I knew today was going to be rough, but I didn't realise how rough.
This morning was Kate's funeral. Her family had organised a beautiful send off for Kate - everything seemed fitting - the horse-drawn carriage (she was a keen and accomplished rider); members of Cardiff's Jif cycling club following the coffin to the crematorium (in November she had joined their club, and as we heard later had quickly made a lasting impression on the whole team); the wonderful speeches; the songs; the wake; the pic-n-mix (somehow Kate balanced her incredible fitness regime with a love of sweets). It was as wonderful as it was saddening to see the things I knew about Kate magnified by so many other's shared experiences, and all the gaps that I didn't know about her filled in with more brilliant stories, sharp Kate witicisms, smiles and tears. Her family and friends did her proud and I thank Huw for introducing me to her and letting me share a little of her amazing presence.
After I'd left the wake I went home to change and grab some late lunch before going to The Point to work. I've been working as Commercial Director for the venue since July, taken on to help the venue with programming and the like though the first three months of my job were occupied with closing the venue for a whole month to carry out soundproofing work as a result of a noise complaint from a new neighbour, and all the build up and fallout that entailed. The venue hasn't been able to recover from the impact of that last year. As I was about to eat lunch I had a call from the venue owner to tell me he'd put the business into voluntary liquidation.
This was a shock. I knew, of course, that the business was struggling, but not that this was going to happen today. We'd been working so hard over the past two months to get the business on track and we'd been making great progress. In fact this month we'd begun turning the corner - having enough data together from the past six months to restructure and change forecasts. But last year wiped the venue out - from early in 2008 (before I was properly working there) when the noise complaint became public knowledge the venue was forced to become preoccupied with all that entailed - legal meetings, promoters becoming hesitant in case the venue shut, some of the public believing the venue was already closed, more marketing spend to try and combat this and so forth. Eventually the decision was made to soundproof the venue, but the work was to take a month - which means closing for four weeks, losing income, losing shows, promoters going elsewhere and, again, the public believing the venue was closing for good. All that hit the business, and though we bounced back in the autumn with strong runs of shows, a bill of £65,000 for the work is too much for a new business of that size to stomach, and losing 4 weeks out of 52 in order to do the work doesn't help either. There were other factors on top too driven by the current economic climate - some promoters falling by the wayside or downsizing shows, and the credit squeeze from the bank giving the business no room for manouvre. Sometimes you can ride through it - and we thought we had a chance - but it wasn't to be.
It's another blow for Cardiff's live music scene. Some of the shows can relocate - we had many tribute bands who should find a home at The Globe, and some of the shows that might only top 200 sales can house in Clwb Ifor Bach or Barfly or Buffalo perhaps, so long as there's schedule gaps. But many other 200+ shows aren't big enough to make the jump to the University, and in trying to help a few agents or promoters move their shows today, they have had no option but to go to other cities. These are touring bands or new bands or international bands who, now, can't play Cardiff. That's a big blow for the live audience in Cardiff and for the music scene in Wales, but the impact will go further - without diverse entertainment options people won't relocate here for work (many people move to Cardiff because of it's musical heritage and it's live music choice), and whilst Wales sells itself on Duffy's Brit and Grammy's success, then all those who trade on that success outside of the music industry (tourism, capital of culture bids and the like) should be worried about the Welsh capital's ability to nuture that future talent. When Wales wins gold at Olympic cycling we build velodromes and inject money into cycling. For over a decade Wales has produced international class musical acts - from the Manics in the mid 90s to Duffy today, but there's been no equal input to help contemporary music.
The story of The Point follows a story earlier in the week when The Toucan Club (another live music venue which programmes and specialises in world music) had its planning application for a late licence turned down, and therefore cannot open; and comes at the same time that Clwb Ifor Bach, the city's strongest independent live music venue, with a capacity of 200, face threat of closure as a planning application looks set to go through to build a backpackers hostel on an adjoining building (fast forward to the backpacker hostel opening, the clientelle complaining about the noise, a noise complaint being served, and Clwb already recognises that it couldn't afford to carry out the soundproofing work which would be required.).
So, it's been a rough day. People have lost their jobs, and that hurts. But after watching one of your best friends have to say goodbye to one of his best friends, losing your job seems like a walk in the park.