by Poppy Bullen
I’m not a DJ. I don’t work in the music industry. But seeing it struggle through the lack of support and appreciation from the government has been heartbreaking.
Growing up and as a teenager, my dream was to be a dancer on the west end. Although it didn’t work out that way for me, the years of dance training, almost every night of the week, helped me to learn so many of the skills I needed to navigate later in life. From the commitment of learning and not giving up when things got tough, to the confidence and energy of performing that I now use in all aspects of my daily life. I learnt to appreciate athletes of all abilities and the power of creativity and expression. These are values that should not be taken lightly but are now being overlooked.
My first rave experience at university was not light of life-changing. A Halloween special tech-house rave on the south coast in Bournemouth was the moment I fell in love with the scene and everything surrounding it. I made friends for life as we bonded over the party and music and a sense of expression to be whoever we wanted to be, with no judgement that no other experience other than clubbing can truly give. As I got to know the music and the scene surrounding it we later went on to visit some of the biggest and best clubs in the UK, often travelling to Fabric in London or Motion in Bristol for what can only be described as some of the best nights of my life.
As I got more into the scene I began writing music reviews for a small company, gaining vital experience complimenting my journalism undergrad degree and no doubt contributing to the career I am in today. I learnt so much about the underground electronic music world and even started my own uni radio show with a friend, another priceless learning experience. So many of my friends have been inspired to learn to DJ, each with an ever-growing record collection as they save up to buy mixers and turntables to learn the skills of their musical heroes.
To me, no matter where in the world, the underground scene always has a real sense of community and is so inclusive and welcoming. I’ve made so many good friends on nights out and at festivals – including Bournemouth’s very own lo key collective who invited me onto a radio show to promote our Student Action for Refugees societies work.
Without club nights during my time at University, we wouldn’t have been successful in raising thousands of pounds for local refugee charities, funding vital English lessons for recently arrived people doing their best to integrate into their new society. Just one example of a music fundraising event, but there have been thousands across the UK over the years, raising vital funds for important causes that government funding and focus has neglected.
Experiencing a UK festival, no matter how big or small can be a life-changing, educational experience on so many levels. From camping, making friends and just truly celebrating and learning so much about culture and performance, it can really open your eyes to such beauty the world has to offer. But the tories don’t appreciate that beauty and never have.
I’ve never felt unsafe at a club or festival. The security teams are usually friendly, reassuring and there to ensure you have a safe experience as well as a good time. Without legal events, the reality is that illegal parties are inevitable, creating dangers on so many levels. Lack of security and drug use are just some of the life-threatening consequences of illegal raves, on top of the potential spread of coronavirus if legal preventative measures are not put in place. As safe and legal club nights disappear, the rise of illegal raves will only give the government the ability to once again put the blame on the people when things go wrong.
As the DJ Haai posted on her Instagram: The government want workers, not thinkers. They want followers, not creators. It isn’t just about a lack of appreciation of the arts, it wants to get rid of it altogether. To stop people experiencing moments of self-discovery, of a world that is bigger than just joining the rat race and conforming to capitalist values.
From the moment Brexit was confirmed, the music industry was already facing a devastating blow. From funding restrictions facing artists touring Europe to possible changes in copyright laws, grassroots artists were already battling tough tides. The government’s lack of support for the industry during the pandemic could be the final nail in the coffin.
What’s going to happen when there is no more independent music events, no more culture, nothing new to learn or experience? Are we entering a world where state-sponsored music is going to be our only option like you would imagine in George Orwell’s ‘1984’?
Over the last couple of weeks, a petition to extend government financial support due to the pandemic to nightclubs, dance music events and festivals was shared across social media by all levels of people in the industry. On 12th Oct, the government announced over 1,300 recipients of £257M of the £1.57B Cultural Recovery Fund package to support cultural organisations to survive until April when venues are expected to be able to open again. You may have seen DJ’s and venues publicly thanking the government for receiving funding, turns out the publicity was a term of receiving the grant.
Whilst the recent announcement is a good first step for the government to show they recognise the importance of music in the UK, the need for more support remains. There are still many small business and individuals, venues and production suppliers, who need support and continue to struggle. Despite the fund, industry experts are still concerned that Live music will not survive with the current plans from our government.
It makes me sad to think that the next generation might not get the amazing musical experiences I now feel so privileged to have had. Each part of it has taught me so much and without it, I don’t believe I’d be in where I am today, working in the creative team for an international NGO. From my teenage dream of being a dancer on the west end to experiencing and being inspired by so many talented artists.
So whether you’re a musician, work in the industry, a fan – or maybe you’ve just got that one club or festival memory that made you appreciate life a little bit more – we must continue to put pressure on the government to do more to save our scenes.
If we don’t, the result could be dystopian.
words and photos by poppy, editing by kyle