Lockdown measures due to Covid-19 have left a significant number of music venue owners around the world with difficult choices to make, and Manchester’s vibrant music scene is among those suffering the most serious side effects. Nevertheless, this has proven to be an opportunity to venue owners to come up with creative measures to ensure their businesses will be able to re-open in the aftermath of the pandemic.
A city that was used to hosting a wide variety of musical events, from small concerts at coffee shops, to Latin-American gigs, to high profile singers’ tours, has now been reduced to the fragile hope of re-opening with the least possible damage. Manchester city centre has served as a platform for up and coming musicians to showcase their art at these music venues and, especially, to start a career; and however uncertain the future may seem, there are some venues that have come up with creative ideas that, once again, outline the solidarity, passion and commitment that characterizes Manchester’s music scene.
Matt and Phred’s has become a beloved hot spot for jazz lovers in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, a place where people of all ages have gathered to enjoy as one the jazz concerts that local and international bands have performed along the years. Far are those days when you could grab a pint at the pub before heading to Matt and Phred’s and discover the abundant talent that it used to showcase. However, the Turner family, responsible for running the venue, have found in social media the future of Matt and Phred’s and, possibly, its salvation.
It wasn’t long after lockdown became a reality that the Turner family decided to take over Instagram to keep their venue present in its clientele’s minds and hearts. Coming up with live streamed gigs to showcase the talent of the musicians who lost all of their concerts, Matt and Phred’s soon became a virtual reflection of what it meant to be there in better times. But not everything revolves around the nostalgia of a nice Friday night, these live streamed gigs serve to musicians, whose careers are dependent on appropriate niched platforms, as a way to remain visible. The live streams have been such a success, that Matt and Phred’s went to join “Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues” and “Lancaster Jazz Festivals” to create an online jazz festival, resulting in 18 hours of live music every day between the 11th and 15th of May.
It is in times of uncertainty when people come up with ideas and innovations that forge a community’s identity. Matt and Phred’s has proven that evolving into digital forms is a way of ensuring that the venue is kept alive, so long as it comes to offer bold ideas and creative content, but it is up to the government’s aid to ensure that, in the aftermath of the pandemic, Manchester’s music scene, just as many others around the world, can once again thrive.