What happens next for live music in Harrogate as lockdown eases

It's not just the big venues in Harrogate that have been hit by lockdown. In normal times, the district is a cottage industry of small bars giving a platform to talented local bands and young, fledgling musicians.

Friday, 22nd May 2020, 5:58 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd May 2020, 6:08 pm
The vibrant blue night-time lights of Harrogates famous Blues Bar where all live music has stopped since lockdown.

From the mighty Harrogate Convention Centre to the tiny Blues Bar, the day lockdown was introduced was the moment the lights went out on the town’s live music scene.

Harrogate may not be quite as big a hub as Leeds or Sheffield but it’s no minnow either.

About 82 per cent of the UK’s live venues are now at risk of closing before the end of the month, according to the BBC Shared Data Unit.

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Last week saw Yorkshire venues such as The Leadmill in Sheffield back a new campaign to save gig spaces amid fears the UK’s live music scene will collapse without government support.

Harrogate’s biggest venues are hoping live shows may return in the autumn; The Royal Hall (950-seat capacity) has top tribute band Rumours of Fleetwood Mac booked for September 3 while Harrogate Convention Centre (2,000 -seat capacity ) is still showing Billy Ocean on September 19.

But the Government has already let it be known that the arts and entertainment world is likely to be at the back of the queue in ending lockdown.

And there’s the matter of Harrogate’s convention centre currently being used as the base for the NHS Nightingale Hospital.

Bars which offer a platform for talented local musicians, also fear being at the back of the queue in the ‘new normal’ .

But Simon Colgan, co-owner of Harrogate’s famous Blues Bar, is staying positive.

He said: “As far as booking bands and giving them reassurance that their already booked gigs will go ahead, I have not been able to do either.

“But I feel it will not be too long into the future before I will be able to.”

Simon Colgan says the rules of social distancing will prove challenging for Harrogate's only venue to present live music seven days a week from its prime location on leafy Montpellier Hill.

He said: “As far as live music and the Blues Bar is concerned I feel that it will be a while before it happens mainly due to the size of the bar and social distancing

“But we are lucky. It could be the summer when we reopen and the extra space outside will make up for the smaller turnover inside.”

Mike Addison brings famous acts to Knaresborough’s picturesque Frazer Theatre (127-seat capacity ).

He said: ““We’ve had to cancel all the bookings up to the end of summer but, hopefully, the The Beach Boyz Tribute Show on August 21 will be the big restart we all want.

“All our postponed gigs have been rearranged until 2021 but the ones later in the year are still on sale and we hope they will happen.”

Like many places, live music and musicians in the Harrogate district have gone online with virtual gigs via Zoom and Facebook Live.

Whether that can offer a long-term solution is another matter altogether.

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