Many of the UK’s grassroots live music venues are struggling in our modern climate, with over a third of them closed over the past 10 years.
With our venues now being refused high street tax relief by our current government, the odds are against our beloved grassroots venues, but all is not lost as we have light within this current dark period for our venues – Sounds Magazine caught up with the director of Fightback Lager, a new lager purpose-made to help our struggling independent music venues across the UK.
With a great initiative and drive to help our grassroots music scene, we spoke to the man behind it all, Gary Prosser, to find out more about the great work that they are doing and the launch of their new lager.
It was an easy choice for Sounds magazine to shine the spotlight on Fightback, as their ethos is simple: “To champion, secure and support our grassroots music venues. This involves working with Music Venue Trust to push forward our goals of stopping venue closures and bring the issues of venue closure threat to the public forum;
To encourage the people to experience live music and support their local music venues. I want to work with the local live music communities to increase footfall into their venues by encouraging people of all ages to go to a gig, see a band they already know and love or try something new;
To raise vital funds to protect existing grassroots music venues that are under threat.”
Gary goes on to explain about the company and some of the work they have already been doing across the UK:
“Fightback is the public-facing fundraising arm of the UK registered charity Music Venue Trust. We work closely with our 500 strong venue alliance throughout the UK organizing city-wide events. Fightback has already had city events in Bristol, Manchester & London and is currently organising events in Plymouth and Scotland.” Gary explains that “Fightback City Festivals provide the focus for events taking place at the cities’ Grassroots Music Venues, with live music every day throughout the festival at a whole range of venues right across the cities.”
The concept of hosting city festivals across the UK seems like a great way to encourage people to visit their local music venues along with seeing local talent, did this make it an easy decision to work in tandem with MVT?
“That decision came naturally to me as I was already fundraising for the charity. There were initial conflicts of interest so we set up a ltd company specifically to sell Fightback Lager and future products and services. The branding was specifically designed for grassroots music and naturally MVT are a huge cog in the grassroot music industry machine”.
So Fightback is a fundraising arm of the Music Venue Trust, doing some great work with grassroot venues across the country, but why choose to launch a beer?
“Initially we approached the large beer companies to create a product that would benefit the grassroots music sector. We quickly realised this wasn’t going to work as any product they would create would detract from their lead sellers. After a little dejection we thought ‘what the heck let’s make our own lager!’
Grassroots Music Venues are where many great musicians start glittering careers, but too many of these venues are facing a fight to survive. The Fightback Brewing Company formed from the grassroots, for the grassroots.” Fight back are not only hosting City Festivals to focus on grassroot music venues, they’re also putting money into the Music Venue Trust.
“We have developed Fightback Lager, a premium European style craft lager, in collaboration with ShinDigger Brewing Co. Our mission is to give venues a great beer and ensure their crucial role in the development of artists is recognised and will continue. A donation from every pint and can of Fightback Lager we sell goes to Music Venue Trust, a UK registered charity acting to protect, secure and improve grassroots music venues” Gary goes on to explain“The money raised funds ‘Emergency Response’ a team of experts that includes the UK’s leading experts on licensing, acoustics, noise, legal and tenancy issues. These experts provide their services for free and so far we have saved around 50 venues from closure”.
That’s an amazing commitment to our UK grassroots venues, can you tell us more about the brewery that you’re working with and your reasons for choosing a Manchester based brewery?
“We read about George and Paul who formed ShinDigger starting out making beer for student parties at Manchester Uni then taking that experience and growing into a serious brewer. It felt like there was a closer connection with the Fightback approach of making changes from the grassroots than we could ever achieve approaching big brewers.
We spoke to George about The Music Venue Trust and creating a beer for the campaign and he understood the challenges venues were facing and was ready for collaborating from the start. As we were creating a new brand with Fightback Lager there was a huge advantage to working with a brewer that could help us start out with a proper understanding of what’s needed to make a beer that would work in venues not just setting out to pleasing craft beer aficionados.”
Now I’m sure you’re all wondering, what is the beer actually like, and what are people saying about it? Gary goes on to describe the process and the choices made in getting the perfect lager: “Brewing lager is a delicate process. You can’t turn everything up to 11, chuck in mountains of flavours and hope for the best.” He continues.. “Fightback’s focus and our vocabulary has always been about beer as part of a great gig experience for venues and audiences rather than complex malts and hop profiles. Our collaboration has allowed us to get to the point where we can proudly take a beer to venues which is easy drinking and refreshing in the way we want it to be. The general response has been amazing. Just recently were the pouring beer at the international Live Music Conference serving lager to 1200 delegates from 52 countries. We poured nearly 2500 pints and I think that speaks for itself. The German contingent particularly liked it which was particularly flattering as they have very high standards when it comes to beer!”
We asked Gary how their initial launch of the new lager went back in 2018. “We actually launched the beer at our ‘Venues Day’ event that is a one-day conference involving 500 delegates involved in the grassroots music business. The beer went down a storm and we had over 70 venues register interest in ordering the lager which blew us away really. Only a few months before we were trying to get our heads around setting up a beer company and there we were weeks later pouring it out to our potential customers!”
Can you explain to our readers what your future goals are for the new lager?
“To get into as many Grassroots Venues as possible in the next 2 years. We are also talking to festivals and the larger arenas to find a place for Fightback Lager in their bars. We have also been picked up by pubs that have a heritage in music like The Hawley Arms, famous being for Amy Winehouse’s local (she actually used to help out pulling pints behind the bar!)”.
“Overall we want to grow a brand that has a direct positive effect on the venues we pour in, and hopefully influence similar companies to reinvest their profits too. Grassroots Music Venues are very under supported by the government so someone has to do it, right?”
Fantastic! So what’s next for Fightback?
“Yes, Fightback Brighton launches on 22nd April for 2 weeks with 150 shows across 19 venues. This is a spring campaign that will encourage audiences to visit their local grassroots music venue and promote the Brighton’s emerging and existing musical talent. We are currently working to get Fightback Lager behind a majority of the bars if not all. The lager is European style pilsner, gloriously easy-drinking as a result of soft, clean water profile. Lightly dry-hopped with German hops for a subtle floral character.”
Keep your eyes peeled for Fightback Lager making an appearance in a grassroots venue near you soon, we’ve tried it and frankly – it’s a brilliant lager, working hard for a great cause, so go support your local grassroot venues and do a little bit extra through the enjoyment of a tasty beer! The next Fightback City Festival takes place in Brighton starting 22nd April for 2 weeks, so if you’re in the area get down and check out some great gigs and support your local music scene and grassroots venues, and check out the new lager that’s helping to save music venues!