The Hunter Club in Bury St Edmunds, unbeknownst to me then, became a personal Covid milestone. Back in February and March I covered BurySOUND for Grapevine Magazine, somehow managing to end up on the judging panel of the competition. Round five of BurySOUND at The Hunter Club turned out to be the last gig I photographed before lockdown wiped out the live entertainment industry.
On Monday, The Hunter Club, along with many others in our region received the news that their bid for funding through the Government’s Culture Relief Fund had been granted. Yesterday I went back to chat with venue manager Sara Kathleen to see just what that means for the venue.
Sara was buzzing. After six months of nothing to do she suddenly had the green light to pull together a full program of events kicking off tomorrow night at a sold-out gig featuring Matt Reaction, Leon O’Leary, Phoebe Austin and Belinda Gillett.
She is under no illusions; these gigs will be different. Saturday’s will see 40 people seated in the main hall which has a capacity of 200. There will be no headbanging mosh pit, no crowd surfing – but there will be live entertainment and she can afford to pay the crew.
Anyone who has ever applied for a funding grant from a local authority let alone central government will know that there is bureaucracy involved. It can often be a case of knowing how to fill out the forms correctly that swings the decision on who gets what. On this point Sara was very clear about the role played by The Music Venue Trust:
MVT were essential to us, and the other venues, in helping us get it all together. It could not have happened without them. And not just the form filling but the lobbying to clarify guidance.Sara Kathleen, Venue Manager – The Hunter Club
The venue is multifunctional, it is a music venue, a bar, food is server, they hire the venue for events and social activities. Beside her desk, pinned to the wall are fourteen separate sets of regulations and general guidelines which apply to The Hunter Club. The management team need to know each by heart and know which applies when and to what situation.
None of us like red tape but complying with it means that Sara can now start booking bands and bringing people back to the club that has remained empty since March. She is not letting the grass grow under her feet. The £123,753 – a figure Sara recites perfectly with glee, may not have hit their bank account yet but she is already working with Cambridge based promoter Green Mind Gigs on at least three events as well as putting together her own events. I can’t tell about you all she has planned because not everything is in place yet but if even half of it comes together then we are in for a treat. Sara even has an ingeniously clever idea about how to make socially distanced gigs with a small audience very, very special indeed.
And it is not just music. Local theatre company Quirkhouse will be performing ‘Lockdown, The Musical’ on Sat 24 Oct which I must point out might not actually be a musical as we know it!
Owner Nick Pooley, whose dog Sven sat under my feet during our meeting, was busily working away in the venue he has run for eleven years. He has been far from idle during the enforced closure. Doing all the little, and not so little, jobs you never get a chance to do normally. His and Sara’s relief that their club will survive, at least for another six months, did not go un-noticed. I wish them well, expect me to be there taking pictures again and feeding off their positivity.