Post-Pandemic Partying: the London clubs being supported by the CRF

Ministry, Electric Ballroom and Corsica Studios all made the cut

Clubbing fans can now breathe a sigh of relief; thanks to the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, there’s a safety net in place to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on some of London’s most iconic venues. Students everywhere can sleep soundly now, knowing that soon they won’t be – these are the clubs that will definitely herald a return to sleep deprivation and hangovers, post-pandemic.

The recipients of the first round of Cultural Recovery Fund grants announced on October 12th and administered by the Arts Council, can receive up to £1 million of financial assistance to help them last out the effects of the recent crisis. Currently, 1,385 venues are listed as approved applicants, including theatres, museums and cultural organisations, such as heritage organisations. 

For students, however, those of the greatest importance are obviously the typical student haunts –  we all have those clubs that we’ll always feel a kind of sick nostalgia towards, remembering fondly the good old nights filled with horribly expensive drinks, sticky floors, pounding bass numbers and embarrassing make-out sessions.

Awaited with bated breath, here are the lucky successful applicants of the CRF grants, in order of grant size:

  1. Ministry of Sound – £945,468

We’ve all been to Ministry at some point or other; first opening its doors in September 1991, Ministry’s inspired by New York’s enormous house venues, transforming a derelict bus garage into one London’s hottest clubs overnight. This was the first club dedicated to house music, and also the first nightclub with a room built purely for incredible sound quality. It’s a classic London student haunt, and is wholly deserving of the grant size, coming the closest out of all London clubs to the £1 million grant limit. 

     2. Corsica Studios – £407,764

The number two club on this list has previously been said to be the best small club in London; starting out as a nomadic party in the late 90s, its reputation has spread since it found a permanent location in SE17. With music genres including techno, electro, house and occasionally disco, Corsica also has a reputation for being pretty experimental – perfect for a night out with a twist!

     3. Village Underground – £398,000

Village Underground, out in Shoreditch, can be discovered in a Victorian warehouse, on top of which four converted Jubilee line carriages and two refurbished shopping containers sit – all hoisted up in 2006. Since its initial opening, this club has created a reputation for being atmospheric, playing a wide selection of music and using their cutting-edge programming technology across club nights and live performances.

     4. Camden Assembly – £250,000

Previously The Barfly, The Camden Assembly is now student central on their three club nights a week. The interior gives off severe Shoreditch-chic vibes, while anatomical diagrams and some dummy heads only add character. This beloved haunt has famously hosted Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, and recently Iamddb, Pale Waves and Mahalia.

     5. Electric Ballroom – £206,974

Finally, another Camden Town favourite has been endorsed. Bands like Cage the Elephant, Of Monsters and Men, Foals, Snow Patrol, the Killers, U2, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and more have graced this venue with their presence over the last 80 years, although it technically only opened its doors as its present incarnation in 1978.

And that concludes the list of beloved student venues that are being supported, folks. 

Notably absent from are clubs like Loop, Fabric, KOKO, XOYO and other classic locations. Although almost 1,400 venues have been approved for different grant sizes under this fund, and there are several more rounds of grants to come, there have already been criticisms made of it, almost one third of all 2000 applicants were rejected. 

This came a result of prioritisation on the part to the government, a spokesperson for the DCMS has said, as well the imposition of ‘strict’ criteria for the grant. This criterion has been defined as organisations that could demonstrate their ‘immediate financial need’ or legitimate risk that they were not going to be able to continue viably trading this year. Rejected applicants are not eligible for other government funding programmes, and can’t appeal the decision, instead need to access private funding sources like those offered by the Garfield Weston foundation.

Another area of contention for many has been a condition for receiving the grant funding for all hopeful applicants; agreement that they would post grateful messages on social media, their websites and newsletters upon being selected for it. The hashtag #HereforCulture was specifically mentioned as an umbrella under which all positive responses should be posted.

A message to guarantees emphasised that this campaign ‘aims to build a positive movement uniting the members of the public and people across the sector to voice their support for culture.’ Organisations were also encouraged to use quotes from Dowden and Arts Council England Chair Nicholas Serota. 

Some have speculated that this has come as a result of the widespread criticism of an advert promoting training and careers in cybersecurity. The ‘Fatima’ ad, featuring a picture of a dancer with the strapline: ‘Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet),’ has been the subject of outrage everywhere. Even Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has agreed that it was ‘crass’ on Twitter but continued to assert that he wants to save jobs in the arts. Many have therefore felt that this condition for the Cultural Recovery Fund is deliberately positioned to refocus attention on the positive aspects of what the government has been doing. 

Despite the possible criticisms that could be made of the fund, it is clear that Arts organisations are happy that they are receiving some form of support, with figures as famous as Dame Judi Dench expressing their relief and appreciation, although fears that the package will be spread ‘very thinly’ linger. 

The pandemic situation for many students isn’t being made easier by the loss of our socials, club nights, and the struggles of our favourite venues. However, at least now we have the security of knowing that some of our nostalgic locales will one day be there to open their doors and welcome us home again.

And as we wait for the second round of grant recipients to be revealed, who knows? Maybe we’ll get lucky.