CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Music venue which Katy Perry fell in love with fears for future

“It’s an iconic Camden place... and hopefully one people do not want to lose”

22 October, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Katy Perry and venue owner Sally Fox

AS the stage which hosted Bob Dylan’s first UK gig, it remains a celebrated stop on Camden’s rock’n’ roll map.

Oasis played The Water Rats on their way to international stardom too, while Katy Perry played her first concert on this side of the Atlantic there.

The Swish Swish megastar later returned to the music venue in Gray’s Inn Road for an exclusive secret gig, clearly having always fondly remembered her first performance.

But now the music pub’s owners say they are worried about how they will be able to recover from the coronavirus lockdown amid new ‘Tier 2’ coronavirus restrictions which were introduced on Saturday.

As of the weekend, only customers who live in the same home can meet in pubs, bars and restaurants. A 10pm closing time curfew is also still in place.

Managing director Sally Fox said: “With such harsh restrictions, no one is gong out or going to gigs and so we don’t know how long this is going to last.”

The Water Rats

The venue, which in between the famous names has given a stage to hundreds of up and coming musicians and comedians over the years, was awarded just over £252,000 by Arts Council England on Friday as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF).

This was like “winning the lottery”, said Ms Fox, who said thanks were due to the Music Venues Trust and ACE (Arts Council England).

She said: “If it wasn’t for organisations which supports grassroots music venues like ours, then there’d be no future for us and most music venues in Camden and the rest of the country. So we’re very grateful.”

But she said the rescue funding would not solve all of the problems for small music venues.

A lack of tourists meant less revenue, Ms Fox said, while promoters were reluctant to book events.

“It’s an iconic Camden place, one that’s important for artists starting out and hopefully one people do not want to lose,” said Ms Fox.

“In my mind it would be easier to have a short-term lockdown and then be able to open up more than have these restrictions because I just don’t think we’ll be able to continue employing people if no one is coming here.”

Chair of ACE, Sir Nicholas Serota, said: “Culture is an essential part of life across the country, helping to support people’s wellbeing through creativity and self-expression, bringing communities together, and fuelling our world class creative industries.”

He added: “We will continue doing everything we can to support artists and cultural and creative organisations, with further funding to be announced in the coming weeks.”

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