Paul McCartney Backs Campaign to Save Grassroots Music Venues in U.K.


As a teenager growing up in Liverpool he honed his live skills in the city's small and sweaty pubs and music venues, most famously The Cavern Club. Now Sir Paul McCartney is backing a campaign to protect the dwindling number of grassroots music venues throughout the United Kingdom. 

"I've been lucky enough to play in venues of all different shapes and sizes, from tiny clubs to massive stadiums all over the world. Without the grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues my career could have been very different," said McCartney, pledging his support to the Music Venue Trust's #FIGHTBACK campaign.  

"Artists need places to start out, develop and work on their craft and small venues have been the cornerstone for this. If we don't support live music at this level, then the future of music in general is in danger," the former Beatle went on to say.

Yesterday, almost 500 delegates attended the third annual Venues Day conference at London's Roundhouse venue, which saw executives from across the industry address some of the threats to Britain's once-thriving live scene. In London the problem is particularly acute, with the U.K. capital having lost 35 percent of its small and grassroots music spaces since 2007 due to a combination of rising rents and licensing restrictions. 

Numbered among the famous central London venues that have closed in that time is the Marquee, Astoria, 12 Bar Club and Madame Jojos, while The 100 Club, which played host to early gigs by The Rolling Stones and Sex Pistols and saw Paul McCartney play an intimate lunchtime gig in 2010, was only saved from extinction after signing a sponsorship deal with Converse in 2011.

More recently, legendary dance club Fabric had its license revoked by Islington council following the drug-related deaths of two 18-year-olds earlier this summer. 

An appeal hearing to decide the fate of Fabric has been scheduled for Nov. 28 at Highbury Magistrates Court. The venue's #saveourculture fund raising campaign has generated almost £300,000 ($368,000).

Further support for London's world famous cultural heritage has come from London mayor Sadiq Khan, who last month pledged to introduce greater protection for venue owners by establishing the 'Agent of Change' principle, a regulation that puts the onus on property developers to mitigate against noise complaints from existing venues or businesses.  

In 2014, world-renowned London nightclub Ministry of Sound successfully applied the Agent of Change principle after a long-running dispute with developers wanting to build of an apartment block opposite the club. In that instance, pursuing the legal case and protecting the venue's future took over four years and over £1 million ($1.5 million), costs that are prohibitive to the majority of venue operators.

"Too many venues have been lost in recent years and those that survive are under unprecedented pressure from unscrupulous developers, with little protection offered to them by the government, be it national or local," said J Willgoose, Esq. of British indie band Public Service Broadcasting, who played at last night's #FIGHTBACK concert at The Roundhouse.

"We are facing a genuine cultural crisis, as well as a serious threat to the music industry in the UK -- a huge British export," added Everything Everything's Jeremy Pritchard in a statement. "Already we hear the cry that there are too few festival headliners rising through the ranks. This is directly connected to the worrying trend of invaluable but highly vulnerable local gigs going for good."