Why Sheffield’s arts venues make a difference to us all – and what their closure could cost us

Lockdown rules have put dozens of beloved Sheffield venues at risk of closure, with many launching crowdfunding appeals in order to survive among an industry decimated by the pandemic.

By Alana Roberts
Thursday, 3rd September 2020, 7:00 am

Places such as The Leadmill, Corporation and Abbeydale Picture House have recently been put on the ‘at risk’ register by the Music Venue Trust.

It has launched a ‘Save Our Venues’ campaign and issued an urgent warning to the Government that £50m is needed to prevent mass closures and job losses.

But, it’s not just those working within the sector that face losing out if venues close with live music seen to enhance social bonding and our mood, as well as being inspiring for many and can often form part of person’s identity.

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The Leadmill has been added to the 'at risk' list

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Dr Sarah Price, research associate at the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre (SPARC) said: “The arts are just operating on the most paper-thin margins.

"Once you start taking away 70 per cent of the audience so you can do it social distanced, actually it’s just not viable model for most organisations.

"When the furlough scheme ends we’re probably going to see a huge amount of redundancies. We’re already starting to see venues and places close down.

Dr Sarah Price, research associate at the Sheffield Performer and Audience Research Centre (SPARC

"What we’re in danger of seeing is this contraction of the arts sector where there are fewer venues, less work available, fewer events happening. We know that going to arts events in the broadest term, it helps people feel like they’re spending their time in a meaningful way.

"It’s not just another night at the pub, it’s doing something that is a bit more memorable. It’s learning about your culture or a different culture.

"And, the chances are if venues and organisations are feeling really precarious they’ll also take less risk so we’ll see less experimentation and fewer niche arts events that are so important to people who are part of certain communities and want to see their views represented.”

In 2019, the inaugural Music by Numbers report published by industry body UK Music found that grassroots venues play a vital role in the industry’s ecosystem, acting as an incubator for emerging talent.

However, grassroots venues could be the first of many losses if the funding situation does not improve.

"It’s a use it or lose it situation,” Dr Price added. “Event organisers need confidence that people will come to events.

"So, if we can turn out and show them we’re willing to go back – providing everything is safe – then we can give them the confidence to start putting on events again.

"As a world we’ve gone through this huge trauma of our entire lives having to be closed down, turned upside down, so many people have lost jobs and loved ones.

"It’s this enormous thing that has happened and how are we going to process and react to it? It's always the arts. When everyone was stuck inside, everyone drew rainbows and put them in their windows.

"The arts are going to help us do that but also help us come together again when everyone has felt so isolated. It’s so important that they last beyond this.”

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