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17th April 2019 - Written by Darren Johns for DMS
Brexit is banished! For now, at least. Which, thankfully, leaves us to focus on other pressing matters like, for instance, the demise of UK grassroots venues. Again.
This time it's longstanding and cherished Plymouth venue, The Hub, that bids its final fond farewell, in June. The building was bought by the council three years ago and is now earmarked for demolition to make way for The Millbay Boulevard; a new wave of urban redevelopment in the city. And will our city council make any alternative provisions for this loss? Judging by their shameless abandonment of the White Rabbit, don't hold your breath. But there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Council leader, Tudor Evans, has called for a round-table 'summit' to discuss the issues facing music makers, providers and lovers, following public discussions online. It's a closed meeting with a handful of invites but, clairvoyant spoiler alert, it concludes with the council representatives heartily agreeing with everyone's concerns but promising nothing. Credit where it's due, though, Tudor seems adamant to not let the issue slide. We intend to keep up the pressure to make sure it doesn't.
Local breakout band Land of the Giants regularly sold out the 450 cap venue, and are due to play the final closing show at the end of next month. If you look closely, you can just see the back of our Tom's head in the bottom left corner.
Venue closure is an all-too-common story around these parts. Past landmarks such as The Cooperage, Dance Academy, White Rabbit, Voodoo Lounge and the Random Arms and Energy Room across the water have all gone the way of the passenger pigeon. It may not seem such a big deal when one or two places closed down in Manchester or London – heavily populated cities with numerous alternatives – but when an already under-represented city like Plymouth loses a venue, its impact is keenly felt on all levels. Fans lose an important facet of their social lives; touring bands lose a crucial intermediate level of building their fan-base; national booking agents begin to overlook the city, promoters move elsewhere... In short, the cultural reputation of the city is tarnished. Among other salient points recently posted on their Facebook page, The Hub management stated: “The resulting negative impact on the city’s music scene will almost certainly have a knock-on effect on how favourably the university students of tomorrow view the city. If the city has no mid-size music venue, it will be a far less appealing destination to move to, to study.”
The Hub was used daily by sound and production engineering students at Plymouth's Deep Blue Sound, and regularly hosted a range of internationally acclaimed acts, when their tour did make it this far South; something now less likely.
Of course, we still have a slew of great small-capacity clubs and pubs down here. The likes of the Junction, the Underground, Crash Manor, Annabel's, the B-Bar and the Hanging Gardens adequately cater for emerging, regional and niche bands and performers, but the need for a bespoke mid-sized 500 capacity venue, that is neither a pub nor a stopgap, is paramount. Over the years, The Hub and the White Rabbit have hosted acts such as Idles, The Bronx, Frank Turner, The Skints, Seth Lakeman, Converge, Jamie Lenman, Sick Of It All and many more. Once The Hub has gone, there will be nowhere in the city to cater for artists of this calibre. They want to play here. They love playing here. For now, they can't. The council has a lot to answer for, and hopefully it will do just that in tonight's meeting. Tudor Evans, in a recent Plymouth Herald interview, disingenuously declared, “Nothing says rock 'n' roll like a Council-owned nightclub, said no-one, ever” despite the fact that, as already mentioned, they have owned The Hub for the past three years. Moreover, the council doesn't need to own any potential new premises, it just needs to put its money where its mouth is and properly honour the resettlement promises to the venues that are destroyed in the process of 'modernising' the city. Is that too much to ask?
Perhaps we should push for a referendum on it: Remain true to your word or Leave our venues the hell alone.