Horsham's Rec Rooms in fight for survival

The tragedy is that after 18 months of operation the Rec Rooms in Horsham were just beginning to break even. And then everything had to shut down as the coronavirus crisis hit.

Thursday, 14th May 2020, 12:00 pm
Nick McDowell, co-founder of the Rec Rooms

Now, along with scores of music venues the length and breadth of the country, the Rec Rooms are fighting for their survival.

Their best hope lies in the #SAVEOURVENUES crowd-funding campaign launched by The Music Venue Trust. The campaign is backing more than 550 small music venues across the nation which are at risk of permanent closure. Through the campaign, the Rec Rooms are hoping to raise £12,500. You can support them at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/savetherecrooms.

Nick McDowell, co-founder of the Rec Rooms, said: “It is a difficult time. We have had to borrow money from the government loan scheme, but we are doing the crowd-funder as well, and I am hoping it will raise enough for six months’ worth of over-heads for the venue. We have got a sports bar and a music venue and a 12-lane bowling alley, and there are a lot of over-heads. There is still electricity ticking away.

“I was hopeful. But it has fallen off a bit recently. You have peaks and troughs. The difficulty is that everyone is in the same boat. There isn’t an industry which has escaped this. It is difficult to ask for money in this environment especially when you are having to deal with a lot of people asking for refunds and we are rescheduling gigs for July which we will potentially have to reschedule again.”

One possible scenario is a staged release of the lockdown, with perhaps 50 people allowed to attend gigs. Such numbers would clearly be uneconomic for the bigger bands. The venue has a 350 capacity.

“But we should be OK until October/November and then we would have to live off borrowed money which would be annoying especially as we were just beginning to break even. This has pulled the rug from underneath us. I think February was our best month, and then we were told to close. But prior to that Boris had told everyone to avoid restaurants and bars, and so we lost something like 90 per cent of our revenue the week before.

“But I am not going to give up. This has been two years of my life. What we have done to counter all this has been live streaming. The first weekend a band could travel to the venue and we live-streamed from the venue and that went really well. But then bands couldn’t travel and we have started live-streaming from the artists’ homes. We have done one from New York. We have done one from Germany, and we have started to gain a following from people in the US and in Australia. We are starting to build a global audience… in a small way at the moment. I started the actual venue 18 months ago and now I am building a virtual music venue. You just have to rebuild from the bottom up again, but the good thing about streaming is that you are keeping the brand alive but you are also keeping artists going. The artists need a building to perform and so they support us, but we are also supporting them. The way we see it is that we have got to support each other. We want the venues to survive, and the musicians want the venues to survive because they need somewhere to come and play.”

Nick has continued with the live streaming – and he expects he will continue with it post-lockdown. He doesn’t believe it will deter people living close by from actually turning up in person: “I think actually attending the gig, if you can, will always be better than sitting watching it in your front room. That will always come second to actually being there. “

Nick stressed he was happy to help other venues with streaming technology.

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