Music Venue Trust held their 5th national networking event today in the Islington Assembly Hall and MU Live Performance Official Kelly Wood and I ran a stand in the Main Hall throughout the day. The event was sold out and attended by around five hundred grassroots venue owners, managers and administrators from across the UK.

Ellie Rowsell, lead vocalist with Mercury Award Prize winners Wolf Alice, and Lord Tim Clement-Jones gave the opening speeches, while the first seminar was chaired by Trust patron Steve Lamacq. This was entitled ‘The Magnificent Seven: Anniversaries, Celebrations & Survival Stories’ in which Steve interviewed the managers of a selection of grassroots music venues who have survived to celebrate a notable birthday. These included the 100 Club (75 years), Southampton’s Joiners (50 years) and Portsmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms (25 years).

There was a range of further panels, presentations and working groups, with the focus being on the challenges for venues in handling contracts, advertising and promotions. In partnership with Help Musicians UK and the Musicians’ Union, the event explored how to address balancing the welfare of musicians and crew with the needs of a venue team. Kelly joined John Robb for a panel dedicated to wellbeing and mental health, while Julie’s Bicycle led a discussion on what a good rider looks like and how to tackle cost, health, waste and recycling.

For the first time Venues Day included a presentation by Rob Kirkham (Head of Business Development, PRS for Music) and Jez Bell (Chief Licensing Officer, PPL) who explained how and why the collecting societies charge fees for live events. This was a controversial subject for many present and led to a considerable amount of heckling and cynicism amongst the delegates.

However, Mark and Beverley of the Trust rounded off the day with a summary of events and sent the delegates into the early evening dusk with much to think about. My particular thanks to photographer Jonathan Stewart for his work on our behalf during the day.