We published the letter from Nigel Price to the DCMS on 13 April.
Now, a week later, responses following on from that letter have also been made public. We publish them here:
- The Reply from Julia Lopez MP
- The reply from Nigel Price to Julia Lopez MP
- Official statement from Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust
- Response from the Jazz Promotion Network
- Response from Digby Fairweather
- Reply from Julia Lopez MP
Mr Nigel Price
Julia Lopez MP Minister of State for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure 4th Floor 100 Parliament Street London SW1A 2BQ
18 March 2022 Our Ref: MC2022/02709/SR
Thank you for your correspondence of 17 February, to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Nadine Dorries MP, regarding the challenges being faced by grassroots jazz venues. I am responding as the Minister responsible for Creative Industries. Your passion for the performance and promotion of jazz as a musical genre is palpable from your letter, and the commitment and adaptability you and your fellow musicians have demonstrated during the pandemic is remarkable. Please accept my apologies for the delay in you receiving a response.
You note in your correspondence that organisations without permanent premises or that were not registered as an organisation could not apply to the Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF). It is true that organisations had to be formally constituted (e.g. as a registered business or charity) to apply for most strands of CRF support. However, operation of a permanent performance venue was not a condition of CRF support.
In summer 2020, the CRF ran a scheme specifically targeted at grassroots music venues, explicitly including jazz venues. The criteria for this scheme encompassed sites from dedicated music venues through to community venues or village halls with significant live grassroots music programmes. This scheme managed to offer grants totalling £3.36 million to 135 venues before the end of August 2020. Since then, the total CRF funding in grants and loans for music organisations has risen to over £240 million.
The Government chose not to make the CRF open for individuals to apply for. This was based on several factors including that cross-economy support was in place for freelancers through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). According to the latest statistics (published 16/12/21) self-employed people in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector had made 312,000 claims across the five grants, with the average value of claims from self- employed in the sector being £2,600.
The CRF has had significant indirect benefits for freelancers by supporting organisations to survive, reopen, and restart performances and therefore to provide meaningful opportunities to freelancers. These organisations are supporting freelancers through activity that has been made possible because of CRF investment.
I note that you have copied your letter also to Darren Henley at the Arts Council England (ACE). Your observations on the technical application processes are the domain of ACE, and I recommend that you refer those queries to ACE by emailing email@example.com. With all funding applications, there is a balance to be struck between ensuring application processes are as simple as possible, and ensuring that funds are correctly distributed and that public money is invested wisely.
As the Government emerges from the pandemic, I am aware that different organisations will experience the recovery at different speeds, and the next year or so may remain very challenging for many organisations and individuals. In your letter, you recommend setting up a grant fund for grassroots music promoters who are not constituted as companies or charities. I am pleased to say that ACE has just such a funding opportunity open at the present time.
Mindful of the challenges faced by grassroots music venues, the ACE has explicitly invited funding applications from the organisations and people involved in the hosting and promotion of live music events in venues, and has ringfenced £1.5 million in the 2021-22 financial year for this priority. This has been put in place specifically to support more organisations and individuals in this sector to be confident in applying to the main Project Grants programme in the future.
This is being delivered with National Lottery funding, and is open to individuals as well as organisations. Applications for Supporting Grassroots Live Music projects will not be in competition with everyone else applying to Project Grants. As the budget for this time limited priority is ringfenced, these applications will only be in competition with each other. Further information can be found here.
For organisations interested in further funding opportunities, I recommend that you continue to monitor the ACE website where all funding programmes are posted.
Thank you for writing on this important issue. I hope my response is helpful and that your constituent is reassured that the work of the CRF and ACE prioritises supporting organisations and individuals in this sector.
With best wishes,
Julia Lopez MP
Minister of State
Minister of State for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure
2 Reply from Nigel Price to Julia Lopez MP
Julia Lopez MP
Minister of State for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure
100 Parliament Street
Your Ref: MC2022/02709/SR
Dear Ms Lopez,
We sent a clear message to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to highlight the current plight of the UK grassroots jazz infrastructure. It literally could not have been any clearer. I was hoping that the message, endorsed by some of most important figures in UK jazz, would effect some kind of change, or at the very least lead to closer scrutiny of the arts funding system in this very specific area. I wanted the message to reach somebody in power who cares about culture on these islands and I was presuming that he DCMS was the correct recipient.
Bewilderingly, the reply seems to be defensive, often self congratulatory and, shockingly, appears to be passing the blame for the demise of our clubs onto the shoulders of those who have been hit hardest by the disparity in UK arts funding. The very people we’re asking you to help. It’s actually almost unbelievable.
Having seen the colossal waste of UK tax payer’s money in various ways over the pandemic, the willingness to thump billions of pounds without hesitation into questionable projects, white elephants and black holes, it’s utterly galling to have the cheque book closed on our cause that requires an absolutely tiny fraction, (maybe even .002%) of this figure and drives a coach and horses through the Government’s levelling up agenda.
A couple of points of order. Having a company status was a requirement for applications to the Culture Recovery Fund. 100% of permanent premises have company status but almost none of the clubs without premises have company status, so whilst I was apparently incorrect to say that having premises was a requirement these are effectively the same thing. Also, whilst I thank you for the link to the Arts Council England’s ‘Supporting Grassroots Live Music’ fund I should tell you that I had never heard of it, and when informing others, others that included some highly experienced in the arts funding system, they too had no idea of its existence. It was not included on the ‘available funds’ on the ACE home page. Also, it closed ten days after you letter was sent. Had this fund been properly announced to those who would have jumped at the opportunity I’m sure the uptake would have been much higher.
Regardless of the perceived reasons for the failure to align available funding with the most needy, it is a problem that needs fixing if jazz clubs are to survive. It would be ridiculous to suggest that the blame for this lies solely at the feet of promoters? To suggest this would imply that they are lazy, unmotivated people which literally could not be further from the truth. They are the most inspirational people you could hope to meet and without them our music scene would simply not exist
Without action here, the current administration will ultimately be responsible for the potential and completely avoidable collapse of this vital part of our heritage. Correct me if I’m wrong but I would have thought that overseeing and ensuring the proliferation, sustenance and cultivation of the arts is the actual job of the DCMS?
I urge you to take another look at the key points of the original message, recognise that the very funding that was earmarked for exactly this purpose did not reach the intended recipients and to quickly take the required steps to resolve the urgent crisis in this valuable sphere of the arts.
3 Official statement from Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust:
“It is correct that large numbers of Grassroots Music Venues, including some Jazz, Folk and Blues venues, were successful in the Cultural Recovery Fund. MVT was able to support many venues through the complexities of the Grantium application portal and to a successful grant outcome. That support was vital in preserving the live music touring network and was a much needed and highly successful intervention in the pandemic.
However, it is also the case, as correctly laid out in Nigel’s original letter, that as we emerge from the crisis we need to address any elements of the fabric of our cultural infrastructure which were left behind by CRF or other government support. It is very clear that such consideration immediately highlights the very dire situation for the Jazz, Folk and Blues network, which has specific characteristics of delivery, ownership and support which were outside of the remit of CRF.
Specifically, most such venues were run by sole traders, excluded from CRF support, on an occasional use basis, also largely exempt from support from CRF. While CRF achieved many things, and the importance of the support was absolutely vital to the survival of our live music sector, we now need to address the reality of the current situation. MVT research suggests that as much as 50% of the total touring opportunities within the Jazz, Folk and Blues sector may have vanished during Covid.
The outcomes of such a collapse in available gigs is clearly detailed in Nigel’s letter. An opportunity exists for DCMS to take a lead on rebuilding this support with careful and considered interventions; a great deal can be delivered with small amounts of financial support carefully distributed to enable the sector to rebuild and to bounce back. Without that leadership, the UK Jazz, Folk and Blues circuit may never recover. We strongly support the call by Nigel Price for urgent action.”
CEO, Music Venue Trust
4 Response from the Jazz Promotion Network:
“The Jazz Promotion Network (JPN) supports jazz promoters, labels, managers, artists, and jazz activists across the UK and Ireland. Our Jazz Community Survey runs until 4 April at http://tinyurl.com/surveyJPN.
We are consulting with the whole of the UK and Ireland jazz and improvised music sector through our survey and regional round table events. Their input will inform JPN’s priorities over the next few years and our discussions with all the UK/Irish arts funders, including Arts Council England.
The situation for non-venue-based volunteer jazz promoters will likely feature strongly within the JPN Jazz Community Survey responses. In some cases, these grassroots promoters, which are vital to the ecology of the jazz sector, have not been eligible for some of the Covid recovery support during the pandemic.
Arts Council England, working closely with the Music Venue Trust and the Music Venues Alliance, launched in May 2019, has helped address some of the needs of grassroots promoters via the ‘Supporting Grassroots Live Music’ fund though the funds available have been modest. We hope that Arts Council England will build upon the Supporting Grassroots Live Music fund when the current phase of the scheme closes to applications on 31 March 2022.
As said above, we would urge anyone passionate to develop the UK and Ireland Jazz Sector to contribute to the JPN’s Jazz Community Survey at http://tinyurl.com/surveyJPN. All responses have a chance to win a £50 Bandcamp voucher.”
Jazz Promotion Network.
5 Response from Digby Fairweather:
“I am delighted to support Nigel Price’s long-overdue initiative in requesting formalised financial support for jazz in the UK for which, at the moment, there is none. Jazz music in Britain now offers a continual creative legacy spanning one and a half centuries, while at the same time – quite remarkably (and probably tragically) – possessing no recognised ‘creative centre’ nor corporate representation. This separates the music from (1) classical music (Philharmonic Society, London, f.1813) (2) Folk music (Cecil Sharp House, London, 1930) and (3) Rock and Pop (British Music Experience, 2007, London/Liverpool).
This lack of any such representation has led to an inadvertent but damagingly progressive side-lining of the music in both artistic and financial terms; a side-lining compounded by the relentless growth of the (oxymoronic) ‘music industry’ since the advent of the rock revolutions of the 1960s and after. That jazz has continued to survive and flourish – albeit (almost exclusively) as a cottage-industry in economic terms – is testament both to its durability as an ‘underground music’ and proof that (in the words of one performer) ‘you cannot kill any art form which is an expression of the soul’. But the resulting removal of jazz from mainstream media (including radio and television) as well as the overweening sixty-year pop culture now large enough to replace it, consequently presents the very real possibility of a ‘black hole’ in British musical culture if nothing is done.
It should also be pointed out that the practical mechanics by which the highly limited funding for jazz may be accessed are in themselves excessively complicated, constantly shifting and – most generally – only achieved by the employment of professional fundraisers; an expense well beyond the means of most jazz promoters. The recent demise of many highly-respected independent jazz organizations including ‘Herts Jazz’ bears sad witness to the fact. The redress of this long term musical misbalance is a matter of urgency for governmental intervention at the highest level.”
Founder/Lifelong Patron: National Jazz Archive 1988 (RC:327894)
Founder/Former CEO/Artistic Director: The Jazz Centre UK (2016)
Freeman of London (1992)
Services to Jazz Award (British Jazz Award,1992) Benno Haussmann (1993)
Freedom of Southend-on-Sea (2000)
Lifetime Achievement Award/ Worshipful Company of Musicians, London (2013)
APPJAG ‘Special’ Award (2021)