'If it goes, it'll be hard to replace': Frank Turner on the Save Our Venues campaign
Frank Turner is aware there are many causes vying for donations and support as lockdown in the UK continues.
But music is one of the things helping people get through difficult times, and he wants to make sure artists and venues survive when we come out the other side of the coronavirus pandemic.
The punk-folk singer-songwriter is backing the national Save Our Venues campaign to support more than 500 grassroots venues at risk of permanent closure while gigs are called off.
Performing albums from his back catalogue in full, including England Keep My Bones, The First Three Years and Poetry Of The Deed so far, Turner has already raised tens of thousands of pounds for several different places.
“I’m aware that music venues aren’t the only thing that need help right now,” he tells Sky News. “But I just feel like… well, first of all, somebody of my stature, I’m not going to singlehandedly save the NHS, and I suspect that’s possibly the government’s job as well – call me radical and out there for saying that.
“[Music] is a field in which I can make a significant impact and in which I work anyway. There’s a lot of artists also raising money for mental health charities, for health charities, whatever it might be. I feel like there’s a general sense among most people that it’s like, what can I do? How can I help? And that’s a really positive thing.”
Organised by the Music Venue Trust, which Turner has worked with for a while, the Save Our Venues initiative gives artists the opportunity to perform virtual gigs.
Each venue has its own fundraising page with a target of money needed to stay afloat, and excess donations will go to a central fund to help the wider grassroots music venue community.
Turner, who performed at the London Olympics opening ceremony back in 2012 and has headlined Wembley Arena, says like many industries, the coronavirus pandemic has brought a “dark and difficult period” for the music industry, and smaller artists and venues are being hit particularly hard.
“I suspect live music events – particularly the archetypal small, sweaty punk gig with everybody sort of clambering all over each other – are going to be one of the very last things that come back,” he says. “I think easing of lockdown will not make a huge difference immediately.
“We’re looking at a long-term thing here. This is an infrastructure, a circuit and a community that has existed for a long time, but it’s a fragile ecosystem. And if it goes, it will be very, very hard to replace, and the damage will be long-lasting.
“So the idea behind the campaign is to bring together all the people who love and care about and benefit from this existing system, and trying to work together to save it, and to repay the debt that we all owe it for existing in the first place.
“I’m gonna be cliched and quote Joni Mitchell, but you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
“I’m obviously missing live gigs because it’s what I do. But I think that everybody now is starting to remember how great it was to be able to go to shows and what that brings to your life, that sense of gathering, being in a room with people.
“I hope that we’ll come out the other side of this with a better appreciation of what the arts and live music in particular bring to people’s lives.”
The Support surrounding our CrowdFunder so far has been incredible.
We are just over 20% towards our goal & all within 48 hours! 👏
Thank you for your eternal support.
Let’s keep this train rolling! https://t.co/GsvlWfCcxd#saveourvenues
— The SoundHouse Leicester (@The_Sound_House) April 30, 2020
The Music Venue Trust represents 670 independent UK music venues and says the prospects for many are “grim”, with many operating on “very thin margins” anyway, even before the global health crisis.
Just 114 of these venues are currently secure for the next eight weeks, it says, with 556 at “imminent risk” of closure.
“I’ve been working with the Music Venue Trust for several years, before there wasn’t a global pandemic going on, which is enough to show you that running a small venue is a pretty thankless task at the best of times,” says Turner. “It’s certainly not a way that anyone’s going to become a millionaire.
“What’s happening now is unprecedented for everybody and every sector of the economy.”
Watching the marvellous @frankturner doing a livestream on Facebook to raise money for the @joinerslive. She says the Joiners is an excellent small sweaty live local venue & wants to support it & watching our favourite artist play Love, Ire & Song seems an excellent way to do it! pic.twitter.com/0MJ7C76zun
— Hattie the Otter (@HattieOtter) April 2, 2020
So far, Turner has played virtual shows for venues including Nambucca in London, The Joiners in Southampton, The Forum in Tunbridge Wells and The Shed in Leicester.
“I built my career in small, independent music venues and I wouldn’t have had a time to find my own sound, find my music, to find my songwriting and performing abilities, and to find my audience if I didn’t have these,” he says.
“In a lot of cases, the people who run these venues have become old friends of mine because I’ve played them so many, many times over the years.
“So to be able to call someone like Pat, who runs The Joiners in Southampton, and say, ‘hey man, let’s do a show’… I can’t see him to give him a big old bear hug and buy him a beer or whatever, but we text during the show and we raised a chunk of money for them. And that makes me feel like I’m repaying a debt.”
Turner is playing a streamed gig to support The Parish in Huddersfield tonight.
For more information on how to support your local venue, visit: saveourvenues.co.uk