A STARK warning has been issued that small venues closing down during the pandemic could lead to the demise of the music industry at grassroots level.

Andy Hillion, owner at the Brunswick in Hove, spoke to The Argus about his venue’s unsuccessful application for the government’s cultural recovery fund and the importance of local music venues surviving in the current climate.

He said: “Other than the furlough scheme, we have had no funding whatsoever. We have put in applications for three separate grants now.

“In my eyes, we should have been absolutely eligible to get something. Following the rejection letter that we received saying that we weren’t getting anything, we tried to get some feedback.”

The Brunswick were told that Arts Council England were not providing any feedback on the application, largely because of the volume of applications. So, their decision was final.

The Brunswick operates as a pub as well as a music venue, with two separate stages for live gigs. During the summer, the venue had two-and-a half months of operation between July 4 and when they put their application in for the Cultural Recovery Fund.

Mr Hillion is worried the Brunswick’s operation over the summer gave a skewed impression of the businesses’ revenue, which is potentially why they did not receive funding.

He added: “Live music events are our bread and butter. That’s how we make our money. It’s about being able to see the bigger picture rather than just seeing what is happening at the time. Things took a big dip in October time as expected.”

The Brunswick is one of 30 venues in the country on the Music Venue Trust’s “red list”. This means it is critical in terms of their ongoing survival. The Rossi Bar in Queen’s Road is also on the “red list”.

Mr Hillion added: “Since the Cultural Recovery Fund rejection, we have gone back to the Crowdfunder campaign again. The Music Venue Trust have been a big support to us. Out of their members who applied for the fund, about 90 percent got funding. Unfortunately, we were one of the ten percent.

“Any loss, whether it be us or any other venue in the country, any small venue closing is another small chink in the armour, and it could end up being the demise of the industry.”

Arts Council England said they cannot provide feedback on individual cases such as the Brunswick, but there are many reasons a venue may be unsuccessful in their application for a grant.

This could mean they may not have been able to show they were at risk of no longer being financially viable this year or did not sufficiently demonstrate how the grant would be used.

Arts Council England said they do not use an algorithm to determine if an organisation is eligible for the Cultural Recovery Grant.

Instead, they use information provided in the application, as well as data from financial statements. They also say their teams who assess applications have expert and broad knowledge of their local areas and the cultural sector.

A spokesman for the Arts Council said: “While the Culture Recovery Fund is the biggest one-off investment in culture in the nation’s history, the crisis is unprecedented. Nearly 2,000 organisations of all sizes and types across the country have been awarded funding.

“The criteria to be awarded a grant are rigorous. All applicants had to demonstrate they were at risk of failure in this financial year and that they’d pursued all other forms of alternative finance.

“The specific aim of the Culture Recovery Fund is to prevent vulnerable but valued cultural organisations from becoming insolvent as a result of the pandemic and we had to prioritise those in most financial need.”

Despite some venues missing out on funding and grants from Arts Council England, the organisation has provided a lot of support to music venues across the country.

Komedia in Gardner Street is a live music and comedy venue which has been in Brighton for 25 years. They received £247,000 in grants from the government to help support them over the pandemic.

Both Komedia and the Brunswick are doing fundraisers with the Music Venue Trust to help support them financially.

Paul Musselwhite, managing director at Komedia said: “When we closed, we were doing 15 shows a week. We have been supported by government funds which has taken a bit of the pressure off. “

“We survive on selling tickets and until social distancing is gone, we face quite a difficult future.”

In terms of Brighton’s venues, Mr Musselwhite added: “Brighton should be proud of their music grassroots scene. I wouldn’t want any of them to close during this time, it would be incredibly sad.”

He added: “A scene like Brighton, that attracts people to come experience the city itself, it then creates this environment which is great to live in. The city is known for its music venues.

“There were great shows happening all over the city pretty much seven nights a week, from being upstairs at the Albert, or going to see a big band down at the Brighton Dome.

“I think it’s so important to save that, when this is all over, we are going to need that to enjoy again.”

The Music Venue Trust has been crucial to venues all over the country, helping with support and fundraisers for their members.

The next hurdle they face is tackling the issue of music venues being able to provide “substantial meals” so they can serve alcoholic drinks at live events in tier 2 areas such as Brighton.

The Music Venue Trust state on their website that 92 per cent of grassroots music venues do not have the facilities to be able to serve substantial meals for gigs.

Sales of alcohol at live events makes up for 65 per cent of the grassroots sectors revenue, while 35 per cent of revenue derives from ticket sales.