How we’re helping grassroots venues like Le Pub keep rocking
Sam Dabb knows better than most how hard it is keeping a grassroots music venue afloat in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The 46-year-old manager of Le Pub in Newport said, “It’s just an absolutely horrendous time to run a grassroots music venue at the moment. There are long established venues in Wales that are really struggling right now and laying off staff.”
Encouraging punters back into crowded venues is just part of the challenge. It’s compounded by the cost of living crisis which has forced people to cut back on nights out and the high cost of petrol which restricts the touring schedules of cash-strapped bands in the early stages of their careers.
Anything that eases the financial burden of keeping a grassroots music venue rocking and rolling is vitally important. Which is why Sam has embraced the United By Music Tour, a partnership between The National Lottery and Music Venue Trust to help the UK’s small music venues back on their feet.
By underwriting the full touring and production costs of the artists taking part and offering players a free‡ ‘plus one’ ticket to each gig, the United By Music Tour provides a real boost to struggling venues. Now in its third year, the United By Music Tour will see a host of hot acts including Blossoms, Sleeper, Metronomy and Cat Burns perform 150 gigs at 130 venues across the UK during 2023.
Sam said, “We did quite a few [United by Music] gigs last year and we’ve got a few coming up. It’s really important for bands to start playing live again. And the fact that venues can book the bands without thinking ‘if I lose money on this will I be able to pay my bills next week’, is absolutely brilliant.”
Sam, whose association with Le Pub began in her late teens – she had her 18th birthday at the venue, landed a job behind the bar and became manager 3 years later – admits the hard times have sometimes left her wanting to walk away. She said, “There have been many times when I’ve wondered if we have the money to pay the staff. Every week we prioritise paying wages and then look at the bills. It’s a constant juggling act, constantly stressful.”
So, what makes it all worthwhile? The gigs of course! Sam has endless stories about amazing shows at Le Pub. For example, the time Welsh rockers Skindred performed and so many people turned up she had to call for extra security staff. Another Welsh band – Kids in Glass Houses – played a packed show at Le Pub one night, then supported Bon Jovi at Cardiff City Stadium the next.
Sam said, “Every time a band turns around and says they had a great time playing here it means so much. Bands underestimate how important that is to venues and the people who work in them. This is why I do it. I want people to have a really great time.”
To hear more about Sam's story listen to our special podcast with Sophie Ellis Bextor.
Image of gig photo credit: Theodore Swaddling
First published 12th June 2023. Updated 3rd August 2023.
‡Use any retail or online National Lottery ticket, Scratchcard or Instant Win Game ticket purchased from 1st January 2023 to get free entry for one guest accompanying a full-price ticket holder. Subject to availability. Players must be 18+. Venue has ultimate discretion on entry.
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