‘People used to go to six gigs a month – now they can only afford to go once’

Dan Maiden outside the Fiddler’s Elbow  – which has been supported by the Music Venue Trust

A HISTORIC grassroots music venue in Kentish Town has said business is “back to where it was during the worst part of Covid” as illness, inflation and strikes deters gig-goers.

The Fiddler’s Elbow, a multi-genre venue in a Grade II-listed building that dates back to the mid 1800s, hosts four bands a night, seven nights a week.

Dan Maiden, who has worked at the Fiddlers as a music promoter for 25 years and owned it for 14 years, said December was a “particularly bad” month for business, but was hoping new funding from the Music Venue Trust could help begin the turnaround.

“We’ve basically been closed for the last two weeks,” Mr Maiden, who co-owns the venue with Nancy Wild, said.

“We’ve had no trade, which is generally normal around Christmas time because all the bands go away, all the universities go home and because we’re not a pub, if there’s no music on we don’t open. That’s all we do: music.

“But this Christmas has been particularly bad. I think because of the flu, promoters’ bands have pulled out, sometimes the day before the gig and then no one has got any money.   The people that used to go to gigs six times a month, they haven’t got the money so they are choosing to go to one gig a month.

“Then on top of that you’ve got all the strikes, so people who do want to go out, they can’t get there anyway. It’s really pounded the hospitality trade and I can tell you we are back to where it was during the worst part of Covid.”

But he added: “I’ve been there a long time and I’m not rolling over. They would have to drag me out of here in a box before I give this up. It’s not all bad, it’s just that we’re going through a bad patch.”

Mr Maiden said their audience numbers are down 25 per cent since May and their bar intake has dropped as beer prices have crept up. Because of gig cancellations, their freelance engineers have looked for shifts elsewhere.

“We’re basically working on the breadline,” he said.

In the absence of government support, the Music Venue Trust has given

The Fiddler’s Elbow just under £5,000 to pay for a new lighting rig and operating system that will be installed on January 23.

Mr Maiden said: “The fund is a lifesaver. For me, the lighting is equally important as the sound. If you’ve got really poor lighting, which we really have, for people taking photographs it just comes out all dark. I’ve spent so much money trying to fix it and it doesn’t do us any justice.”

Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, said: “Distributing almost £70,000 to 14 grassroots music venues is a really positive way to start 2023 and is further proof that our Pipeline Investment Fund can make a real difference to individual venues.

“It is really important, however, that we don’t get complacent; this initiative has had a real impact but it is only the start of what we need long-term.”

The Fiddler’s Elbow has seen Frank Turner, Imelda May and James Bay use the space, but it is renowned for providing a stage to artists who are just starting out.

Entry ranges from £5-£10.

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