Salisbury’s fantastic live music scene has, of course, taken a knock during lockdown these past few months. With the majority of live music traditionally being performed in pubs, we’ve had to wait until they reopen, and only pubs with suitable outdoor areas have been able to consider booking acts. Venues such as The Winchester Gate, with their extensive beer garden, have taken full advantage of this with hugely successful live acoustic sessions in their garden every Saturday afternoon. The Bull in Downton, The Wig & Quill and The Rugby Club are following suit, with the George & Dragon hoping to resume Open Mic events in their beer garden in the next few weeks.
Colin Holton has been busy behind the scenes organising Salisbury Live; a Big Weekend live stream proved very popular in May, and more live gigs, named Big Garden Parties, are planned this month. Hamlet Peter and Signature Vision will be playing at The George and Dragon on August 14th, Dan Sowerby performing there on the 15th, and Lump ‘Unplugged and Unhinged’ at The Winchester Gate on August 15th.
Most ambitiously of all, Salisbury Live will be putting on The Big Weekend Live at the Rugby Club from August 29th to the 30th. This has been a huge undertaking for the organisers; making sure that safety is observed, with the audience allocated socially distanced ‘plots’ for 2 or 4 people, and walkways between the plots. Public and artist safety will be paramount. Everyone is taking great care to make this a safe and successful event; even things like the risk of playing brass and wind instruments
being considered, and extra security and stewards on hand. If this event works, it will set a precedent that can be repeated. Both Wiltshire Council and Salisbury City Council are in full support of this event, and tickets are selling well.
We are still in a very unpredictable time during this pandemic though; everything is dictated by the government, and advice changes daily. Restrictions could be reimposed and gigs pulled at any time, especially with strict lockdowns being reintroduced in cities across the country. Swindon is currently experiencing a rise in COVID infections. Venue owners and promoters don’t get any advance warning of changes; they find out when the general public does. Abi Blake and Colin Holton recommend checking websites such as www.musicvenuetrust.com and
www.musiciansunion.org.uk for the latest information on live music regulations.
As summer ends and the cold weather draws in, assuming Salisbury doesn’t go into strict lockdown again, bands and venues will have to get creative if live music is to continue. Abi Blake explains that The Winchester Gate’s gig room is too small to make live music indoors viable, and suggests that they may look into getting ventilated tents and patio heaters, but these, of course, cost money when there is little around.
Colin Holton suggests that venues with an indoor performance area may be able to live stream gigs, or perhaps organise outdoor drive-ins, if suitable spaces can be found. What’s clear though, is that venues and promoters need our support more than ever.