Post Covid-19 support for music venues

12 June 2020

Four of Wellington’s independent live music venues have been given a helping hand with funding to ease the blow dealt by the Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions.

A concert at Meow in full swing.

A concert at Meow in full swing.

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San Fran, Meow, Rogue and Vagabond, and Valhalla have each been given a cash injection from Wellington City Council to help with overhead costs to ensure they can keep the lights on and doors open.

Senior Arts Advisor Felicity Birch says independent music venues play an important role in the community, supporting the city’s amazing local music scene by providing a variety of spaces for musicians, comedians and other performers to connect with audiences.

“This support for the four venues will ensure that a diverse range of live music can be offered to Wellington audiences from local groups and musicians who have been patiently waiting for the lockdown restrictions to ease.

"The recently announced package from the Government will offer longer term support for the music industry in New Zealand, but this Council support ensures that local venues can keep going until that kicks in and audiences have returned to the venues without social distancing in place,” Felicity says.

The grants to support independent music venues has been redirected from the 2019/20 venue subsidy – funding that would normally be used to help arts and community groups access Council venues, but was unspent due to the lockdown.

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Meow, on Edward Street, is the recipient of $25,000, which owner Rahine O’Rielly says comes as a relief and she is grateful for it.

“For a long time these music venues have not been included in any areas of funding, so it’s really nice to be acknowledged for being important to the creative community in Wellington. It is amazing to have that acknowledgement from the Council and to know that they see us as important to the vibrancy of the city.”

Rahine says the financial impact of Covid-19 had been worrying, but small business owners were generally a resilient bunch used to tackling challenges. Always the optimist, she embraced the unexpected break away from Meow to enjoy time with her kids and to re-set and think about creative ways to move forward with the business.

To date, the Council has also granted $25,000 to San Fran, $10,000 to Rogue and Vagabond, and $7,000 to Valhalla, to help with overhead costs and to support live events and local artists post lockdown.

Rahine will be using the $25,000 Council funding to support a new weekly jazz series featuring local musicians. The gigs will also be live-streamed online.

On Wednesday night there will be jazz sessions under the name ‘Concert FM (For Musicians)’, from 17 June. “Part of that is we want to highlight some of the awesome female musicians that we have in Wellington – because it can be a bit of a boy’s club, jazz music,” Rahine says.

Every Thursday night from 18 June, Meow will be hosting a residency from newly-formed septet, The Devil’s Gate Unit, featuring a stellar line-up of Wellington's creative jazz musicians including members of the Phoenix Foundation, Orchestra of Spheres, Six Volts, Little Blast Orchestra, and Louis Baker’s band.

“New Zealand is so lucky that we are able to put on shows when so many other places around the world can’t. I feel so privileged to be here,” Rahine says. 

She thanked the community for its “amazing outpouring of support” during a challenging time, and encouraged people to venture out to shows and to continue being kind to one another.