Exactly four weeks ago on the 20th March the government publicly declared the forced closure of all bars, pubs, restaurants, clubs and music venues in the UK. It was a bizarre twist of events and a strange start to 2020. Behind the scenes though, it was actually, quite ironically, a decision that our industry had collectively lobbied the government to announce. Who could have guessed that one day our like minded ‘powered by passion’ societies and trade bodies including the LPS, NTIA, MVT and others would unite for the first time to collectively campaign for the temporary closure of our entire industry. Stopping the closure of venues is at the end of the day one of the main reasons we started all our organisations in the first place!
One week before this new government order, venues, pubs, clubs and promoters were struggling to stay afloat as crowds suddenly vanished following heavy guidance from the government to avoid our businesses. Our venues and events suddenly faced a drastic loss in trade and a backlash of public pressure and stigma for staying open. Tours hung in the balance and artists didn’t know whether to show up or stay at home. It was a week of confusion and trepidation.
To be honest though, for a lot of the promoters we represent (largely under 500 capacity) another challenge, even of this magnitude was nothing new. To survive in the constantly evolving landscape of London we are always seeking new ways to gather, to support our scene, our music, our people, our sounds, artists and our communities. Many of us have lost over 6 months worth of work, planning and income but on the whole the energy of the independent underground promoters is electric. As soon as the ban was announced grassroots promoters moved straight to solution focused discussions… scheming, sharing ideas, innovations, technology and pulling our resources and promotional skill to raise funds for those that need it. In just four weeks independent London promoters have seen and supported the development of new platforms including virtual clubs and gamified rave experiences, to live stream campaigns such as #liveforlove which brings together musicians and DJs from all over the nation to live stream in aid of UK Food Banks. Steph Bennett, LPS member and director of an international 5 room rave every Saturday night – www.danceculture.net – mentions:
“Lockdown has made me realise the importance of connection and how powerful the community of the dancefloor really is. We were suddenly presented with nowhere to go and dance – we at Dance Culture took this problem and created a solution with a unique online party platform – more than just a livestream. Running this for four weeks so far, has shown me that the connection within the dancefloor scene far surpasses what we see in clubs. It is the celebration of existence, the freedom of expression, it is the release of emotion and stress and it is hugely liberating. Being in lockdown is making us cherish what we experience on the dancefloor and when we are back to our dancefloors I feel like it’s going to be 1988 all over again” Many promoters also quickly transferred their skill of organising and promoting events to helping prop up their local communities and councils by utilising their network and local knowledge to build and promote free distro, delivery, food & PPE donation bases in ‘meanwhile use’ mutual aid hubs like ‘ReSpace’ and others across London. The London Promoters’ Society continues to support the NTIA’s #TheBigFreeze campaign and anything else this amazing organisation champions. We are doing all we can to make sure that the venues, artists and promoters we work with are aware of the funds, grants and loans available but many are still struggling to pay rents, bills and debts. That said, It’s been awesome to see our promoters, venues and industry bodies all link up in united groups to share info, advice and guidance to help each other. Whilst the light and love for our community shines through, there are still game-changing questions to consider:
Will our venues survive to see the other side of this?
Should we start programming and promoting events for June, July, August, Sept?
How will the business model of events and venues continue to adapt to face new challenges and opportunities?
What new laws and restrictions could we be faced with?
How awesome will the street parties be as soon as this lockdown is lifted?
Will the Coronavirus Bill 2020 be used as an extra excuse to close private parties and park gatherings post-lockdown?
Will we need to collectively lobby to overturn this bill in the future?
Will councils and government continue to support and realise (to a greater extent) how fundamental promoters, food, music, art and culture is for the wellbeing and prosperity of our city?
Will the illegal rave scene reignite on a massive scale if the lockdown rules are not relaxed for venues?
Will Notting Hill Carnival go ahead?
One thing is for sure, “you might stop the party but you can’t stop the future” – Spiral Tribe, Forward The Revolution, 1993 Stay tuned… Agent Squires Co-founder / The London Promoters Society