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Plymouth bands urge city council to help live music scene amid venue closures

Punk band Dead Frames are calling on the council to help the music scene. Photo: ITV News

Musicians in Plymouth are urging the council to help boost the city's live music scene by finding new venues to replace those which have been lost.

A worrying number of popular night spots have closed in recent years to make way for multi-million pound commercial developments.

But the fightback starts here - with a string of gigs designed to spark new life into a city with a rich rock and roll history.

Times change and cities have to move on. You can't fight development and progress in that regard, but you've got to replace what's lost.

– Edd Moore, Dead Frames bass player
Dead Frames play gigs all over the city. Credit: ITV News

The council has promised to help by setting up a 'music round table'for those inside the industry to shape the future.

But bands like Dead Frames say they want action rather than words.

Most people who've been playing in bands for a long time in this city have heard it before. I'll wait and see and hope this time is different, but as long as there's cash to be made by knocking a venue down to build more things that are going to make the council money, they'll do it. So I'm not holding my breath for it.

– Jim Pope, Dead Frames singer
Jim Pope says he wants the council to take action. Credit: ITV News

In the late 70s and 80s you could turn up at a venue knowing there would be 30 to 50 people just there, they didn't even know what band it was or anything, they just wanted to be out. Whereas now with gaming and Netflix and everything, it's hard to actually drag people out in the first place and I think that's the massive difference. It's the same as a football match or anything. you can watch it on TV it's great, the Grand Prix is great, but you don't get the atmosphere, you don't get that camaraderie of people all wanting something to be good of that night.

– Jill Cole, Plymouth musician
Jill Cole has been playing music in Plymouth for 40 years. Credit: ITV News

The council argues that big commercial developments, like the newly-named Barcode in Bretonside, are not incompatible with a thriving underground music scene.

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Now promoters are organising a series of free gigs later this month branded as 'The Fightback'.

Ben Turner says the Plymouth music scene is still thriving. Credit: ITV News

We've put on 15 shows in 16 days with as many local bands as we possibly can. They're really eclectic bills, there's some real nonsense line-ups where we've got doom metal and pop on the same line-up, stuff like that. These venues are the core because without them you don't get the next Muse, Radiohead, they don't exist. They don't suddenly start playing 4,000 capacity venues, they start in these places. That's how it happens, and without them it's over.

– Ben Turner, Underground manager
Councillor Tudor Evans says the music industry is changing. Credit: ITV News

The live music scene has come and gone. When I first moved here when I was 18, I think I saw 14 bands in 14 nights and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. It's been a long time since we've had that level of intensity of bands here, the music industry has changed in all that time too. But what we need to do now is find out where is Plymouth at, what does it want to be, has it got the ambition to do it? The council stands ready now to help in the way we've helped other sectors of the arts economy.

– Cllr Tudor Evans, Plymouth City Council leader

We are excited to be working with Plymouth City Council and the city’s fantastic range of grassroots music venues. There is a thriving, organic music scene here which has real potential to be regionally and nationally important. This is an opportunity to work right across that scene to identify the value of what already exists, seek opportunities to support it, and look for opportunities to plug the gaps that might prevent the scene reaching its full potential.

– Mark Davyd, CEO Music Venue Trust