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Wales’ live music venues under ‘threat’ Senedd committee warns

18 Dec 2020 4 minutes Read
Photo by Marcela Laskoski on Unsplash

A Senedd committee has warned that Wales’ live music venues are under “threat”.

Its Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee has called on the Welsh Government to provide practical and financial support to venues and give a clear indication as to when live events can restart.

According to the committee, the industry was facing problems before the pandemic, that have now accelerated.

The committee wants a timetable to be published for reopening live music venues in a safe, responsible way, as well as to look at options such as socially distanced and outdoor gigs.

It says while these are unlikely to be profitable for venues but would give fans much-needed cultural activity and provide some income for artists, industry workers and freelancers whose livelihoods have been hit hard.

The committee says whilst online events are no replacement for live gigs, it does urge the Welsh Government to look at supporting digital activity in the short term.

The report also cites pre-pandemic issues and cites the loss of influential venues such as Parrot in Carmarthen, TJs in Newport, Gwdihŵ and the Point in Cardiff.

It discovered that venues were struggling with increasing rent and business rates and some faced threats from noise or planning disputes.

The high-profile and successful ‘Save Womanby Street’ campaign is an example, when one of Cardiff’s busiest live music spots came under threat from planned residential development.

 

‘Wellbeing’ 

Helen Mary Jones MS, Acting Chair of the Senedd’s Culture Welsh Language and Communication Committee said: “During our inquiry, we heard about the importance of live music venues to the country’s creative heart, to people’s wellbeing and the local economy.

“In order to sustain this, Welsh Government need to  give a clear indication as to when live venues can start holding events again.

“The Committee is sympathetic to the challenge the Welsh Government has in controlling the virus whilst enabling as much of normal life as possible to continue.

“But it is increasingly hard to justify why, for example, pubs and cinemas were able open, but live music performances, subject to the same social-distancing measures as these other venues, could not take place.

“Although socially distanced events are unlikely to be profitable to the venues, it will provide some support to artists and industry workers who have suffered from a lack of income.

“In this report we also recommend a range of actions to help these businesses meet challenges they faced even before Coronavirus brought them to a standstill. The recommendations provide a framework within which we hope the live music industry can recover from the pandemic, and flourish.

“If venues close and cannot move somewhere else, they will be closed forever. The public sector – including the Welsh Government and local authorities – needs to recognise the existential threat to live music and take action before it is too late.”

According to the committee, small venues are important places where artists can hone their skills and express themselves creatively, as well as a place to meet new people, create lifelong bonds and build a community.

Sam Dabb from Newport’s Le Public Space said, “I’ve watched people meet at gigs, fall in love and have children who now turn up for gigs in the pub to potentially meet the person they’ll fall in love with”.

Dilwyn Llwyd, manager of Neuadd Ogwen, described how his venue was embedded in the local area: “I think economically music can have an impact, but also it has an impact in terms of people’s well-being, and we create jobs for people in the community, we help other businesses in the community.”

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