A NATIONAL campaign to protect independent music venues is being hailed a success after 140 venues were removed from the critical list.

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) last month launched the #saveourvenues campaign warning that around 500 grassroots music venues were under threat after shutting their doors will due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Such venues, which run on a shoestring in most towns across the UK, are seen as vital step on the ladder for bands and singers beginning their musical careers.

Keighley's own independent venues, the Exchange Arts Centre and Studio 5 Live @ Jam On Top, highlighted the importance of such venues for local bands to hone their craft and touring bands to build a following.

The MVT this week said its campaign had so far raised over £1.5m in donations from music fans, music industry companies and other organisations, alongside important interventions from public bodies such as the London Mayor’s Office, Creative Wales and Arts Council England.

The MVT said 140 grassroots venues were now protected from imminent closure, with the organisation's crisis intervention team providing legal and planning advice, liaising with landlords and helping venues navigate through the complex bureaucratic process to access help.

Artists across the country are supporting the campaign with donations and live events, and a number of virtual festivals have also taken place or are scheduled, including Independent Music News Lockdown, Vive Le Rockdown, Colston Hall Presents and Liverpool Digital Music Festival. Over 150 events have already taken place.

Mark Davyd, founder of MVT, said the activity did not protect the venues permanently, and there was a need for more music industry donations and governmental intervention to help secure their long-term future, particularly around the issue of the rent really.

He added: “The fact we have managed to remove 140 grassroots music venues off of our critical list in the last three weeks is, of course, a cause for celebration but we are not complacent as this is only a relatively short-term fix.

"Whilst the immediate threat of closure for these venues has been halted they are still under real threat in the coming months as are over 400 others.

"This is a good start and we can’t emphasise how grateful we are to those music fans, music industry companies and public organisations who have supported the #saveourvenues campaign so far, but we cannot relax as we still have a mountain to climb to secure the long-term future of this sector.

"still desperately need more music industry companies to step up and help with donations alongside real action from government specifically around rent relief, more financial help and clearer guidance.”

Visit saveourvenues.co.uk for further information on the venues.

Venues like Keighley’s Exchange and Studio 5 Live @ Jam On Top were last month described as the “lifeblood” of the music industry by Roger "Trotwood" Nowell, a Skeletal Family musician and Paul Weller's guitar technician.

Exchange owner Michael Watmough said coronavirus had been “absolutely devastating” to small music venues and the bands and artists that use them.

Michael said: “Without a clear exit strategy it’s also very hard for places such as The Exchange to plan how or if we will come out the other side.

“We have an amazing community around The Exchange and have been selling ‘Exchange Dollars’ as a way to help us try weather the storm – vouchers than people can use to buy tickets or drinks when we hopefully reopen.”

Trotwood described independent venues as the lifeblood of the music industry, adding: “It’s where it all starts for a lot of artists. They are a community hub at a grassroots level.

A lot of work and dedication goes into setting up and running these venues. I’m hoping that when we do get back to normal, people will support these places and help get them back on their feet.

Bingley promoter Steve Waite has organised gigs at both the Exchange and Studio 5 Live under the @BAC2LIVE banner.

He said: “Both venues brilliantly nurture local talent and give them a chance to perform, as well as bringing in touring bands, tribute acts, covers bands, something for everyone across all genres, often operating on a tight budget looking to break even.

“We cannot lose this lifeline. People depend on these venues for a night out, because arenas are not for everyone. If the venue has a good set up then bands will enjoy playing there and fans will come back."

#saveourvenues is being run by the MVT with support from West Yorkshire music industry PR company Republic Media.