Death to disco: Leeds music scene “hung out to dry” during COVID-19, say events managers

Halloween night during restrictions

By Ellie Rainsley

Club venues in Leeds impacted by a third national lockdown are appealing to both the government and the public for support, with many facing permanent closures.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of further lockdown restrictions, the Chancellor declared a £4.6 billion treasury package to support businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure industries – worth up to £9,000 as a one-off grant.

Matthew Bowles, 27, events and booking manager at Distrikt, Leeds, said: “They’ve really hung us out to dry with all of the restrictions in the hospitality sector.

“Schools and care homes are where the majority of cases are coming from yet they’ve kept them open all the way through.

“It is completely destroying our industry.”

Despite the uncertainty within the hospitality sector, workers have remained busy and begun plans for a return.

Bowles said: “The bounce-back will be unreal and there are many brands around Leeds who do events at Distrikt who have kept busy during lockdown, producing and releasing music on their labels and setting up live streams.

“One of our biggest nights we did was a huge live stream for charity in April for Earth Night which went on for 12 hours raising money for climate action”.

The founder of Freq UK, Harry Wilkinson, 20, a regular host for events within Distrikt said: “Covid-19 has had a detrimental impact on the industry, leaving hundreds of people without not only their primary income, but their passion.

“The music industry on average brings in around £39 billion for the UK economy and has received a massive lack of support from the government, forcing the industry to take matters into their own hands, from raising funds to stay afloat to the save our scene campaign, an attempt to force the government into action.”

A photo from a club scene in February 2020, pre-Covid

Closures have been seen across Leeds including the legendary Tunnel and Mission, popular venues for students and the LGBTQ+ community, renowned for their ‘Breakfast Club’ – where the club remained open until 8am every Sunday morning.

Mission and its adjacent sister club Tunnel closed their doors in July 2020, during the relaxation phase of the first lockdown – a huge blow and the first loss of many clubs around Leeds and in the UK.

Annie Stone, 19, a former employee of Mission, said: “The closure of Mission caused not only financial problems for me as a student, but I felt like I had lost something close to my heart.

“The staff at Mission were like family and to find out that I’d never be working alongside them again broke my heart”.

Closures are imminent with many appealing to the public for help.

The Old Red Bus Station took to social media with #SaveOldRed to raise awareness with a link to a charity page for donations.

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