The resilience of those in the Leeds music scene is clear - YEP opinion

YEP Voices of the Future columnist Emily Roberts finds out how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted young musical talent in Leeds.

Friday, 21st August 2020, 6:00 am
The Brudenell Social Club is just one venue at the heart of the Leeds music scene. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Each summer, thousands of music fans flock to events like Leeds Festival or Live at Leeds.

The city’s festivals and grassroots music venues welcome world-famous bands and provide the stage and the support for young artists to break into the industry. But this summer, things are looking very different.

The pandemic has hit smaller music venues particularly hard. Lack of space means it’s hard to put on a socially distanced gig and still make enough money.

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But, Nick Simcock, live music and events manager for Oporto, hopes that the £1.57 billion recovery package for the arts and culture sector, which was announced in early July, will at least give them some money to adapt to the new situation; to buy better streaming equipment, employ camera operators and sound engineers so they can put on live shows to be streamed online.

Live streams and online events have allowed artists to keep performing without in-person shows and festivals.

However, as Nick points out, it’s harder for young, emerging artists who don’t necessarily have a big social media following.

“If you just play an acoustic set in your living room on your Facebook page, the maximum number of people who are going to see that are people who are already your fans”.

The “magic of the grassroots music scene”, he says, is discovering a new favourite band or single unexpectedly by going to a music venue where multiple bands are playing or a club night where multiple DJs are doing a set.

Twenty-two year old Leeds-based singer-songwriter, Emily Carr, did a Facebook live stream during lockdown, which she really enjoyed, but “it doesn’t come close (to performing live),” she says, “It’s harder to appreciate the people that come and watch you play when it’s just through a screen.”

Emily moved to Leeds for its music scene and says what she likes most is that everyone is so supportive. Over the past few months especially, it’s this collective spirit that Nick says has been really prominent in Leeds: “All of these places pulling together has meant that the music scene has kept going.”

For instance, Readymeal Sound, a group of musicians from Leeds, did an online tour for the #SaveOurVenues campaign, allowing them to play multiple venues across the country at once to raise money.

Also, local independent record shop, Crash Records, is doing album launches online so it can still give emerging artists a platform.

The resilience and commitment of those involved in the Leeds music scene is clear.

Their campaigning which secured government funding, along with support from fans if they buy a drink from venues that can open, like Oporto and Brudenell Social Club, will help to preserve the musical infrastructure of Leeds and create opportunities for young people so that the city can continue to nurture new talent.