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Hot Box, Chelmsford: Possibly the only UK venue to puts on funk nights and a chess club

The growing number of grassroots music venues closing across the UK will hit communities hard. Our new initiative aims to do something about it. This week we shine the spotlight on Hot Box in Chelmsford

Images of musicians performing live in Hot Box, Chelmsford

Hot Box, Chelmsford. Images: hotboxlive.co.uk

Big Issue Venue Watch

Welcome to The Big Issue’s Venue Watch. The Big Issue has long been a passionate supporter of grassroots music and musicians across the UK. However, the UK music industry is facing a crisis. The life of working musicians across the UK has become incredibly hard. In fact, we have a crisis across all our creative industries. From the Covid and Brexit issues that have destroyed careers, to the pitiful royalties offered by streaming platforms, to venues paying virtually nothing or even asking musicians for money to play, it’s never been tougher to make a living through music.

However, an even more pressing issue is the growing number of closures across the UK of music venues both big and small. The problems facing smaller grassroots venues are many and varied. From unscrupulous landlords to mad energy bills, to dodgy drinks companies. The list goes on.

We’re hoping to highlight the problems faced by so many of our under-threat and vitally important grassroots music venues. The fact that we are losing so many small music venues, we hope, will galvanise people to take action.

The fantastic Music Venue Trust are protecting as many venues as they can, while putting pressure on the government to do more to preserve our cultural landscape. But we all can act too. That’s why we’ve launched The Big Issue’s Venue Watch.

We’re asking you to become involved in helping save your local grassroots music venue. Please do reach out to us if you know of a venue under threat. Together we can make a change.

Hot Box, Chelmsford

Here’s the first one we’re putting in the spotlight: Hot Box in Chelmsford. This amazing, 140-capacity venue hosts an incredibly diverse and hugely eclectic series of bands, artists, cabaret, poetry, quiz nights, comedy and more. It’s possibly the only venue in the UK that puts on regular funk nights and a chess club. But it’s in trouble. Why?

As well as the obvious financial struggles caused by the Covid lockdowns, Hot Box is still dealing with the Bounce Back loans. If you throw in the rising prices of the cost of living, including unaffordable energy bills, the team at Hot Box have understandably found themselves in a very difficult financial situation.

And all through no fault of their own. It’s a brilliantly run place. It’s a not for profit Community Interest Company, so any money they make is spent putting on minority and loss-making events. How many other venues offer courses educating under-25s about careers in music, or donate free tickets for jazz gigs to young people?

Thankfully, fans and locals rallied round when the boss, David Hughes, set up a crowdfunder which at the time of publishing had raised more than £12,000 of their £24,000 target. But they are not out of the woods yet. So that’s where you come in.

If you’re in Chelmsford, go there for a fantastic night. If you’re a local business, why not sponsor a night? It’s a hugely popular place with a great bar too. It’s almost the cultural capital of Chelmsford. Plus, how good would you feel keeping live music and community events, well, alive? Go on now.

Contribute to the Hot Box Recovery fund here

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine out this week. Support your local vendor by buying today! If you cannot reach your local vendor, click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue or give a gift subscription. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop. The Big Issue app is available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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