Galashiels music spot issues #saveourvenues plea

Macarts directors David Little and Laurence ReidMacarts directors David Little and Laurence Reid
Macarts directors David Little and Laurence Reid | Bill McBurnie Photography, Jedburgh. Mob: 07740720063
Everyone is aware pubs, clubs and other entertainment venues are struggling to keep the wolf from the door in this period of coronavirus lockdown.

The period of restrictions will pass, certainly, but for small independent venues such as MacArts in Galashiels, the future is very uncertain indeed.

Even if restrictions are lifted in the next few months, it’s likely that there will still be a ban on social gatherings until a vaccine is made available ... which is unlikely to be less than a year in the future.

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Acting chair of the board of directors, Iain Coltman, told the Southern that although the Bridge Street facility’s future is sorted in the short-term, thanks to Government grants, the ability to furlough its two members of staff, and a successful crowdfunding effort early in the pandemic, the long-term viability of the venue is most certainly under threat.

MacArts upcoming gigs, which may or may not take place, depending on the length of the lockdown.MacArts upcoming gigs, which may or may not take place, depending on the length of the lockdown.
MacArts upcoming gigs, which may or may not take place, depending on the length of the lockdown. | Bill McBurnie Photography, Jedburgh. Mob: 07740720063

He said: “If we were only on lockdown for a couple more months, we could manage that, as we are lucky to have charitable status and as such do not pay rates.

“A lot of other venues are paying substantial rent and rates and are seriously struggling.

“We have the job retention scheme money which will cover us until June, but after that money will disappear very quickly.

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“When you listen to the medical professionals and the government, the bottom line is that they are not considering allowing any large -scale gatherings until there is a vaccine available.

Jill Jackson at MacArts.Jill Jackson at MacArts.
Jill Jackson at MacArts. | (C)2019 David Main, all rights reserved

“They are saying a vaccine could be available in a year or 18 months, but if you look at HIV and AIDS, there are no vaccine for these yet.

“The landscape could be completely changed ... it could be that nobody can get together in large groups for quite some time yet.

“It could be that restrictions will be put in place in that we can only have, say, 30 people at a gig, distanced two metres apart.

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“Is it worth doing that? The whole thing about coming to a gig is about the atmosphere. And that’s not even taking into account the problems going to the bar or the toilet.”

Gregor McGill of Mother Bru at MacArts.Gregor McGill of Mother Bru at MacArts.
Gregor McGill of Mother Bru at MacArts. |

In order to be in a position to confidently reopen at the end of the lockdown, Iain has joined a national initiative launched by the Music Venue Trust, called, quite simply, #saveourvenues.

For this effort, music artists across the country are making available online gigs from their own homes to raise money for their favourinte venues.

Over the years, MacArts has hosted some top-names in the business, such as Scouting For Girls and Jill Jackson, as well as a plethora of local bands like South of Sanity and Mother Bru.

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Directors are contacting bands who have graced the Bridge Street stage to see if they would be interested in helping out.

Iain said: “Many artists are using the internet to get their music out there during the lockdown, some of them probably just doing it for their own sanity.

“They can go to the site and suggest they will put on a performance for a certain venue.

“Some bands have had individual members sending their own parts of a song in and it all gets put together. It’s quite fantastic.

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“The #saveourvenues campaign could put money in our coffers so we can keep things ticking over for an extended period of time ... but we just don’t know how long that will be.”

MacArts’s own crowdfunder went incredibly well.

Iain added: “We asked people to either pay for a future ticket, or a ticket for an end-of lockdown party, or just donate.

“That was meant to be on for four weeks, but we made our £5,000 target in one week, which was incredible, and it’s put us in the position where we are now, in that we are safe for a few months.

“Beyond that, we’re not sure what will happen, what the local music scene will look like, or if we will be a part of it.”

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