Local music venues are the lifeblood of the music scene. It is a statement we are all aware of, but one that unfortunately is a common point of discussion between music fans, due to the increasing challenges for venues.
You hear it all the time, support your small cap venues and ensure bands have somewhere to begin their journey. The importance of this cannot be overstated and lo and behold it is true. At this time when a fan's ability to physically attend their local venue has been stripped away, this issue is more prominent than ever. So we at Noizze have decided to curate a list of the venues we feel are important in the areas we are based.
Bristol has long enjoyed an authentic reputation as being a city of culture and music. A hotbed of ingenuity, innovation and cultural inclusivity, the South West region as a whole is home to an array of venues reserved for the arts and creativity – spaces where expressionism flourishes and where Bristol has garnered it’s esteemed reputation.
However, the area has not been spared by the ongoing lockdown and respective economic onslaught. Whilst many of the more well connected and funded venues are equipped to weather the storm, the city's famed independent venues – spaces that gift Bristol it’s prominence - have been left to bear the full brunt of the lockdown. One such venue is The Mothers' Ruin.
Situated on St Nicholas Street, The Mothers' Ruin is nestled right within the beating heart of Bristol, calling the massive corporate clubs and chain pubs that dot the streets it’s neighbours. Yet, it couldn't be further removed from such cavernous venues in practices and atmosphere.
Since it’s 2007 establishment, The Mothers' Ruin has prided itself on it’s independent ideology and ethos, proudly being a secure space for those wanting a characteristically compact refuge removed from the sterile venues that make up Bristol’s nightlife. It’s an intimate venue full of charm and intrigue; every inch of the building has a story to tell, there’s always an interesting conversation hanging in the air, and always a contemporary ambience lingering cordially. It’s a space that just encapsulates the all inclusive character and personality of Bristol’s alternative spirit.
With that in mind, it’s value as a venue for live music can’t over overstated. Whilst welcoming touring artists from all across the globe, The Mother’s Ruin - with it’s two intimate performance areas - has long provided a space for such artists to hone their skills and establish themselves in a comprehensive and embracing environment. It’s the home of the annual Free For All Festival, a month long festival that hosts over 100 artists over free-entry events and the home of Bristol live music staple Stagfest. With many similar venues closing their doors for good, The Mother’s Ruin’s place within the region's cultural ecosystem is crucial.
Of course, with the ongoing lockdown, the venue is now temporarily closed. Whilst it’s reopening is anticipated, the future of this crucial space is still delicate and remains uncertain, something that landlord Marc Griffiths details. “We are trying our hardest, fighting to survive in what will be a very testing set of circumstances once we open again.” States Marc. “We are small, social distancing will be hard, live music will not reappear anytime soon, we are hoping we can see those times through and push on as things find their new normal in the months to come.”
Unlike many venues throughout the country facing this crisis, the local council did acknowledge the Mothers Ruin’s value as an institution, providing the venue with a grant to help in the early days of the crisis. However, time and money is beginning to reach critical levels.
“We have received some help from the council, although we only qualified for one part of the grant due to rating coding in our building, and staff are currently furloughed but it’s when we open and this support is removed is the trickiest time for us." Continues Marc. "We are facing a massive drop in trade and we are going to have to get through that.”
“We are still paying full rent. It’s not our landlords fault it’s just the way it is, nothing can be done about it. And we are a city centre premises in a big city so rent is really expensive. Our grant has gone to paying this, we have been closed 3 months now, there is not much left. On top of that, heat, light, water, insurers still need paying.”
With this in mind, the venue was added to the Music Venue Trust ‘Save Our Venues’ Campaign, a crowdfunder where all money donated will be spread across the venues in the campaign. However, the The Mother’s Ruin has also established their own crowdfunder to secure the future of the venue. There's an array of rewards available, ranging from merchandise to year long guest-list, a sleepover, PA control, a framed portrait of oneself in the bathroom, a most likely awful date with Paddy of The St Pierre Snake Invasion and more. For just the small sum of 20 quid, Ashley Tubb of Sugar Horse – who can be often found behind the bar – will greet you with the politeness and patience you most probably don’t deserve.
Of course, it’s no surprise the venue has managed to secure a large sum already, with the unique and handmade tote bags being a particular popular choice. But still, more work needs to be done. Friday 5th June, the day prior to the end of the crowdfunder, will see the longly awaited StagFest go online for the first time, with proceeds from the show going into supporting the venue. And whilst the future may be uncertain, Marc remains optimistic.
“it’s really hard to say what things are going to look like after this. Social distancing is the main issue with live music, if I’m honest I struggle to see how this can return until we can stand cheek to jowl with each other in a sweaty room again. As for the scene itself I am sure it will endure, we have seen in the last three months how inventive and able to use technology musicians are. Music won’t die, it’s the pilot light for the fire in our souls!”
You can support The Mothers' Ruin via their own crowdfunder here and support the national ‘Save Our Venue’s’ campaign here. Check out the full lineup of StagFest below and tune in on June 5th here.