When your business plan is based on running events with 200 people attending and then you’re told you can’t do that any more the future can look grim.
That’s what Jess Scarratt of the Marina Fountain has been facing this year as the Covid-19 lockdown brought her previously thriving business to a complete standstill.
But there’s good news for Jess and for the owners of three other music venues in town that are all in line for a share of a government funding package that will see up to £93,000 pumped into Hastings and St Leonards.
Announcing the measures earlier this week Hastings and Rye MP, Sally-Ann Hart said the fund – worth £3.36m nationally – was to save grass roots music venues at immediate risk of closure. The package of money coming to Hastings is targeted on helping The Piper in Norman Road, Grand Elektra in Robertson Street, Brass Monkey in Havelock Road and Marina Fountain.
“The fund is providing vital support to music venues tha otherwise would face collapse due to the Coronavirus pandemic,” Mrs Hart told Hastings In Focus.
The cash will help cover on-going running costs incurred during closure, including rent and utilities.
Jess said explained that for her business even though income dried up during lockdown many of the basic costs still had to be met. Operating both a restaurant and bar has helped but her business is based on putting on events that will attract up to 200 people each time and that hasn’t been happening putting the future of the venue at risk.
Hastings Town Centre Manager John Bownas warmly welcomed the news and was delighted Hastings was receiving so much: “It says a huge amount about how important Hastings is in national terms when it comes to live music,” he said this week.
“We are home to only about 0.15 per cent of the UK population – but with four out of the 135 venues in the UK receiving this funding support being from here, that means three per cent of the total number of venues given grants were from Hastings.
“Looked at another way we got 20 times more than we would have received if the government had handed out money based on the numbers of people living in each town. Maybe we just have some very clever people running our local venues!”
Indoor performances can now restart with socially distanced audiences so music venues are able to reopen safely, alongside other cultural venues and heritage sites. Ms Hart has joined government ministers in encouraging people to visit reopened venues and support cultural organisations starting to put performances back on.
“Grassroots venues like the four that have received this funding are the engine room of the hugely successful British music scene. Providing aspiring musicians with an important source of income and honing the craft of the great musical talents of the tomorrow. These live music venues are being saved by the Government because it is so vital to our vibrant music industry, as well as being a local treasure,” Mrs Hart says.
Rob Lee who leads the Conservative group on Hastings Borough Council added: “This is great news for our excellent local music venues and will help them survive, live music is so important to our night time economy here in Hastings and St Leonards and it is really heartening that the government recognise that.”