Music Venues Need Strategic Support as Much as Crisis Management

Photo by Dom Moore

It seems like every week brings at least one story of a Grassroots Music Venue facing a crisis or closing, and last week was a particularly frustrating one as a wealth of support and fundraising still could not prevent the closure of The Cellar in Oxford. But UK charity Music Venue Trust is underlining the need to work strategically on long-term solutions for the remaining network, while still offering support through its Emergency Response Service to venues struggling to survive. MVT believe that bringing its Pipeline investment Fund to fruition will create a system for meaningful investment in venues across the country, improving their facilities for both audiences and the artists who perform there, and securing their futures without the need for constant crowdfunding campaigns.

Support for the Pipeline Investment Fund is building within the music industry, with representatives of the most successful areas of the industry involved in discussions aimed at creating the mechanisms to enable reinvestment in the essential Grassroots Music Venues. As part of this process MVT have presented practical ways in which investment will benefit local communities and future music industry professionals, both artists and the people who work with them to ensure that live music continues to thrive. One such initiative is a partnership project with not for profit Volunteer it Yourself (VIY).

VIY challenges young people to help renovate and refurbish buildings and facilities they use and benefit from while learning vocational trade skills on the job. The young people are mentored by professional tradespeople and gain entry-level trade skills accreditation at the same time as developing broader employability skills. VIY works in partnership with Wickes, City & Guilds, local council, building contractors and grant giving bodies – and with Music Venue Trust.


Tim Reading, VIY

Tim Reading, VIY
“VIY is about challenging young people to learn new vocational skills whilst volunteering to transform community venues and buildings in need of refurbishment and improvement. So it’s a very natural fit for us to help Grassroots Music Venues at risk in partnership with the Music Venue Trust.”


VIY Volunteers from North Lindsey College in Scunthorpe and Doncaster College, pictured with Guy Martin.
(Image: North Lindsey College)

How this works is highlighted in a short film made by Channel 4 as part of its ‘Guy Martin: Building Britain’ series, available to watch online here.

The VIY team worked with Café INDIEpendent in Scunthorpe to upgrade the cafe bar area in this busy local music venue.

David Plumtree, Café INDIEpendent

David Plumtree, Café INDIEpendent
“The VIY team were terrific – efficient, quality work and all to time. They listened to our needs, worked around us and what we had going on and ultimately made our venue better. And they engaged young people and gave them experience through the process. If you’ve got things that need doing, then this is a no-brainer.”


Thanks to support from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund, VIY are set to work with London venues The Macbeth in Hoxton and DIY Space for London in Southwark. But there are hundreds of music venues around the country which are crying out for improvements to their facilities. Years of under investment has seen the gap in the quality of experience between small venues and large concerts halls and arenas widen enormously and MVT are determined to tackle this by mapping the needs for improvements so that as soon as cash becomes available (through the Pipeline Investment Fund) it can be directed where it is most needed. To do this MVT needs to recruit an army of Venue Champions to help gather the information about their local music venue. Full information about what a Venue Champion does and how to apply are below. If you love live music, please consider volunteering.

If you would like to support the work of Music Venue Trust to help venues in crisis through our Emergency Response Service you can donate here.


As a charity, MVT works closely with the venues that make up our 490+ strong Music Venues Alliance. These Grassroots Music Venues are spread across the whole UK, in small towns through to big cities. All of them are important because they make up the network that nurtures artists and connects them with audiences, whether that is fresh new talent starting out, developing artists growing their stagecraft and building their fanbase, or musicians that belong in smaller rooms and thrive on that circuit. For MVT to represent these venues we need to collect up to date information about them. This can be challenging because most of these venues are run by tiny teams who already have too much to do, so asking them to complete surveys and give us lots of stats is not high up their list of priorities…

This year we are calling on some of you that support your local venue to step forward and offer your time to help in a very tangible way. We are looking for a network of volunteers – Venue Champions – to communicate with the management, staff and audiences in their favourite venue during one week in April/May 2019 to help us complete the MVT Annual Survey. This survey is an incredibly important piece of work; it supports and underpins everything we do. We are looking to appoint one Champion per venue.

Each Venue Champion will be given clear guidelines about the sort of information we need and the online forms to input that data into. They will be introduced to key contacts in the venue and will get a wristband enabling them to attend all events taking place during survey week. This is not just a ‘get free entry to gigs’ offer, you will need to put real time and effort into finding the most recent information about things like number of people attending, number of people working at events, how many artists played, who owns the building, how much are people spending in the building.

If you are over 18, can commit the time and want to help your local venue and Music Venue Trust, please complete the short form here: