Fresh hope in battle to save Sussex music venues from permanent closure

A major campaign to save hundreds of grassroots music venues – including a cluster in Brighton – is reporting a strong public response.

Toni Coe-Brooker
Toni Coe-Brooker

Key venues in Brighton, Portsmouth, Eastbourne and Hastings have been confirmed as being “in imminent risk of being closed down – permanently”

In response, the Music Venue Trust launched a #saveourvenues campaign – and was immediately met with generous support from the gig-going public.

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The campaign identified as threatened venues including: The Wedgewood Room, Portsmouth; Blackmarket VIP, Hastings; Printers Playhouse, Eastbourne; plus a group of Brighton

venues: The Pipeline, The Brunswick, The Old Market, The Hope and Ruin, The Green Door Store, The Komedia and The Latest Music Bar.

Already the signs are positive.

Toni Coe-Brooker, who was drafted into the national campaign after being furloughed from her job as programmer at Brighton’s Green Door Store, said: “I am really, really hopeful. I know that venues are already being saved.”

In Brighton, a possible problem is the sheer number of venues, but Toni is hoping they can somehow work together: “But we have already been pretty overwhelmed with what can happen in one day. I would say that we are going to be able to save most of the venues in Brighton, if not all. What we need to do next is to get the artists in involved. There is a lot of funding available for artists, but nothing at all for the venues.”

The next stage will be to get the musicians to stream in support of the venues.

“It is not just the music in Brighton. It is the comedy and the theatre as well. We are a very, very vibrant city, and everybody is affected.”

Toni said she was particularly concerned for vulnerable people or the more niche genres which get so much from the sense of community that venues so often offer: “You get a lot of LGBTQ people and also genres that are really, really underserved like jazz.

“At Green Door Store, we locked down on March 23 completely and we lost about six months of our income. We run ten events a week, seven gigs and three club nights. It is a lot, and a lot of our stuff is free entry. It is a lot of students and the younger people. We get a diverse audience, but over the years it has become primarily a student venue, particularly for BIMM. And our business model was largely bar take which has completely stopped. We went from having a full calendar to having it all cancelled. And we are being crucified by being shut. We have still got the rent and so on. We have been offered loans and holidays, but none of that is for free. It is like pausing everything, but still having to pay all of our suppliers. We are having to play rent and insurance and so on, but we are not making any income. Music venues were teetering on the edge already, but now we have got this.”

But Toni is optimistic the #saveourvenues campaign has come in time to make a big difference.

Among the at-risk venues are:

Wedgewood Room, 147b Albert Road, Southsea , Portsmouth PO4 0JW

The Pipeline, 6 Little E St, Brighton BN1 1HT

The Brunswick, 1-3 Holland Road, Hove, East Sussex BN3 1JF

The Old Market, 11a Upper Market Street, BRIGHTON BN2 9SF

The Hope and Ruin, 11-12 Queens Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 3WA

Green Door Store, Lower Goods Yard, Brighton Train Station, Brighton BN1 4FQ

Komedia, 44-47 Gardner Street, Brighton, BN1 1UN

Latest Music Bar, 14-17 Manchester Street, Brighton, BN2 1TF

Printers Playhouse, 49A Grove Road, Eastbourne, BN21 4TX

Blackmarket VIP, 10 George St, Hastings, TN34 3EG

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