The owner of Esquires, Bedford’s independently owned and run live music venue, has been overwhelmed at the response to a crowdfunding initiative launched just yesterday.
Within six hours of launching, they’d smashed their £20,000 target, helping to secure the future of the venue once the coronavirus lockdown is lifted.
Crowdfunder rewards include a Bedford Isn’t Sh*t totebag (£12 pledge) featuring an updated ‘lockdown loo roll logo, your name on the supporters’ mural of fame (£20), a canvas print of your favourite Neil McCarty gig photo (£90) and ‘free entry legend’ (£500) which will earn you free entry to every single gig and event at Esquires for two years.
Gareth Barber took over the venue in 2016 and was looking forward to celebrating Esquires’ 30th anniversary this year.
With hospitality venues being among the first to close – and likely the last to reopen – the future of Esquires was uncertain, despite government support.
“As many people connected to Esquires know, the use of a crowdfunding initiative was one of the last things we wanted to have to do,” said Gareth.
“We hoped that the government support alone would get us through the Covid-19 crisis, but as time goes on it is quite clear that we need to call upon people who support us year-round to help us get through this.
“This summer was meant to be our 30th anniversary celebration, but along with many other venues and small businesses, we find ourselves in an emergency, with our stock waste alone coming in over £10K.
“It’s become very clear recently that music venues will be one of the very last businesses to be able to reopen and the possible restrictions that will come with it could be severely damaging to the long-term future of the venue.
“As it stands, we will not be able to make it past mid – late June without help and support.”
Punching well above its weight, Bedford Esquires is firmly established on the touring circuit, reaching the final three of the ‘best small music venue’ category at the UK Live awards in 2019.
It’s a vital cultural hub of the town and an essential platform for emerging artists. Some of the artists to have come out of Esquires and Bedford and gone on to tour nationally include Don Broco, Tom Grennan, CC Smugglers, Alfie Templeman, The Pecadiloes, The Quireboys, Wolf People, The Wholls, The Scruff, Pearl Handled Revolver and many more.
“We have been truly humbled and overwhelmed by the messages of support we have received since the shutdown,” said Gareth.
“Along with our group of dedicated promoters, we have always tried to put on as many special events in and around the town as we can. At Esquires, the aim was always to try and make us a venue that the town could be proud of, and we firmly believe that ‘Bedford Isn’t Sh*t’ and it’s the people that make the town and it’s the people we are having to call on now.
“We know that we are not the only business in trouble right now, but any support you can offer will be greatly appreciated now and forever.
Notable guests at Esquires include Muse, Supergrass, Wolf Alice, Royal Blood, DMA’s, Bloc Party, The Damned, Metronomy, KRS One, Roni Size, Idles, The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, Lizzo, Mogwai, Marc Almond, Kate Tempest, Coldplay, Biffy Clyro, Evan Dando, Thurston Moore, The Mission, Fat White Family, Alt-J, Ash, Skindred, The Murder Capital, Enter Shikari, Shed Seven, Elbow, Elastica, Public Service Broadcasting, Ezra Furman, Sleaford Mods, The Sugarhill Gang and many, many more.
“All extra money raised from this crowdfunder will go into supporting live music events and artists that are Bedford based,” said Gareth. “We will also be continuing to support our dedicated bar staff, promoters, sound and lighting engineers and security through this time too.”