Major dance venues tell government “we are culturally significant” after being denied funding

The #LetUsDance campaign continues after nightclubs left "trying to rebalance the unjust"

Major figures from key London dance music venue have criticised the application process for the Cultural Recovery Fund, after losing out on funding last week.

Last Monday, the music industry celebrated over 1,000 venues, festivals and theatres being awarded the government’s Cultural Recovery Funding to survive until April and weather the storm of closures and complications brought on by the coronavirus pandemic – before a second round of funding was announced on Saturday, rescuing another wave of arts spaces and organisations.

While it emerged that 89% of England’s grassroots music venues who applied for their share of the £1.57billion bailout had been successful, Printworks, The Egg, Studio 338, Oval Space and The Pickle Factory were among the most notable venues to be denied financial assistance.

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While certain dance music institutions and organisations were awarded a grant, including Ministry Of Sound who gained £975,468 and Boiler Room who were awarded £791,562, others left out in the cold say that the application process did not give them a chance to sufficiently express their cultural worth.

Aphex Twin at Printworks
Aphex Twin live at Printworks

Speaking to NME, Night Time Industries Association CEO Michael Kill said: “£1.57 billion will never be enough, but to do this on an arts and cultural application format doesn’t work.

“If you’re the Royal Albert Hall you have a stronger case than a contemporary arts or music venue, because of the background and history there. Our concern is that these people have been missed, along with hundreds of others across the country.”

He added: “It’s not an easy assessment to compare classic concert halls with dance music, which is hugely popular in youth culture. It has an equal right to be included within those cultural segments. The concern is that British culture for a long time has been quite elitist, and we’re working hard to look at the common grounds of contemporary music. It is all culturally significant and has a massive export value for the UK. To not look after that is very saddening.”

Kill’s comments were echoed by Simon Tracey, the COO of Broadwick Live – which operates London’s Printworks.

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“When the grant was first announced it felt like the government was supporting culture and it was great,” Tracey told NME. “But when we realised that the grants were going through the Arts Council, there was a bit of trepidation in the electric music scene because it’s difficult to prove the difference between a night club and what we’re doing.

“People go to a nightclub to listen music and drink alcohol. But with us, people will buy a ticket and stand there and watch the acts on stage. Of course they’re drinking and having a good time, but they’re paying a ticket for the environment. It’s just as much of a live experience as music is.”

Tracey described the lack of funding as a “massive blow” to Printworks.

“We passed three of the four criteria, but we failed on the financials because there was a lack of understanding about how our business is structured. That’s disappointing, you might have thought they would pick up the phone and asked for clarification,” he said.

“As a result of this, we’ve not been considered when we should have been. All they need to do is Google Printworks to see the scale of what we’ve been doing.”

When asked about the next step forward, Tracey said Printworks planned to mount a campaign of “pure positivity” to secure funding.

“It shouldn’t be about why Printworks didn’t get a grant, it should be why we matter culturally and hopefully that will get them to reconsider.

“It’s not a legal challenge, but trying to rebalance the unjust.”

When asked about how fans can voice their support, both Kill and Tracey also stressed that their continued support of fans would also play a key role in securing the future of spaces left out by the funding.

“In our darkest days, that desire and demand from our audience has never dwindled. We’re putting on a show in March and it sold out quicker than any other show we’ve ever put on,” said Tracey.

“It’s not just people investing in tickets, they’re investing in our cultural future.”

NTIA / Zedd at Printworks London
Zedd performing at Printworks on November 7, 2019 in London. Credit: Joseph Okpako/WireImage/Getty

Kill added: “Support them, without a doubt. Show their value and importance and get involved in campaigns.  Make sure that we make enough noise together at the right time. The big thing here is that when there is an opportunity to open, go there and make sure you show how important they are for release and social well-being.”

Last week, Dan Perrin of London venue Studio 338 also said he was “heartbroken” and asked the Arts Council to reconsider their decision, adding that there appeared to be little support for independent businesses.

He was joined by the likes of Egg LDN and Oval Spaces, which also missed out.

But further assistance could still be on the horizon, after Kill confirmed that there was the possibility of more funding being announced before the end of the year.

“We’re going to feed that back to DCMS, but we need to push forward for greater support,’ he said. “We’re fighting hard and trying to access additional funding for venues locked down and there is a hope that additional funding will come before the end of the year, so we’re pushing for that.

“We want to make sure the playing field is level. That’s the next stage, ensuring survival and getting funding to prevent the loss of years and years of musical heritage in a heartbeat.”

As part of the #LetUsDance campaign, a petition calling for more government support for nightclubs, dance music and events has now been signed by over 144,000 people and will be debated in Parliament on 9 November.

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