Local music promoters secure grant funding to help gig-goers with cost of living crisis

Promoters Milky (Second Left) and Rick Skilbeck (Second Right) with New York band, Daddy Long Legs at Esquires. Image: Neil McCarty

Arts Council funding has been secured by two local promoters to help music lovers who have been hit by the cost of living crisis.

Promoters Rick Skilbeck and Ian ‘Milky’ Kemp, who put on events at Bedford Esquires as Club Biscuit and The Roar Club, will be offering cut-price tickets to their shows thanks to the Arts Council’s ‘Supporting Grassroots Music’ fund. 

The initiative is planned to run for two years and will apply to Club Biscuit and The Roar Club events at the venue. It means that live music fans who are struggling with rising energy bills and rent or mortgage payments, as well as students and those on a low income, may still be able to afford to see some of the hottest new bands at Esquires.

Rick said: “Myself and Milky have been putting on gigs at Esquires for around 20 years now and in that time we are really proud of the acts we have brought to Bedford.

“However, gig promotion has been quite tough over the past few years with bands’ costs and gig tickets going up in price at a time when a lot of people have less disposal income.

“When the iconic Moles music venue in Bath recently closed, the owner made specific mention that he felt a lot of people just couldn’t afford to go out to gigs even at smaller venues anymore.

“The Arts Council had recently announced a fund to support Grassroots Music Venues and Promoters, which gave us the idea that if we were successful in making an application, we could offer a certain number of tickets for every show we put on for just £5 to individuals who consider themselves on a low income.

“Milky and I firmly believe Esquires is one of the best grassroots music venues in the country and people should be able to watch some of the brilliant acts that play there, regardless of their current financial situation.

“It is tough for touring acts too, especially at this level, and we want to stress that they won’t lose out financially as a result of this proposal. This funding should also allow us to be more bold and innovative in who we book to play. We are extremely grateful to the Arts Council their support.”

Esquires owner, Gareth Barber said the venue was whole-heartedly behind the idea.

“We have seen similar initiatives from artists like Sleaford Mods in the past, but to the best of my knowledge, this will be the first time a promoter has rolled it out across their shows at a venue,” he said.

“Going out and watching live music is inherently good for the soul, so breaking down a barrier for anyone who is struggling financially is a great thing.”

Full details of events that are covered by the or further details and to see what events the initiative may apply to, please visit the Esquires website over the next few weeks. 

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