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'Lifeline' funding will help Inverness music venues through the coronavirus crisis

By Calum MacLeod

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The Gellion's, Inverness..
The Gellion's, Inverness..

Three grassroots music venues in Inverness are sharing more than £90,000 to support them through the coronavirus crisis.

City centre venues Hootananny, Gellion's Bar and The Tooth & Claw will receive the emergency funds through the Scottish Government’s Grassroots Music Venues Stabilisation Fund.

Hootananny on Church Street will receive £40,000, The Gellion's on Bridge Street £39,500 and Baron Taylor's Street venue The Tooth & Claw will get £16,000.

A total of £2.2 million in emergency support will be handed out to 72 eligible venues across Scotland.

Hootananny owner Kit Fraser said he was incredibly grateful to Creative Scotland for the award.

Actor turned songwriter Laurence Fox is just one of the many familiar faces to have performed at Hootananny.
Actor turned songwriter Laurence Fox is just one of the many familiar faces to have performed at Hootananny.

"It's a great validation of what Hootananny is. It's much more than a pub. It's a platform for musical culture, especially Scottish traditional music," he said.

"Music is at the heart of the Highlands. It is what the Highlands is all about and Inverness is the capital of the Highlands, and so that is why we started Hootananny. So to receive this £40,000 grant shows that the Scottish Government appreciates what we are doing."

However, although grateful for the award, he did hit out at the ban on recorded music as absolutely unnecessary and "a real killer".

"Hootananny is all about music and you can't even have background music? Scotland is the only country in the world that allows that," he said.

But although he is anticipating a silent winter ahead, the ever optimistic Mr Fraser even found a positive in the latest round of restrictions from the Scottish Government.

"You can't go to other houses, so if you want to meet your mates, you have to go to the pub. I was walking on air when I heard that," he said.

The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing performing live at the Tooth and Claw, Inverness
The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing performing live at the Tooth and Claw, Inverness

James Carr of Tooth & Claw sees the award as a lifeline.

"It's definitely going to keep the doors open a bit longer," he said.

"Without the music, it is devastating for us. We do have a fairly relaxed adult atmosphere and without music, it is eerie in the place.

"Even if they allowed recorded music where we controlled the volume, it would mean a great deal. We have anamazing jukebox in the wall and the customers absolutely loved that, but we are not even allowed that at the moment."

Gavin Stevenson from the Gellion's, revealed that the oldest pub in Inverness is also one of the biggest bookers of live music in Scotland with 650 performances a year.

"The award is massively welcome," he said.

"Music venues have been among the hardest hit sectors, and of course it is not just the venues themselves, because they support a much wider contribution to the local economy.

"While we were ale to reopen and trade, we weren't able to re-open and trade as a music venue, and with all the other restrictions, including trading at 25 per cent of our capacity, it is great that the Scottish Government has recognised the need for additional support for these types of venues. Our income has been decimated by Covid and all the other restrictions, just like the rest of the sector.

"Music is the bulk of our offer and a music venue without music is obviously a very challenging place to trade. It's great the local community comes out to support us, but with only 25 per cent capacity, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out we can only make 25 per cent of our income."

Mr Stevenson estimates that the 10pm curfew announced by the First Minister this week could result in a further 30 per cent reduction in income.

"I speak to a lot of other operators and we are a member of a number of trade groups and we are getting feedback from across the sector that the 10pm curfew is going to have a huge negative impact and there is an urgent need for government support to make sure everyone can survive until next March," he said.

However, he remained optimistic about the long term future of the sector.

"We need to make sure the industry survives until there is a vaccine. After that, things will hopefully get back to normal very quickly," he said.

Announcing the funding awards, Alan Morrison, head of music at Creative Scotland said: “Live music has been hit particularly hard by Covid-19, and Creative Scotland is only too aware of the severity of that impact. These awards, to 72 venues across Scotland, will help bring short-term stability to the grassroots music sector and alleviate some of the challenges that the ongoing pandemic has presented.

“Music is such a significant part of Scotland’s cultural life and it is here, at grassroots level, that talented musicians create new material connecting with audiences young and old. We look forward to the day when we’ll all be back together, cheering on artists face to face – but, until then, this fund will provide a lifeline to one of the most vibrant scenes that Scotland has to offer.”

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