London’s Clapham Grand To Continue With Socially-Distanced Gigs
Management of London venue The Clapham Grand have announced that they will be continuing to host socially-distanced gigs. Last month, the South London hall saw Frank Turner perform a show under strict social-distancing conditions, as something of a trial-run for how gigs could happen while COVID continues to halt the return of normal touring.
Although the new gig format isn’t the ideal, back-to-normal return to live music we’d love — something even venue manager Ally Wolf admitted — it is nonetheless a step towards adapting to make shows happen, and thus keep venues open and industry workers employed.
“No one is going to be able to tour on any level for at least six months,” said Ally, speaking to industry magazine Music Week. “Even after that I don’t know if it’s going to be back to where it was, so I feel like people need to get their heads around doing stuff that’s a bit different.
“And if it means that you can bring people back to work, people can come out and enjoy shows, and acts can play, then surely that’s better than everyone being sat at home? I would be a fool not to try and actually make this work, otherwise I might as well just be burning 50 grand a month without having a venue. The Clapham Grand is an incredibly versatile space. I can sell 200 table tickets for a show and make it work for live music, comedy, drag, movies… Multiple event formats fit in the venue because of the nature of its design.
“It’s really important for the venue to be able to bring the industry onside because I want to bring concerts back. Otherwise I might just burn half a million pounds and come back in Easter, by which point there will be no venue to come back to and everything will have dropped off a cliff.”
With venues already shutting and staff looking for alternative employment, Ally says it’s important to try to find a way around the current situation, both for fans and the industry.
“There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution here, but I’ve certainly got the capability to deliver an incredibly safe experience for customers, who have been starved of something they’re dying to watch again, and give acts the platform to play live again in a really good venue that actually feels like a show,” he said. “So let’s get something going, let’s get some acts in, try and bring some agents on board. Let’s try and work with some promoters and bring people’s heads around to an ‘in between’ stage of live music that doesn’t have to be shrouded in the financial doom and gloom of the bigger picture because, ultimately, all the customers want is a night out.”
Taking a positive view, Ally points to necessity being the mother of invention. In this case, that means trying out new gig formats that deliver quality and fun while also balancing the books. Make that work, and venues have a much better chance.
“The people that are going to get ahead in this game now are either the people that are incredibly rich and can ride it out, or the people who are going to innovate and try and build back from the ground up.
“And that, I feel, is what the next step is for the Grand — and I’m sure it’s probably the next step for a lot of people.”
Frank Turner will be performing at London’s Troubadour in aid of Music Venue Trust’s Red List Campaign.
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