February 03rd 2022

Independent Venue Week 2022 – this year it feels even more important than ever

This Independent Venue Week (31 January – 6 February 2022), Kevin McManus, Head of Liverpool UNESCO City of Music, credits the small venues across the region who are striving to survive while continuing to create memories for gig-goers and opening doors for musicians, in-spite of the difficulties resulting from the pandemic.

Independent Venue Week is upon us again and this year it feels even more important than ever.

Making a small independent venue work is tough at the best of times and surviving the many difficulties of the pandemic has made a difficult job almost impossible. So it is fitting that through this period ‘Independent Venue Week’ is celebrating the spirit of independence and culture of live music by paying tribute to the people that own, run and work in them.

At its simplest venues are the very heart of any music city and community. Small independent venues are often the place a young music fan goes to see their first gig and where young artists nervously play their first shows. Some of these bands may go on to become huge stadium fillers (and you can always impress your mates by been able to say “I saw them play in front of 50 people at The Bucket”), some may only play a handful of gigs ever, and the majority will end up somewhere in the vast space in between these two extremes.

In my view, the importance of a vibrant independent venue scene has only been emphasised by lockdown. Ever since I was a young lad I’ve been addicted to live music and that addiction hasn’t faded with age. I’ve missed the buzz you get from standing in a crowded venue waiting for the band to come on, the enjoyment of seeing something special happening on stage, and that sense of being part of a community in that confined space, seeing something that nobody else will ever see (Recordings on phones don’t count!).

As a Music Board we work closely with venues across the city region and they have shown remarkable resilience and innovation to adapt and survive throughout the various lockdowns and ongoing uncertainty. A number of them are taking part in this year’s Independent Venue Week including Future Yard, Jacaranda, Invisible Wind Factory, Kazimier Gardens, and EBGBS.  Excitingly for them, just last night Future Yard hosted 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq’s IVW tour with a live performance by Melt Yourself Down.  Steve is an old friend of mine from my days as a music journalist and I don’t think I have ever met a man as obsessed with music, new bands, and the beautiful chaos of a live music. Steve is the perfect champion for venues and IVW and I’m sure he will be devoting some airtime talking to Craig and the team behind Future Yard who deserve tons of praise for their amazing work despite opening a brand new venue at a time when gigs were impossible!  (We should also give a special mention to The Angus on Dale St which has also put on regular gigs in their great little bar despite opening mid-pandemic in August 2020).  Like all the best venues, Future Yard is much more than somewhere that just hosts live music. Find out more about their work here at futureyard.org

As a Music Board we will continue to work with venues across the whole of the City Region because we recognise their importance at the centre of our music ecology. We also recognise that the impact of the various lockdowns has been felt not only by venue owners and managers, but also the staff who work there, promoters, sound and lighting engineers, security providers and everyone else in the supply chain.  It’s also been incredibly hard on artists at almost every level, including those at a very early stage who have been unable to get out and play their first gigs to a live audience.

The Music Board will continue to offer our support wherever we can and we will continue to lobby around important issues such as Agent of Change so that we can protect what we have.

As music fans we simply need to get out there and support our local venues and make sure they are able to continue their vital role at the heart of our music community.

Kev McManus

PS like any music enthusiast, of course I have my favourite venues and favourite gigs and I’m happy to swap stories with any like minded enthusiast over a pint at any time. I have a soft spot for the Zanzibar and in particular gigs hosted there by The Coral, The Libertines, and Mick Head.  But for someone of my age it normally comes back to my formative years and I can never get away from Eric’s a legendary club which played a big part in my life. It was of course about the music but also about the people who ran the club, the audience, the larger than life characters who inhabited the place, the DJ’s, the jukebox and well everything really. Venues can be special place and Eric’s for me was a life-changer.