New grant scheme offers potential hope for endangered Islington and Hackney venues

The Lexington.

The Lexington. - Credit: lexington

Endangered grassroots music venues in Islington and Hackney could be rescued if councils direct new government grants to them, according to the Music Venue Trust (MVT).

READ MORE: Music venues face “catastrophe” without targeted government supportNew Additional Restrictions Grants (ARG) have been provided by the government to local councils to support businesses which missed out on other funding schemes.

MVT, a charity advocating for grassroots venues, says this could be a lifeline for small entertainment and live music venues which did not receive cash from Arts Council England’s Culture Recovery Fund.

Three businesses - The Lexington and Egg London in Islington and The Waiting Room in Hackney - are among 30 UK venues marked “critical” in MVT’s #SaveThe30 campaign, which highlights sites in imminent danger of closure between now and March 31 next year.

MVT’s chief executive Mark Davyd said: “Grassroots music venues are absolutely essential for the music industry and the development of new talent, and I think that increasingly, the value of them in our communities is something that we are all feeling.”

Wolf Alice, Fat White Family, and Sleaford Mods have all passed through The Lexington on their way to stardom, while The Waiting Room has showcased the likes of Tyler The Creator, Jamie XX, and Dave in the 130-capacity venue.

The ARGs are not specifically directed at the entertainment sector, and while MVT hopes councils will choose to rescue endangered venues, it is also encouraging the public to chip in.

Cllr Asima Shaikh, executive member for inclusive economy and jobs at Islington Council, said: “We know how vital grant support is to Islington’s unique evening economy and cultural venues, who have been extremely hard hit by the restrictions on socialising.

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“We are working at pace to ensure this money is received by businesses as soon as possible, but we also need to be fair in how we distribute the limited funding available.”

A spokesperson from Hackney Council said the head of area regeneration, the group director of finance and corporate resources, Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville, cabinet member for finance Cllr Rebecca Rennison, and cabinet member for planning, culture and inclusive economy Cllr Guy Nicholson will decide how the grant is distributed.

They said: “The eligibility criteria for this grant are currently being developed, therefore we can’t comment on specific applications or timings as yet.”

The Lexington has been closed since March and does not expect to be able to open again until the spring.

Like 89 per cent of venues represented by the trust, it received funding from Arts Council England in the summer.

However, it was one of the few applicants to not receive the full amount requested; it was granted under 40pc.

It was not given an explanation why the full funding was rejected.

The Lexington’s owner, Stacey Thomas, said: “If you look around, all the pubs and all the restaurants, they haven’t had that, so I guess we consider ourselves quite lucky.

“But it’s not enough and we may well have to close our doors. If we have to stay shut past March next year, we may never reopen.”

Harry James, booker at The Waiting Room, thinks funding should be more transparent.

He said: “Unfortunately we didn’t receive anything and they don’t actually tell you why.

“This funding is necessary; the upkeep of our venue is too costly to go on forever.

“People don’t realise how many people are involved with the venue. It’s not just the bar manager and the bar staff, it’s the kitchen staff upstairs, it’s hire companies that deliver equipment, it’s the show reps, it’s the booker of the venue, it’s the social media manager.”

Arts Council England does not discuss individual cases, but applications can be rejected if they do not show a risk of no longer being financially viable this year or if they do not sufficiently demonstrate how the grant would be used.

A spokesperson said: “While the Culture Recovery Fund is the biggest one-off investment in culture in the nation’s history, the crisis is unprecedented and we regret not every organisation can be helped at this time.