Big Jeff Johns on threat of closure faced by UK venues: “They’re much more than just a room with a stage”

"Entire communities are formed around venues and they bring people together"

One of the UK’s most prolific gig-goers has spoken about the threat of closure faced by hundreds of venues due to coronavirus.

Over 400 grassroots music venues in the UK are at imminent risk of closing for good as a consequence of the ongoing health crisis, despite a campaign from the Music Venue Trust which has saved cultural 140 spaces so far.

Speaking to NME, avid Bristol-based gig-goer Jeffrey Johns described the potential loss as “terrifying” and called for a selection of spaces to be granted heritage status to protect their future.

Advertisement

Johns, who is affectionally known as Big Jeff, was known for attending live shows every night of the week at venues across Bristol before the UK lockdown was implemented back in March.

He told NME: “I think it could impact on Bristol, but the music scene everywhere. As part of my involvement with Independent Venue Week, we’ve been seeing venues close their doors left, right and centre.

“It’s really quite terrifying. I feel that a lot of them should be treated as heritage. Not just recently, but some of them have a real historical presence going back hundreds of years for some of them. It’s interesting because no one knows how we’ll cope. Whether it’ll be disappear in the next few weeks or whether we’ll be stuck with Covid in a few years time.”

Jeff admitted it was “hard to say” whether venues will survive the crisis, but hailed them as “lifebloods” and said their wide-ranging cultural value needed to be accounted for.

“Entire communities are formed around venues and they bring people together,” he said.

Advertisement

“You’ve got places like the Exchange in Bristol’s Old Market which has been really supportive of different communities. Whether it’s LGBT+ groups holding community meetings or just safe spaces for a lot of people.

“A lot of the venues are so much more than just a room with a stage.”

It comes after Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd called for greater government intervention to protect the struggling sector.

He told NME: “We can’t emphasise how grateful we are to those music fans, music industry companies and public organisations who have supported the #saveourvenues campaign so far, but we cannot relax as we still have a mountain to climb to secure the long-term future of this sector. We still desperately need more music industry companies to step up and help with donations alongside real action from government specifically around rent relief, more financial help and clearer guidance.”

Visit here to donate to the Save Our Venues campaign, where artists are also encouraged to sign up to play online fundraising gigs.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement