After months of uncertainty and anguish, the government has handed a much-needed bailout to the beleaguered arts and culture industries – parts of it, at least.
On Monday, the Department of Media, Culture and Sport announced the recipients of the first round of a new government funding scheme to help England’s flailing arts industries survive the pandemic.
Over 1,300 theatres, museums and music venues have been awarded £257 million in grants from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF). But the picture is still looking dire for nightlife, with only a handful of clubs and promoters recognised by the scheme.
Among them are big names like London’s Corsica Studios and Village Underground, Motion in Bristol, Liverpool’s Circus Club and Soup Kitchen in Manchester, who between them were allocated just over £2.2 million.
Ministry of Sound was allocated £975,000 from the survival fund, making it the biggest winner among all the dedicated nightlife venues and the tenth largest recipient overall. The Warehouse Project in Manchester received £343,000.
Electronic music platform Resident Advisor successfully applied for £750,000, making it one of the top recipients in the nightlife industry. Promoters and live event organisers like Eat Your Own Ears and Leftfoot from Birmingham were also recognised in the scheme. Glastonbury’s Block9 and Arcadia were also allocated a combined sum of almost £338,000.
Grime DJs and Butterz record label founders Elijah & Skilliam were awarded £55,000, making them one of the only DJs to receive funding from the scheme.
LGBTQ venues like The Glory in London and Cruz 101 and the Eagle Bar in Manchester – along with drag nightlife stalwarts Sink the Pink and queer womxn-only club promoters Lick Events – were also awarded money.
But many more of the country’s biggest clubs, such as Fabric and G-A-Y in London and Manchester, were notably absent from the list. The next batch of grants for sums between £1 million and £3 million are expected to be announced over the coming weeks.
Arts Professional reports that almost third of the 2,000 or so applicants were rejected as “either unviable or capable of surviving without financial support”. Those who were successful had to publicly credit the government for its support.
“We have seen some success for businesses in live music, events, supply chain and some venues, but with very limited numbers of dance music clubs and events receiving funding,” says Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which campaigns on behalf of the nightlife sector.
Although Kill said the NTIA expected this lack of support to a degree, he warned that it would “leave many businesses who have missed out on this opportunity awaiting on a perilous cliff edge, which will result in further redundancies in the coming weeks.”
This announcement covers only English arts venues. In July the UK government announced that the funding would be devolved so that Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland would each get a share, although spending on local culture would not be compulsory.
The funding is intended to help these businesses to reopen post-pandemic, protect jobs, create freelance opportunities and plan for their overall recovery over the next six months, the government said.
It may alleviate some – but not all – of the anxiety in the live music and events industry. Despite a loosening of restrictions over the summer, which saw some venues reopen under strict COVID-safe guidance, a recent steep rise in cases and the corresponding government legislation are adding further pressure to an already beleaguered sector.
Among those hit hardest are clubs, especially since the imposition of the 10PM curfew in September. Many closed their doors since the beginning of lockdown and haven’t opened since. Some treasured staples of UK nightlife, such as Canavan’s in Peckham, have already decided to close permanently, citing a lack of government support as the reason.
The NTIA has been calling on the government to lend more help to nightlife for months. Its #LetUsDance campaign successfully fought for contemporary music and culture organisations to be included within the CRF and it is currently challenging the curfew legislation.
NTIA head Kill says the organisation is “still awaiting clarity on eligibility of venues that have been closed since March from Rishi Sunak’s job-retention scheme announced last week.”
For an industry that contributes billions to the UK’s economy and much more to its cultural capital, the future is looking pretty bleak. British nightlife is internationally famous and draws thousands of tourists every year, but it also serves vital functions in society beyond that. It draws together subcultures and marginalised communities – like LGBTQ people – and provides a place for social connection and togetherness.
The loss of any of these clubs would be disastrous for the UK in diverse and far-reaching ways, translating into job losses, weaker cultural representation for marginalised communities and the loss of one more safe space for those who rely on them to connect with each other.
Without more support, the future for many of these institutions remains uncertain. For Michael and the NTIA, the solution couldn’t be clearer: “We need the government to step up and support our sector.”
VICE has compiled a preliminary list of nightlife recipients from the survival fund. Not all the organisations operate exclusively as clubs or club promoters. Some also put on live music gigs, while others also own eateries, pubs and bars.
A non-exhaustive list
- Mission Mars (inc. Albert Hall), Manchester – £1,000,000
- Ministry of Sound, London – £975,468
- Motion Events Ltd (Motion), Bristol – £884,796
- Resident Advisor, London – £750,000
- Studio Spaces Ltd (E1) – £500,000
- 100 Club, London – £491,486
- Corsica Studios, London – £407,764
- Village Underground, London – £398,000
- Chibuku/Circus Music (Circus Club), Liverpool – £365,000
- The Warehouse Project Limited, Manchester – £343,000
- Mothership Hoxton Ltd, London (Colours, Queen of Hoxton, Book Club) – £275,458
- Hootananny Brixton Ltd, London – £250,000
- Gorilla, Manchester – £255,500
- Cruz 101, Manchester – £250,000
- Camden Assembly, London – £250,000
- Columbo Jazz Limited t/a Jazz Café, London – £250,000
- Grow, Hackney, London – £247,484
- Arcadia Spectacular Ltd, North Somerset – £237,826
- The George Tavern, London – £222,030
- Brudenell Social, Leeds – £220,429
- Copeland Park Partnership (inc. Copeland Park and Bussey Building), London – £220,000
- The Green Door Store, Brighton – £219,543
- Electric Ballroom, London – £206,974
- Soup Kitchen, Manchester – £186,579
- The Lexington, London – £180,090
- Mint Warehouse, Leeds – £166,738
- The Columbo Group Limited (inc. Phonox and XOYO), London – £150,000
- Ocean Room, Great Yarmouth – £149,686
- Deaf Institute, Manchester – £148,000
- Generator North East, Newcastle Upon Tyne – £145,736
- The Glory, London – £145,419
- Mothership Brighton Ltd (Patterns), Brighton – £143,076
- Blitz, Preston – £136,363
- Peckham Levels Ltd, London – £131,998
- SPACE 289, London – £104,325
- Block9, London – £100,000
- Eat Your Own Ears, London – £99,066
- Folklore, London – £91,744
- OTO Projects CIC (Cafe Oto), London – £90,000
- Eagle Bar Manchester, Manchester – £90,000
- 23 Bath St, Mendip – £86,246
- Loco Klub, Bristol – £83,000
- M.O.T Venue Ltd (Venue MOT Unit 18), London – £78,420
- Electrowerkz, London – £78,000
- Leftfoot Venues Ltd, Birmingham – £75,000
- Servant Jazz Quarters, London – £75,000
- District 61 Jordan Street Limited (District), Liverpool – £74,820
- The Glove That Fits, London – £56,194
- Elijah & Skilliam, London – £55,000
- Exeter Cavern, Exeter – £50,000
- HQI, London – £50,000
- Lick Events, London – £50,000
Update 14/10/20: This list was updated to add E1 in London as a beneficiary of the fund.