swiftly forgotten by the morning) and scenes crystallise.

To kick things off, here you’ll find an editorial package looking at the state of things right now, how we got here, and where we could be in the future. You’ll hear the story behind the UK’s fight to save the summer of 2021, and how one London pub fought gentrification to become an “Asset of Community Value”, providing a blueprint for other venues to do the same. You’ll also hear from the local heroes holding British music together, while artists such as Graham Coxon, Foals and Arlo Parks talk about the most pivotal small venue show they played early in their careers, and VICE staff and freelancers remember their favourite spaces in a eulogy for just some of the venues we’ve loved and lost.


The UK’s nighttime economy has historically not been given the attention it deserves. It’s a sad reality that, despite Britain constantly producing pioneering world class artists and DJs, people still find themselves wandering city centres at 2AM, Uber-ing between off licenses in desperate search of an afters because everything is closed. There is a real lack of recognition that what’s being done in clubs and grassroots venues is culturally important – which is clear not just from our censorious attitude towards fun, but in the fundamentally flawed economics of our nightlife.

Why are 98 percent of grassroots music venues in the UK rented? Why is it that if you wanted to produce a rifle in the UK you would get 120 percent tax relief, but if you wanted to put an artist on at a grassroots venue the government takes 20p out of every £1 you pay to see them? Right now, all those 20 pences are going back into a system that seems more concerned with shutting venues down than protecting them – so why are our grassroots venues paying business rates?

VICE analysis, in collaboration with Music Venue Trust, reveals there have been 154 music venue closures across the UK since 2016, and there are a further 390 venues currently at risk*. To illustrate the severity of the situation, VICE has created an interactive map of at-risk venues and clubs in the UK, with links to fundraisers and ways to support them. We’ll also be collaborating with eight designers on a line of T-shirts, and will be working with Music Venue Trust to distribute the profits of all sales to the venues and clubs that need them most.


As well as redevelopment and financial issues, a significant reason for these closures is noise complaints. While everybody is entitled to a peaceful existence, this highlights a major problem: new tenants can move in above, next to or near a venue in the knowledge that there will probably be a fair amount of noise, complain about said noise, and get that venue shut down. Looking ahead to the 21st of June, when the nighttime economy is tentatively scheduled to reopen, the last thing a space should have to worry about is being shuttered by some jobsworth who moved into a flat on Holloway Road, expecting it to be silent at 10PM.

That’s why we’re also campaigning to better protect nightlife spaces in the future. VICE is calling on the UK government to make it mandatory for anyone moving into a residence within a quarter-mile from a music venue or nightclub to sign a deed of easement as part of their tenancy agreement or housing contract, stopping them from making noise complaints and protecting vital nightlife spaces. A “deed of easement” is a legal document that – bear with us – grants another party the right to use someone’s land for a specific purpose. This can be applied to music venues in the form of a contract between a tenant and a landlord, which puts in writing the tenant’s acceptance that the music venue exists, that it operates during unsociable hours and that it may be responsible for some undesirable noise. This is only obligatory in Scotland, leaving many venues and clubs across England, Wales and Northern Ireland unprotected.

Music venues and clubs were under serious threat before 2020, but the impact of COVID and Brexit have dealt two serious blows to an already struggling industry. We can’t allow oversights in the past to make things worse for the future. Besides the Royal Family and a bunch of ancient buildings primed to be turned into new branches of Wetherspoons, music and club culture is the only unique characteristic the UK has going for it. Having a laugh is literally the one thing we’re good at; the last remaining bond holding the cursed union together. The fact that it’s a lucrative industry is a bonus, but if things continue to crumble at the rate they have been, it won’t be the economy that suffers, it’ll be people. Without music and without nightlife, our lives will be emptier. We need to protect what we have now, and safeguard it for the future. 

Fund our fun.


*These figures are based on data collected between the 11th and 26th of January, 2021.