'Everything has been on pause, but we are coming back ': Preston venues prepare to welcome back live music

As the roadmap out of lockdown continues, live music venues are preparing to welcome back gig-goers from June, with others hosting socially-distanced concerts outdoors as soon as this weekend.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 7th May 2021, 11:20 am
The Ferret and The Continental are among the venues given an grant by the arts council last year

Popular live music venue The Ferret is among those eager to welcome back live gigs from June 21, when the Government's roadmap out of lockdown indicates social distancing measures could be abolished.

But the Fylde Road bar is hosting outdoor 'Beer Garden Sessions' performances from today, May 7, in a bid to start encouraging gig-goers to support independent venues early and allow artists to reclaim the stage again after a turbulent year.

They will also be hosting socially distanced and seated gigs from May 20, just three days after the next phase of the roadmap is introduced, allowing people to be seated indoors at pubs and restaurants.

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The news comes as live music venues and clubs were one of the few sectors that were told they couldn't open at full capacity until June 21 at the earliest, in the fourth phase of the Government's roadmap out of lockdown.

Rob Talbot, Programme and Marketing Manager of the Continental, said: "Last year was incredibly difficult. Aside from the devastating reality of having to close the venue for months on end, with no income coming in, hours here were spent in constant cancellations, rescheduling and re-rescheduling, without knowing if we'd even be able to return to shows in the near future.

"One gig in particular has been rescheduled six times now. It's only thanks to the Arts Council's Cultural Recovery Fund that we're still standing and ready to relaunch the programme at the end of June.

This year has been much more positive all round - The Ferret and The Conti have both been running live-streamed shows through lockdown and The Ferret has just announced a series of socially distanced gigs for May and June.

The Ferret's new manager Matt Fawbert said there is a 'hopeful future' for nightlife

"If the government's roadmap goes to plan, The Conti's live music programme will relaunch with a monster weekend, and subsequent months will see shows for a wide range of tastes – from Motown to Doom Metal.

"The Conti is also relaunching its Film Club in June along with its highly popular monthly Open Mic night. The venue is also hoping to re-establish its theatre programme, once theatre companies begin to tour again."

Sister venue the Continental, South Meadow Lane, will be opening its doors to gig-goers from the evening of June 25, with an array of different acts from an AC/DC tribute band to punk group The Vibrators.

It is hoped that guests will this year be encouraged to support local artists as soon as May 20, with a range of seated concerts, after just three guests showed up last October.

Full capacity gigs are not permitted to be held until June 21 under the Government restrictions

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The funding was introduced by Arts Council England in a bid to save theatres, galleries, performance groups, arts organisations and cultural venues that were facing the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

The news comes as the Ferrett announced its new manager, Matt Fawbert, will be taking over the venue as the lockdown restrictions ease, following years of promoting events, working behind the scenes on live-streamed concerts and performing across the city for decades.

Matt has been a part of Preston s nightlife for many years, performing in Preston bands throughout the 90s and 2000s and hosting club nights Beats of Rage, Big Things and Drop at different venues, such as 53 Degrees, The Bears Paw, The Adelphi, and even a barge on the Lancaster Canal.

Promoter and DJ Matt has been a familiar face at Preston venues for years

He will be working alongside the team to help The Ferret re-launch successfully and secure its long and successful future after a difficult year for the music industry.

He said: "It is important that venues are there and giving music artists a platform again, which will make it easier for bands who want to get back to performing as soon as possible after such a difficult year.

"It is great news that venues such as the Ferret and the Continental have made it through the past year and it makes us hopeful for the future now.

"Everything has been on pause for such a long time, but we are coming out of that hibernation now and seeing stuff happening again. We are excited to have gigs back in a couple of weeks which is the first time people have properly enjoyed live music since the start of the pandemic.

“The Ferret is a special place, sometimes taken for granted, but it has been a hub for proper music fans in the area for 15 years now. I’ll be working with other local promoters to not only continue the excellent gig program the Ferret is known for, but to look at diversifying the lineup and experimenting with more genres.

"We’ll be bringing in loads of national and international touring acts while continuing to support the local music scene, encouraging young bands and DIY promoters to get involved.

"After an awful year, it’s great to already see signs of future success with shows selling out many months in advance. There are loads more in the pipeline including our most ambitious Glastonferret lineup to date where we’ll be continuing that daft-but-brilliant idea of turfing the inside of the venue.

"We recognise it is different this time because a full capacity gig would have people standing shoulder to shoulder, but we were eager to give artists a platform and wanted to get things moving and allow people to get out and enjoy themselves safely again.

“The Ferret is a special place, sometimes taken for granted, but it has been a hub for proper music fans in the area for 15 years now. I’ll be working with other local promoters to not only continue the excellent gig program the Ferret is known for, but to look at diversifying the lineup and experimenting with more genres.

"We’ll be bringing in loads of national and international touring acts while continuing to support the local music scene, encouraging young bands and DIY promoters to get involved.

"After an awful year, it’s great to already see signs of future success with shows selling out many months in advance. There are loads more in the pipeline including our most ambitious Glastonferret lineup to date where we’ll be continuing that daft-but-brilliant idea of turfing the inside of the venue.

"The future of live music in Preston is exciting, I hope we’re going to see all your faces over the coming months. It’s been too long. Whether there’s a gig on or not - we are urging people to come in and hang out with The Ferret family, you’ll always be welcome."