“I feel very privileged to be alongside [everyone in the room], but we are equally as important as them,” Clark told Music Week backstage after accepting the Grassroots Venue – Spirit Of The Scene award, which is decided by a public vote and supported by the Music Venue Trust. “Without us being one of the cogs in the wheel, everything falls apart.”
The Brudenell Social Club triumphed in the same category in 2017, the first year it was introduced at the Music Week Awards. Since then, the Leeds venu has had to navigate the pandemic, the continuing impact of Brexit and the changing winds of government policy and economics.
Clark would address those issues too, but he described his views on the grassroots scene’s vital role in the wider industry conversation as his “most important point”.
Without the major companies nurturing the grassroots sector, where is the future coming from?
“Without the major companies and organisations starting to nurture the grassroots [sector] and put back into it, where is the future coming from? he asked. “Not only the future talent on stage, but the record label executives, the technicians, the promoters? Where are they going to come from? Because if you haven’t got the grassroots sector, you haven’t got the people that work in the industry.”
Clark paid tribute to the Music Venue Trust and the other shortlisted venues and spaces, representatives of which joined him on stage.
“I’m incredibly proud and honoured to be here again,” he said. “And to be supported by so many people and to be alongside some other great venues and spaces that mean so much to the UK grassroots ecosystem.”
Clark went on to spell out just how tough the maintenance of that ecosystem is at this moment in time.
“Covid was an incredible hurdle that everybody [in our sector] has overcome but, post-Covid there are incredible challenges over increasing business rate levys, increasing utilities and lots of other things that are going up and putting pressure on everybody, not just us,” he said. “The challenge now is that, whereas during Covid there was government support, now there’s zero, so we’re having to try and balance supporting artists and our venues with keeping everything open and running to the best of our ability to make it work.”
The Brudenell’s win stirred up passionate support on social media, and Clark expanded a little on why his venue has been able to become so popular across the industry.
“I think we continue to build affinity with an audience, but also support artists from grassroots through to playing main stages at Leeds & Reading, Glastonbury and others,” he said. “We’ve got a life cycle of artists that come through, as well as connections with record labels and the full ecosystem that we have embedded over a length of time. And I think it’s that kind of coming together that helps support and cement a venue’s relationship with the wider public.”