A new campaign has been launched to help save Hull music venue The Polar Bear.
It was announced last month that the 200-capacity venue – along with fellow Hull venue The Welly – was set to close due to the impact of coronavirus. It came as two of the six companies comprising UK event and venue management company, VMS Live, entered administration.
Now, Mark Hall, the man responsible for the success of The Welly Club and for the elevation of The Polar Bear from pub to venue, and a team of other campaigners have started a Crowdfunder campaign to save The Polar Bear.
“We want to run The Polar Bear for the people of Hull,” a statement reads. “We don’t want to send our revenue down south to have it wasted on inflated salaries or ridiculous rent. We want to be able to use the space and equipment we have to elevate local musicians, we don’t want to be told that a band practice will cause ‘capital depreciation’.”
The statement continued: “We want rid of the corporate talk, we want The Polar Bear to become a CIC…a type of company which exists to benefit the local community and social causes.”
Revealing their intentions, campaigners explained that, in short: “The Polar Bear would provide the local community with a high quality venue that exists to encourage the local scene; no matter what that scene is. No rental fees for local bookers just trying to dip their toes into the music scene. No hidden fees for local artists who want a venue to launch their new EP from. No obfuscation or hidden intentions.”
Looking to raise £15,000 so that they can bid on The Polar Bear’s assets – which are being sold at auction due to VMS Live going into administration – the people behind the campaign are urging people to “tell your friends, tell your family and tell your binman.”
“Once we have secured the assets, we need to raise a further £40,000 to get the Bear through the next six months of COVID uncertainty. The team has the full support of key strategic partners; Hull City Council, City Arts Unit and Music Venue Trust,” they added.
It was announced that The Polar Bear in Hull would be going into administration.The team who ran it on the ground are now trying to take it over and need support – To be clear they are not eligible for any of the cultural support funds https://t.co/u8gQPTOcRc
— Music Venue Trust (@musicvenuetrust) August 5, 2020
Rewards in exchange for donations range from “a hideously tacky ‘Thank You’ trophy” and a polaroid of donators being put behind the bar, to naming rights for one of the venues booths and being able to spend the night with the venue’s famous polar bear statue.
At the time of publishing this story, the campaign has raised £3,515. To donate, visit the Crowdfunder page here.
Following the news, an outpouring of support came from all areas of the music industry. Twitter was full of stories about how much those spaces meant to people, with the Music Venues Trust (the team behind Save Our Venues, an ongoing crowd-funded campaign to help the 400+ grassroots music venues survive this unprecedented threat to their existence) also commenting on the impending closures.
“We understand that the future of all these spaces as grassroots music venues may be salvageable,” they said in a statement. “And we strongly urge Hull City Council and Manchester City Council to bring together all stakeholders in the city to see what can be done to secure the premises, locate alternative operators and prevent these vital spaces being permanently lost.”
Speaking to NME, Mez Sanders-Green of Hull up-and-comers LIFE said of the impending closures: “I was devastated when I saw that The Polar Bear and The Welly were closing, as were so many people from Hull ‘cause they were such institutions of the local community. It’s where a lot of bands start out.”
Ryan Smith of emerging Hull shoegazers bdrmm added: “The Polar Bear had a night on a Tuesday called The Sesh. It’s been running for over 15 years and it was the only place to give local bands a platform to perform. It’s important for bands to build up their self-esteem and craft playing onstage.
“When you start to lose places like that when you’re from somewhere that isn’t in the [centre of culture], like Hull, it’s a real shame.”
A company statement said the venue, which has been giving live opportunities to innumerable local acts for almost 30 years, is closing its doors because COVID-19 has made it financially impossible to reopen.
A company statement said the venue, which has been in operation for almost 200 years, is bringing forward some long-standing renovation plans as the uncertainty over venue re-openings due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis continues.
Meanwhile, figures from the music industry are adding more volume to the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign to demand that the government share arts funding to protect the future live crew, musicians and the individuals working behind the scenes.
Last month, more than 1,500 artists and industry figures came together to call on the government to stop “catastrophic damage” to live music amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the launch of the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign.
After months of campaigning from fans and the world of music, the UK government revealed plans for an unprecedented cash injection of £1.57 billion to help the arts, culture and heritage industries survive the impact of closures brought on by coronavirus – providing music venues, independent cinemas, museums, galleries, theatres and heritage sites with emergency grants and loans.