Manchester’s historic Band on the Wall to temporarily close as renovations brought forward

"COVID-19 means we’ve had to change our plans. We have taken the difficult but necessary decision to close early"

Manchester’s historic Band on the Wall music venue is set to temporarily close in August.

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.

A statement from the company said: “You may have heard about our long-standing plans to expand Band on the Wall and restore the derelict ‘Cocozza’ building to the rear of the venue.

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“…Before the COVID-19 crisis closed the entire music industry back in March, we had intended to run a full programme of gigs until the end of 2020, throw a huge party and temporarily close the venue until September 2021, when we re-open a bigger, better Band on the Wall following the building works.

“COVID-19 means we’ve had to change our plans. We have taken the difficult but necessary decision to close early.”

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Band on the Wall’s Chief Executive, Gavin Sharp, explained some of the reasoning behind the venue’s decision.

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Sharp said: “We’ve decided we’re going to close at the beginning of August. So actually just as [the government news about re-opening venues] is announced, we’re closing down…No-one is touring, all the tours for September are cancelled. Running a music venue is not like any other business – we are absolutely dependent on that supply of artists, those people touring.

“We are a tour producer – we produce a lot of our own tours and at the moment we’re not planning anything because the restrictions on travel really stop everything and the confidence in terms of buying tickets.”

Band on the Wall confirmed that their last event before renovation works will be their Closing Weekender from July 31-August 3.

The company added: “We’ll then be shutting our doors until September 2021. We’ll still be producing gigs and tours in other venues across the country, and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to Band on the Wall next year.”

The venue also revealed that because of “huge financial strain” re-structuring has led to job losses for their “entire casual workforce.”

They added: “The lack of trade during Spring 2020, and the earlier than planned closure has put Band on the Wall under incredible financial strain. This means, sadly we have had no other option but to restructure the company. From September 2020 a total of 26 positions will be made redundant, including our entire casual workforce.

“Band on the Wall is a not-for-profit registered charity. Funding for the restoration works has come from Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and foundation grants and is ring-fenced against the project. There is no way for us to use these funds against staff wages.

“This has been an incredibly painful and upsetting decision but sadly necessary to save the organisation, and with it a 200-year-old music venue from immediate collapse.”

Yesterday (July 17), Prime Minister Boris Johnson signalled the potential return for live music this autumn in a new press conference.

From October, Johnson said “audiences in stadia”, conferences and other events will be able to restart, subject to successful pilots around the UK in August. The PM warned, however, the timetable was “conditional,” adding “we will not proceed if doing so risks a second peak.”

The news comes at a critical time for the music industry after venues in Hull and Manchester announced their closure earlier this week (July 16).

In Hull, The Welly and The Polar Bear music venues announced their closure, along with ticketing outlet, Hull Box Office. Soon after, Manchester’s Gorilla and the Deaf Institute also announced their permanent closure.

Earlier this month, the government stepped in with a cash injection to help the arts, culture and heritage industries “weather the impact of coronavirus” – providing music venues, independent cinemas, museums, galleries, theatres and heritage sites with emergency grants and loans.

It followed extensive campaigning from more than 1,500 artists and industry figures who came together to call on the government to stop “catastrophic damage” to the live music industry.

You can donate to Band on the Wall’s ongoing crowdfunder here

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