Four celebrated music venues in Manchester and Hull are to close due to financial difficulties brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
In Manchester, Gorilla and the Deaf Institute are to permanently close. Roy Ellis, head of parent company Mission Mars, said the venues “have been at the forefront of the music scene in Manchester for many years and it is with great sadness that we announce that we will not be reopening. This difficult decision has been made against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the enforced closure of all of our sites and with continued restrictions upon opening of live music venues.”
He said the company was “extremely grateful” to its staff and customers, and added: “We would encourage any industry and music entrepreneurs who might be interested in this as an opportunity to please get in touch.”
Gorilla opened in 2012, while The Deaf Institute, its building constructed in 1877 as a facility for people with speech and hearing disabilities, opened in 2008. BBC DJs Mary Anne Hobbs and Marc Riley, plus musicians including the Twilight Sad and Tim Burgess, were among those expressing dismay at the closures.
Sad to hear that Manchester’s @DeafInstitute & @thisisgorilla won’t be opening again. I’ve played and watched gigs in both and they were the lifeblood of Manchester’s vital network of venues. It’s awful news but seems inevitable that so many more independent venues will be lost
— Tim Burgess (@Tim_Burgess) July 16, 2020
Two of Hull’s key live music venues, The Welly and The Polar Bear, have also announced they have gone into administration. Bert van Horck, director for both venues, said he was “deeply saddened”.
Both are historic venues: The Welly celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013, while The Polar Bear was built as a pub in the 1840s.
The Music Venue Trust, a trade body that represents more than 800 venues across the UK, said: “We have been warning for months that the situation faced by grassroots music venues was unsustainable and would result in the closure of spaces that people love and artists need unless there was concerted strategic action. That action must now be accelerated to prevent hundreds of other venues from being lost right across the country.”
They called on Hull and Manchester councils “to bring together all stakeholders in the city to see what can be done to secure the premises, locate alternative operators and prevent these vital spaces being permanently lost”.
The closures signal the difficulties faced by the live music sector amid coronavirus, even in the wake of the recently announced £1.57bn government support package across the arts.
A much-touted live music solution from promoters Live Nation, with acts playing in drive-in venues, collapsed earlier this week. Live at the Drive-In, which was to feature artists including Dizzee Rascal, Kaiser Chiefs and the Streets, was cancelled due to fears about local lockdowns preventing the events from going ahead.
The government has already anticipated the closure of some UK venues – earlier this week, the housing minister, Robert Jenrick, changed planning rules to make it harder for developers to demolish them. “The government recognises that the temporary closure of theatres, concert halls and live music performance venues due to Covid-19 has the potential to lead to permanent loss of important cultural and economic assets, and is determined that otherwise viable facilities are not lost forever,” he said.
Supporting documents read: “It is right that at this time no hasty decisions are made that will see the loss of much loved venues which we want to ensure have the opportunity of a successful future.”