By Meg Sharma
With independent venues week approaching fast, it is important to reflect on the importance of these culture hubs. On the 14th of November, ‘Save Womanby Street’ announced the success of their campaign, resulting in some protection of all Welsh music venues. The campaign was launched in March, after planning applications were submitted that would have threatened the livelihoods of independent venues on the street.
The government need to offer more for grassroot venues. The Welsh Government’s ‘Agent for Change’ means that if planning applications are put forward near a venue, the developers and landlord are responsible for putting measures in place to ensure the property is unaffected by the venue, and vice versa. This protects venues from property applications and developments but not other issues. In many cases, independent venues are not profitable as they have to compete with bigger venues and nightclubs, leading to a loss in drinks sales, entry fees, and less pay for staff and owners. Councils often see this, and seek to close venues to make them into something more viable, such as properties, resulting to a substantial loss in culture.
Clwb Ifor Bach is one of the main venues in Cardiff, and has seen acts such as Coldplay, Elbow, and George Ezra pass through their doors. Like the other venues of Womanby Street, it gives an affordable (if not free) platform for new artists and bands to start performing. Also, it offers an incredible cultural and artistic space, with events that benefit the local community taking place there in the day. It creates essential nightlife and promotes night-time economy, offering an individuality to Cardiff and acts as an encapsulation of the community. If Clwb, or any other welsh venue were to close, this would be detrimental to Cardiff nightlife.
These venues give an alternative to mainstream nightclubs, offering a range of different club nights which appeal to more people and encourage the development of sub-cultures which gives Cardiff more cultural diversity. Many of the clubs on Womanby street have a ‘safe space’ policy, where the staff including security will help those who feel unsafe in a venue, something which is not implemented in most mainstream clubs. This is important for those who have anxiety, or have suffered from sexual abuse, as they can enjoy themselves in a safe environment. This is resultant of the community independent venues form, which is unlike anything a big nightclub could offer.
The ‘Save Womanby Street’ was somewhat successful; support was given from MPs across parties, the residential application was unsuccessful, and the derelict building on Womanby street was bought by the council so it could not be converted into a derelict building, and are developing a plan to protect all live venues. This is a step forward, but the government need to offer more protection from planning applications for live venues, as well as safeguarding against other threats that could lead to a cultural loss.