Arts Council England announces another £1.5m for grassroots live music

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Arts Council England has announced an additional £1.5 million in funding for the grassroots live music sector.

The arms-length body of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will extend its Supporting Grassroots Live Music Fund until September.

The fund from the National Lottery Project Grants was launched in 2019 and has so far invested £7.23 million in 378 projects across England.

It was initially said the fund would come to an end after the 2022/23 financial year, but ACE has confirmed a “ring-fenced fund” of £1.5 million will be available until September.

There will then be continued funding for the sector from a dedicated “ring-fenced priority” fund within the National Lottery Project Grants until September 2025.

ACE has confirmed that from September, when the Supporting Grassroots Live Music Fund ends, it will monitor National Lottery Project Grants to ensure that at least £1.5 million is spent on venues and promoters until March 2025, with at least £1.5 million continuing to be spent on the sector after that.

The council has also published an evaluation of the Supporting Grassroots Live Music Fund, detailing its impact on venues and promoters until this point.

The evaluation will be used to inform the fund extension and offer guidance on how it can best be used to respond to the current requirements of the sector.

Projects which have benefitted from the fund include Komedia, a live music venue in Bath, which had its public address system and lighting equipment improved.

Shortly after the launch of the fund, The Macbeth in Hoxton made a successful bid and was given a £15,000 grant to develop its cultural programme.

ACE has also awarded a grant of £500,000 to Music Venue Properties, created by charitable organisation Music Venue Trust, which will be used to support the administration costs of the organisation and the acquirement of freehold venues.

Claire Mera-Nelson, director of music at ACE, said: “We recognise the many challenges facing grassroots live music venues in the complexity of the environment in which we invest.

“I’m full of admiration for the dedicated venue management teams who are working flat out to stay afloat while continuing to bring incredible live music experiences to their communities and providing platforms for emerging artists.

“For independent grassroots music venues and the promoters who work in them, Arts Council England’s Supporting Grassroots Live Music Fund has enabled everything from upgrades to light and sound equipment and the ability to offer free rehearsal spaces and mentoring to artists, to refurbishing bathrooms, improving disabled access and staging family-friendly gigs.

“We know our support has been especially important as the country has re-emerged from lockdown, allowing venues and promoters to deliver socially distanced and live-streamed performances, connecting artists with their fans at home and providing a lifeline to those who work behind the scenes.

“We had initially indicated that the Supporting Grassroots Live Music Fund would be ending after the 2022/23 financial year, however the feedback we heard indicated concern that grassroots music venues were no longer a priority for the Arts Council. That just isn’t true: we are committed to supporting the grassroots music sector for the long term.

“This extension of the Supporting Grassroots Live Music Fund, along with our investment in vital sector-led projects such as Music Venue Trust’s Own Our Venues initiative, will hopefully go some way to securing these cultural assets for future generations and helping rebuild the confidence of the sector.”

Mark Davyd, chief executive and founder of Music Venue Trust, said: “We are delighted that Arts Council England have stepped in to support the Own Our Venues project with such a sizeable grant.

“Their support means we have not only been able to successfully conclude this project and create a ground-breaking new ownership model, it was also a vital vote of confidence in the initiative at a crucial time.”

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