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Iconic venue where Oasis and Pulp cut their teeth shuts after 45 years: 'We won't be the only ones'

Moles in Bath had hosted early gigs by Oasis, Radiohead, Eurythmics, Pulp and The Smiths but was unable to survive the cost of living crisis.

The Cure playing at Moles in Bath

The Cure playing at Moles in Bath in 1983. Photo: Moles

One of the UK’s best-known and best-loved grassroots music venues, Moles in Bath, has closed its doors after 45 years of offering a launchpad for bands including Oasis, Radiohead, Eurythmics, Pulp, The Smiths and The Cure.

The venue has been forced to file for insolvency as the rise in costs and overheads and the impact of the cost of living crisis made it impossible to continue. Moles has permanently closed its doors with immediate effect. All future events are cancelled.

“Making the decision to close Moles was horrendous, but the cost of living crisis has crippled us,” said Tom Maddicott, co-owner of the Bath venue. It is “impossible to continue” given “massively increased costs” on one side, and the impact of the cost of living crisis on customers on the other.

Moles has been a champion of new music since it opened in Bath in 1978, but Maddicott warned that it would not be the last important cultural asset to be lost if action is not taken to protect our grassroots music venues.

“The reality is that live music at grassroots level is no longer economically viable and we will not be the only grassroots music venue forced to close,” he said. “There needs to be a major shake-up of the live industry with the big players supporting the grassroots where it all begins to secure that pipeline of talent. Football gets it with the Premier League investing millions in the grassroots game each year to bring through new players. The music industry needs to do the same before the entire grassroots sector collapses.”

The UK’s grassroots music venues are facing an unprecedented crisis. While the top tier of the live industry has had its best year ever in 2023, more than 120 grassroots venues have closed with a further 84 currently in crisis. Meanwhile, at least seven new arenas are currently planned in cities across the UK.

It’s why The Big Issue launched our Venue Watch campaign this year. Every week we spotlight the incredible venues across the country, encouraging music fans to support these crucial cultural and community spaces. Sadly, Moles was one of the venues we recently profiled – uncovering its significance both to touring bands and to local people.

“Without us, there are no big venues, there are no big tours, there are no artists. They all started at places like this. We helped them hone their craft and build their skill,” the venue’s operations and programme manager Liam Baker, a Moles stalwart for 13 years, told us.

As the “research and development” department of the music industry, the grassroots music sector subsidised the development of new music to the tune of £115 million in 2023, according to Music Venue Trust figures.

The loss of such a famous and beloved venue should be a wake-up call for the live music industry, said Mark Davyd, CEO and founder of Music Venue Trust.

Morrissey of the Smiths at Moles Bath
The Smith played Moles in 1983

“Today is a very sad day for our sector,” he said. “Grassroots music venues like Moles – one of the best loved and most efficiently run venues in the country for almost 45 years – have done everything they can to keep afloat, investing every penny they can into trying to fulfil their commitment to live music. Venues like these all over the country are going out of business, whilst helping nurture the artists that will go on to generate millions for the broader music industry. 

“Put bluntly, they have been badly let down by those who profit from their efforts. Unless it gets serious about its responsibilities to encourage, nurture and develop the grassroots live sector the music industry as a whole will face a catastrophic failure of artist development.”

Music Venue Trust has today written to the government and opposition parties to argue for a compulsory levy on all live music event above 5,000 capacity, in the event that the industry does not step up to act on its own.

Davyd pointed to the system in France whereby all major live music events are required to pay 3.5% of each ticket sale into a fund to support grassroots artists and venues. If the larger venues will not do more to support the grassroots, legislation will be essential “to prevent the devastation of the sector”, Davyd added.

Join our Venue Watch campaign here.

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