Crowds of people at Plot 22 pre-Covid-19 (Credit: Northern Wanderer)

Tiernan Phipps speaks to Michael Thompson, linked with Sheffield venue Plot 22, one of 13 across the country saved by Music Venue Trust’s (MVT) #SaveOurVenues campaign.

On national Optimist Day, the music industry has been handed a major win, as the London-based Trust announced that 13 grassroots venues which they represent have been saved from imminent closure.

One such venue is underground music venue Plot 22, in Sheffield.

Underground music is the catalyst for change in the UKs music scene – a collective pooling of culture and ideas, with armies of musicians, DJs, artists and listeners coming together to do one thing: create.

But these venues have been hit mercilessly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic with many fearing for their future.

Thompson, one of the directors at RiteTrax, the social enterprise who manage Plot 22, spoke of how it feels to have their fate secured for the foreseeable future:

“We are still aware that there is ongoing pressure, but we’re so grateful that we don’t have the critical threat of imminent closure.”

This venue is of even more importance to the local community, as it doubles as a social enterprise; clubs and gigs have been replaced with group music sessions, working with vulnerable adults in the community.

(Credit: James Reilly Photography)

“We’re more than just a music venue”, Michael said proudly. “This work in supporting vulnerable members of our society has been even more important than the music during lockdown.”

Thompson had a lot of gratitude for MVT for organising the funding which helped them to get off the ‘red list’ – venues facing imminent closure.

The underground is where the new sound comes from
– Michael Thompson, Plot 22

“It’s a blessing that MVT have stepped up like this to help independent venues.

“Grassroots venues like us are the backbone of the industry in the UK, you know? The underground is where the new sound comes from.”

Whilst Thompson is thankful for the funding, he acknowledges that crowd funding is not a long-term fix, and that there will be tough times ahead.

“We can’t wait to get back to full capacity, with sit-down restrictions, we can barely fit about 10 people in.

“We’re the sort of place that plays host to peoples first music experiences… we can’t wait to start doing that again.”

Mural outside the venue (Photo credit: Roger Poultney)

According to MVT, many grassroots venues are already operating on ‘very thin margins’, and since Covid-19 restrictions were implemented, only 17% of the venues they represent are currently secure for the next eight weeks.

This equates to just 114 venues across the country, meaning that 556 remain at ‘imminent risk’ of closure.

“Music Venue Trust is committed to reopening every venue safely and we are going to carry on working through this crisis until that outcome is achieved”, said MVT CEO Mark Davyd.

The road ahead for independent venues is still mired in uncertainty. But with live music and packed gigs a distant memory, and no hope for a return any time soon, the emphasis is on music lovers to save these beloved venues.

If you want to donate to MVT’s #SaveOurVenues campaign, click here.

The full list of saved venues are:

  • Arden Inn, Accrington
  • Backstage Kinross
  • Boulevard, Wigan
  • Four Horsemen, Bournemouth
  • Gellions, Inverness
  • Hootenanny, Inverness
  • Plot 22, Sheffield
  • Rossi Bar, Brighton
  • Strange Brew, Bristol
  • The Brunswick, Hove
  • The Grand Elektra/ The Crypt, Hastings
  • The Railway Inn, Winchester
  • Waterloo Bar, Blackpool