For Britain’s independent music scene, lockdown is taking a toll. Venues are closed, so no gigs. Studios are closed, so no rehearsal space or recording time. The innovation shown in producing virtual performances can plug a gap, but it struggles to recapture the thrill of performing live in front of an audience. Even though the easing of lockdown means pubs can reopen this weekend, bars that specialise in live music are ordered to keep their stages closed.
The training session came to an end and one of the triallists made his way over to say thanks for the opportunity. Instinctively, he offered his hand ... but right now in England, handshakes are off limits. As sport cautiously returns to action, everyone has plenty to learn.
By day, the soundtrack is the throb of dryers and the roar of the spin cycle, at night, the Old Cinema Launderette dances to a different beat. The distinctive Durham venue has created a special niche for itself as one of the best bijou concert halls in the country. Quirky and intimate, it’s invited an impressive array of artists – from folksters to punks – to put on a show in front of the tumble dryers, earning rave write-ups in the national press along the way.
With Britain’s coronavirus lockdown coming to an end, more and more pubs are talking up the possibility of pulling pints once again after July 4. Welcome as that news is, though, it is far from clear what a post-COVID pub might look like. For many publicans, there’s still some way to go before a ‘new normal’ can be ready.
Not every café is the same. On Chester-le-Street High Street, REfUSE has established itself as a hub in this County Durham market town. The café has a special ethos – combating food waste by rescuing ingredients rejected by retail and creating a vibrant community space in the town centre. That usually makes it a bustling hub, with live music and open mic nights adding to a winning recipe, and all on a ‘pay-as-you-feel’ basis.
You can still find statues of Stalin in Moscow. Despite the dictator’s abrupt fall from Soviet grace during the Khrushchev thaw, those familiar moustaches (in Russian, a moustache is invariably plural) can be spotted where the city’s latte-swilling hipsters come to play. The Muzeon complex is firmly established on the city circuit, between the fashionable ‘Red October’ district, a chocolate factory turned creative hub, and Gorky Park, refurbished to its Soviet-era heyday.