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THE Trades Club in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, is a socialist members’ club and music venue.
We’re a co-operative with over 1,000 members who support the club with subscriptions and elect a committee to run the organisation.
As a venue, we had our last show on March 13 before shutting down as the coronavirus crisis took hold.
I’ve been at the helm of the live events programme for coming up to 10 years and it has been very challenging making endless adjustments as the outlook changes regularly.
Dozens of events have had to be rescheduled up to three times as the date we expect to open moves further and further away.
In times of difficulty, people traditionally gather at places like the Trades Club, holding meetings and organising events to raise funds for people that need help.
What’s different this time is that none of these things can happen — the club’s doors are locked and its auditorium silent.
I’ve been in the building since lockdown and it’s very much a shell.
The Trades is more than a building — it’s a living, vibrant place where things happen. People sing and dance and yell for more. They argue and debate and pass motions. They make banners and clog dance and eat delicious food. They play chess and learn to play guitar.
Until all this activity can happen inside the building again we are using our social media to support local businesses that are starting to reopen.
We know this government doesn’t particularly value culture and certainly not our type of culture.
Under harsh austerity politics, libraries, museums and art galleries across the country have had their funding slashed by nearly £400 million in the past eight years, forcing hundreds to close.
But even before these cuts, many venues like the Trades have never received any funding support, despite all the work we do in the community and programming comedy, theatre and art events alongside gigs from emerging artists across a multitude of genres.
The lockdown has served to really highlight how many people have missed communal live experiences and that they desperately want them back in their lives. This is the message that I get repeatedly from the people I speak to.
I don’t personally believe in the idea of socially distanced live events and I think the people that suggest that as a strategy don’t really understand what makes the live experience so special.
I’ve been to hundreds of gigs and I can tell you the best place to watch the show isn’t at the side of the stage or in the VIP area. It’s right in the middle of the audience — that’s where the sweet spot is.
Pressing pause on live music also helps shine a light on how unfair the music industry really is.
Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music and YouTube need to pay artists fairly and it’s apparent that a lot of money is going into a handful of pockets. It’s grossly unfair.
These days many touring musicians also have day jobs — you’d be shocked if you knew how many. I’m sure most people don’t want music and the arts only to be an option if you come from a wealthy background, something that has become more commonplace in recent years.
We’ve got some great bands in the local area — The Orielles, Working Men’s Club, The Lounge Society, The Short Causeway and I know how hard it can be for them to afford to rehearse and play shows.
We all know it’s going to be even tougher coming out of lockdown, particularly for vulnerable people, and we’re going to need venues like ours more than ever.
We anticipate that we’re probably going to need to fundraise to get us through this but we plan on coming back stronger than ever.
Places like the Trades Club are where community happens.
For details on the Trades Club, visit thetradesclub.com.
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