It’s an understatement when I say that the live music industry has been hit hard by the Coronavirus Pandemic. Having to endure not one, but two lockdowns has seen many venues shut their doors permanently. But there are still many small venues, crucial to giving talented musicians a platform to showcase their work, fighting for survival. Of course, the continuing functionality of venues extends beyond supporting artists, providing employment for thousands of people across the UK. These venues have facilitated a growing cultural framework for years introducing generations of people to new musical movements, artists, and more. In this short piece I will introduce four venues which I believe have made important contributions to music history as well as contemporary society.
Founded by Olli Wisdom and Jon Klein, the Batcave opened in 1982 having a very short but influential run-in central London. The club focused on facilitating the growth of New Wave, Gothic Rock, and Synthpop. Open every Wednesday the club would accommodate some very famous guests which included the likes of Robert Smith, Siouxsie Sioux, and Marc Almond. As well as hosting live music nights, the venue also became a place to explore gothic fashion, literature, and art. The space didn’t set parameters for what was defined as ‘goth’ or ‘gothic’ instead having an open-door policy which encouraged individuality. After three years, the club closed its doors permanently. Despite its short run, it gave a place for goth subculture to thrive. Many of the musicians it support went on to become influential in the development of music and are sighted as the inspiration for many contemporary exhibitions.
Founded by Phil Andrew’s, who also happens to co-own the Jane Austen Museum in Bath, the club opened on New Year’s Eve in 1978. The venue was initially for folk and jazz artists having a vegetarian café, run by students, housed above it. However, with the rapid diversification and growth of the UK music scene Moles modernised. In order to keep up, they incorporated disco nights as well as live rock music into their repertoire. By the late 1980’s Moles had established itself as a popular destination for bands and musicians on the live music circuit. By this time the vegetarian café, which had graced the rooms above Moles, had long since gone. Phil extended into the space it left behind, creating a recording studio which saw the likes of Elbow grace it’s doorway. Now, Moles Nightclub has become a very fashionable destination for students to enjoy an array of music. Whilst Tuesdays at the club will accommodate anyone with a love for the noughties, Wednesday nights will accommodate for anyone with a taste for the heavier stuff. The club also has brilliant links with music students. Moles provides a platform for new talent to showcase their creative portfolios, network, and grow. I myself have discovered many great artists through going to various events.
De Montfort Hall was built by the Corporation of Leicester and finished in 1913. In 1914 the famous Pipe Organ was installed. It is known to be the only surviving work of Leicester organ builders Stephen Tayler and Son Ltd. The hall has had some notable guests over the years. In the 1960’s both The Beatles and Bob Dylan sold out the venue. The hall was also a stop on David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust Tour in 1973. Until recently, the grounds of De Montfort Hall hosted Simon Says Festival. Created in partnership three of Leicester’s independent music venues: The Musician, Firebug, and The Donkey, the festival gave homegrown talent the opportunity to connect with wider audiences.
Named after the French club Le Caveau De La Huchette, the club was created by Alan Sytner who wanted to create a venue for Jazz music. His plan was pretty successful with many Jazz legends performing at the venue such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Marie Knight, and Big Bill Broonzy. The Quarry Men Skiffle Group frequented the club. At one point or another, both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were members. Of course, the 1960’s saw the takeover of Beat Music and the rise of The Beatles. Their first performance took place on the 9th of February 1961 albeit with a slightly different line up. The group were initially a quintet with Stuart Sutcliffe on Bass and Pete Best on Drums. It was at one of their performances in the Cavern Club that Brian Epstein spotted them, becoming their first manager, and securing their first record contract. However, when the band appeared in 1962, Sutcliffe and Best were no longer apart of the line-up with Ringo Starr making his first appearance on drums. The Beatles performed 292 times at the venue, their last performance taking place on Sunday the 3rd of August 1963. However, even after The Beatles departure, the venue continued to host an array of musical talent with the 1970’s seeing the likes of Status Quo, Queen, and Suzi Quatro grace The Cavern Club’s stage. Off course, the venue was still irreversibly linked to The Beatles as the site that facilitated their creation. This meant that it also become a site of mourning and remembrance for many fans after the fatal shooting of John Lennon on the 8th of December 1980. Whilst the venue continued to show an array of talent, the 1990’s marked the start of its run as a heritage sight. Cavern City Tours became the new owners of the club, using the space to exhibit its rich musical history whilst continuing to support new talent. One of the most notable performances of this decade was probably by a band called Oasis in 1992, although Noel Gallagher didn’t think much of the venue! Today the Cavern Club is more popular than ever, drawing visitors from all over the world.
I have given a very brief overview of each venue above (I really didn't do The Cavern Club justice!), but I hope that my summaries have given an idea of how they’ve been influential in helping music to thrive. Hopefully, the coming year will see a gradual return back to normality and, along with it, the revival of the creative industries.
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Paige Worrall is a History graduate currently working as a library assistant. She is currently working towards an MA in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester this year. Her passion for the history of art has led her to set up her own blog The Museum Inspector where writing on her various interests can be found. She also has an Instagram dedicated to promoting some of her favourite cultural institutions. When she isn’t visiting museums, Paige can probably be found in a bookshop or curling up with a novel or two!