The Cluny Need Our Help

Everything Else

The Cluny is one of Newcastle’s most loved pubs and independent live music venues. It’s one of Ouseburn’s go to haunts and it’s a venue that I personally can’t wait to head to as soon as there’s the slightest hint of warm weather.

Sitting in the middle of Ouseburn amongst its hidden gems and Newcastle’s wonderful city centre farm, it’s a pub that champions local indie businesses and does a lot for the community and music scene. Basically, it’s a really, really cool place to be and somewhere to shout about.

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The Cluny, Ouseburn

Sadly, under the current circumstances, The Cluny is struggling, and, like many independent venues at the moment, is facing uncertainty about its future. With a building to maintain, rent and bills to pay, excellent staff that they don’t want to disappoint, as well as a list of gigs that have had to be postponed, times are hard.

However, all is not lost as The Cluny have come up with a fantastic Crowdfunder to help fund their business until things can return to normal.

Their new initiative is “not asking for something for nothing”, so they are planning to hold four weekend comeback gigs, with acts tbc. They promise that the events will be cross genre, multi-band, all day events, featuring lots of local artists as well as more established bands and friends of The Cluny. Dates cannot be confirmed yet, but each of the weekends are set to be amazing celebrations of grass roots music venues, The Cluny’s staff and loyal customers, and, of course, returning to some sort of normality as the country recovers from this unstable and abnormal time.

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A group of my friends celebrating my boyfriends birthday that the staff kindly helped to organise as a surprise in The Cluny last year

The Cluny have stated on their Facebook page;

“We’re asking those who are able and want to support us to buy advance tickets for gigs that we’ll be hosting when we relaunch – lineups at this stage obviously TBC but we think you can trust us that they’ll be something special and will also be cross-genre… a celebration of what the Cluny is and what it will continue to be with your support and love.

Whilst the government has announced various initiatives, none of these are currently accessible and we need to be able to still pay ongoing large costs such as rent and insurance, etc whilst we are closed… we can’t get relief on these as of yet, if ever, we also want to get money owed to local suppliers as soon as possible and need money to tide over wage bills whilst waiting for government help. So none of any funds raised will go to waste. It’ll take quite some time for business to get back to normal even when we do reopen, and if we can manage to do so with the smallest amount of increased debt possible it will make survival both more feasible and indeed likely.”

Artist Oddisee performing at The Cluny last year

If you’d like to purchase tickets, you can follow the link to their Crowdfunder page, here;

If you aren’t quite able to afford the full price of a ticket, but would like to make a smaller donation, then you can purchase Cluny merchandise and gift vouchers that can be spent at the bar once it reopens, here;

Our local and independent venues are a great asset to the North East, and something that our region should be incredibly proud of. Let’s help all of our indie venues as much as we can. Whether that’s by donating financially, or for free by showing love to them on social media.

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The Cluny’s bar

Boris Johnson Just Gave A Deathwish To The Events Industry

Everything Else

Yesterday, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, Boris encouraged the UK to ‘avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues’.

Surely, given the advice that medical and scientific professionals, or certainly those who claim to be on social media, have been giving – this doesn’t sound too daft? Social distancing is being explained as one of the most effective ways to slow down and hopefully stop the spread of COVID-19, as this will lessen the spread from those carrying the virus passing it on. Especially to more vulnerable people in the community. So, avoiding large groups of people certainly seems like the most sensible thing to do at the moment. 

However unfortunately this approach does and will lead to problems for many people, especially those working and making a living from the events industry. This includes theatres, arenas, sporting venues, social clubs, pubs, nightclubs, and other social and recreational venues.

Theatre Royal, Theatre, Theatre Royal Newcastle, Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne
The Theatre Royal in Newcastle

Yes, closing these venues may well be the best foot forward in stopping the Coronavirus from growing. And, yes, most of the people working in the events and cultural sector recognise this. So what’s the problem here?

The issue sits with the Government’s current approach to the situation. Unlike other countries that have called for an entire lockdown, enforcing venues to close, Boris has just suggested it. Because the Government hasn’t yet made it a mandatory precaution, it means that these businesses aren’t able to claim compensation or financial support. The Government has offered no actual backing to the events industry in this case, so venues, artists, managers and staff have been left to fend for themselves. 

This puts each cultural venue in the country in an impossible situation of either closing and going with this vague advice and ‘do the right thing’, or remaining open for now and being made to look like money hungry villains. 

The arts and social industry in the UK is a fragile one. With many businesses still struggling after the 2008 recession, and a lack of funding through the Tory Government for the arts, many venues have to survive day by day, event by event or as charities fundraising to be able to stay open. This doesn’t even take into account the many freelancers working in events and culture, that don’t have the safety net of a guaranteed wage from an employer. Or the thousands of people relying on temporary and zero hour contracts for income. 

Across the course of today, and possibly over the next few weeks depending on any further lofty information offered by Johnson, I suspect we will see a significant increase of venues closing and both small and large scale events being cancelled and postponed. Theatres in the West End of London and the Sunderland Empire have already announced closures until further notice. The Ambassador Theatre Group (who manage Sunderland Empire Theatre) released a statement last night, citing; 

“Given the current ambiguity and lack of clarity as to how long our theatres may be closed for, we hope to provide you with an update within the next 48 hours regarding the exchange of tickets.”

Sunderland Empire, Sunderland, Theatre, Sunderland Theatre
Sunderland Empire

And the Tyne Theatre and Opera House on Westgate Road issued yesterday;

“In response to the Prime Minister’s announcement today for us all to avoid non-essential social contact, we are liaising with promoters and organisers of our forthcoming events. We will keep you informed of the status of all shows as soon as possible.”

It goes without saying that times are extremely difficult for our theatres and performance venues right now. So, please, if you have tickets for upcoming shows be mindful of this, and know that they are currently doing everything in their power to muddle through the situation as it stands, with limited guidance or information from the Government. 

Please, please, please be patient and show some kindness to the incredible staff who are being bombarded with questions from ticket holders and customers. They may be at risk of losing their jobs and likely know as much as you for now, but are still trying their hardest to find ways to keep their customers happy, as well as keeping the venue afloat. 

It’s heartbreaking to write about, but there are venues in the UK who are now in very real danger of closing for good, and staff who may lose their jobs indefinitely. While this is a scary and difficult time for everyone in the UK, if you can do anything small to help your local community theatre, or the historical venue in your city that relies on charity to stay open and keep the building running, then any small gesture would surely be greatly appreciated. Even if it’s just words of support, as our event industry is definitely not receiving anything like that from Boris Johnson or the Government at the moment.

Tyne Theatre, Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Newcastle theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne, Westgate Road
Tyne Theatre and Opera House

The Show Must Go On… So please don’t blame venues or performers

Everything Else

The UK, along with the rest of the world, has been set to panic mode due to the national pandemic of COVID-19. Scaremongering from the media and an ill prepared Prime Minister have done their best to cause havoc and worry across Britain.

While other countries such as Italy and the United States have taken stronger measures to stop the spread of the Corona virus, England is still just in a bit of a purgatory over what happens next. This has left many people scared about what would happen if their jobs or businesses were to be affected, if the country were to go into lockdown or quarantined.

This, of course, could affect many different industries, not least of all the events and cultural sector.

It’s understandable that many people may be left confused or surprised that events, gigs, shows and concerts are still going ahead across England, given that citizens in other countries have been advised to self isolate and avoid busy places. Scotland has even put a ban on all mass gatherings of over 500 people.

So, why haven’t theatre performances, concerts or comedy shows just stopped altogether? Basically, because the government haven’t yet called for it, and it puts the entire industry, as well as workers finances in jeopardy.

Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne Theatre, Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Newcastle theatre
The Tyne Theatre and Opera House in Newcastle

The nature of the live performance sector is complex as there are so many people involved in each and every show that’s created. From a headline tour across arenas or stadiums, to local community theatre productions, the labour and investments involved are huge.

You may scoff at the idea of someone like Ed Sheeran being left out of pocket if one of his tours got cancelled, but the fact is it isn’t just Ed’s tour. It’s his managers, his tour managers, his stage techs, his transport providers, his caterers. It’s the managers of each individual venue, the venues PR assistant, the zero hours contract cleaners, security staff, bar staff and box office workers. This can add up to hundreds, more likely thousands of staff for large tours, all losing hours and income. And of course, no one wants to disappoint fans that have paid a lot of money and waited a long time for these shows either.

For smaller shows at your cities comedy club, or am-dram group, the risk is often even bigger. Small and independent venues depend on shows going ahead to make each performance viable, pay the bills and hire a plumber to fix the leaky toilet.

A lot of theatres operate as charities without audiences even realising. Even here in Newcastle upon Tyne, the Theatre Royal, Northern Stage, Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Live Theatre and People’s Theatre are all not for profit venues. That’s only to name a few in the North East. Charities like these often don’t have pots of money to fall back on as a safety net.

Northern Stage, Newcastle upon Tyne, Theatre, Newcastle theatre
Northern Stage in Newcastle

Cancelling performances, and especially clusters of performances is also no easy task. As there are multiple people to go between across the venue, and the shows production and management team.

If and when a show gets cancelled, each of these venues, their staff and the performers and crews of travelling tours all take a significant hit. If shows are cancelled for an undetermined length of time, the affects of this could be dreadful for the arts across the UK, if not further. That’s without mentioning the local bars and restaurants that all benefit from these events going ahead. The hairdressers not getting booked up for blow drys, or the taxi drivers unable to find jobs.

People’s theatre, Newcastle theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne
People’s Theatre in Newcastle

Lastly, finance isn’t all there is to it. As almost anyone who works in the arts will tell you, show business often isn’t well paid. Live performance and cultural events are a labour of love and passion. It’s people’s life’s work, it’s keeping choirs alive, it’s giving a spectacular hobby to OAP groups who wouldn’t be able to socialise otherwise. It’s skill building and workshops for people with disabilities, it’s children being able to see their hero singing live on stage. It’s feeling part of a community and getting lost in a performance while the world outside is in turmoil.

The show must go on, but please don’t take anger, fear or frustration out on our venues, staff or performers.

At the moment, they are doing everything they can do to ensure their audiences are safe, they are constantly keeping up with the news and any advice from the government, they are worrying how they are going to survive closing for the foreseeable future without causing damage to their historical building, or leaving their staff without pay.

At the moment, the only advice they can give you is that the show is going ahead as normal, until any further notice. It’s as frustrating for them as it is you, but sadly there’s nothing else they can say, apart from the obvious please wash your hands and turn your phones off during the production.

Live Theatre, Live Theatre Newcastle,  Newcastle upon Tyne
Live Theatre in Newcastle