'Golden time' predicted for live music as appetite for gigs and festivals returns

  • ITV News Anglia's Emily Knight has been looking at the future of live music

The next 12 months could be a "golden time" for a revival for live music as a summer packed full of festivals approaches, says the Music Venue Trust.

Glastonbury returns in June after a two-year break, along with Reading and Leeds and Latitude in Suffolk which took part in last summer's programme of Covid test events.

And after two years of major disruption because of Covid, the Music Venue Trust says the appetite for live music is returning.

Mark Davyd, its chief executive and founder, said: "The feeling across the sector - we represent hundreds of venues across the UK - is their diaries are full and audiences want to go to these shows. The gigs are starting to fill up.

"I think it looks quite like a golden time for a bounce back from this dreadful period that we've had, but there are a few hurdles to get over first of all."

Those hurdles are Covid sickness and staffing issues. Many technical and ground crew left the industry to find full-time work during the lockdowns and have not returned.

It has left an industry worth £5.8bn to the UK economy before Covid plunge by 46% to £3.1bn with a 35% shortfall of workers, according to figures from UK Music.

Mr Davyd added: "It is an opportunity, as much as it creates a bit of a crisis, so we're really looking at how can we be bringing people in, what skills do they need to learn, what training is available.

"There's going to be a lot of work on this on the next two to five years frankly, really re-equipping the whole sector for taking live music forward."

The Blue Moon Pub, Cambridge. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Smaller local festivals are helping to give the industry the kick-start it needs too as demand returns, allowing people to tentatively test the water closer to home.

Sophie Littlechild from The Blue Moon Pub in Cambridge said: "We are starting to see lots more people come in for gigs and I think everyone has really missed going to live events.

"As we are one of the smaller venues I think people feel a bit more comfortable coming somewhere like here."

The Blue Moon has been taking part in Cambridge Sound + Vision, a three-day live music festival based on the global South by South West festival held in Austin, Texas.

Adrian Cooke, a director of the festival, said: "There's definitely confidence returning still, but it is patchy across the country.

"We're just in a different place than we were and people are making decisions in different ways."

A wall of posters, each representing a cancelled gig in 2020 at The Blue Moon pub in Cambridge. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Ms Littlechild said: "It's amazing... to work with a festival that's working with the other venues in the area, because we all need that boost.

"To bring people in the door - and there will be people that have never come somewhere like this - and to promote us as a venue is beautiful."

Gabby Rivers, 19, was invited to play at the Latitude Festival, Suffolk for the first time in 2021. Credit: ITV News Anglia

As live music makes its return, new emerging acts are ready to get on stage and perform after two years of waiting and writing material.

Gabby Rivers, 19, from Bury St Edmunds was invited to perform at Latitude Festival in 2021 after finishing college. Now she is ready for a packed season of festivals and gigs for 2022.

"I find that we're more than ever ready to get out there and get going again and we have the most content we've ever had," she said.

"Festival season is the key to summer and for us it's really important and I'm really excited to play as many gigs and festivals. There's a lot coming up."

But the threat of Covid still looms large over live events.

Thomas Smith, commissioning editor for new music at NME magazine, said: "I think there's a lot of optimism and enthusiasm to get back out here and start playing again. But we're not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.

"There's positivity and there's a real willpower to make it work, but there are some real demands and challenges that everyone has to face up to and find a way to make this summer as great as it possibly can be."

  • Watch the second of Emily Knight's reports on the return of live music

If the challenges of Covid and staff shortages are overcome and music festivals are able to run successfully, then the reward for the economy is huge.

Music tourism, where people travel outside their local area to watch live events was worth £4.5bn to the UK before the pandemic. In the East of England it was worth £240m.

Live music is not the only industry seeking to make up for lost time.

Comedian Michael Akadiri at The Junction, Cambridge Credit: ITV News Anglia

Michael Akadiri from north London is starting to make a name for himself on the comedy circuit when he is not working as a junior doctor.

He said: "It's really good to be back in terms of live audiences. We've been doing Zoom and car park gigs and it's really good to be back in front of real people.

"Festivals like Sound and Vision Cambridge allow me to go to regional audience in Cambridge to try out my material and see if it works, and if it relates."