GRASSROOTS music venues have signed an open letter to the government calling for £50m of emergency funds to enable them to “hibernate” until October due to restrictions caused by coronavirus.

The Music Venue Trust says smaller venues, such as The Forum, in Darlington, will struggle to survive unless the government provides funds to offset capacity issues caused by Covid-19 and if they were to reopen with any kind of social distancing in place it would cost them nearly twice the amount than if they were to stay closed.

While pubs, restaurants and hotels are set to reopen on July 4, music venues will continue to face financial viability issues as singing, dancing, standing close to others and being in confined spaces are deemed to be “high risk activities”.

Allison McKay, chief executive of The Forum social enterprise, said if grassroots music venues such as the Borough Road facility are restricted to 20 per cent capacity due to social distancing, it eat away at its precious surpluses.

She said: “We are in a good position at the moment, but I can’t imagine any small venue will be able to survive. If social distancing means we can only have 20 people in here, how do we cover the cost of the band?”

Park East councillor Cyndi Hughes said venues like The Forum in Darlington were “the lifeblood of the local music community”.

She said: “The Forum offers an affordable, diverse diet of music and a friendly, accessible space to hone your own musical skills, to meet, relax and enjoy music and music-making with others. Local communities need vibrant local music venues. I very much hope this government helps the Forum survive through to the autumn when gigs are likely to be able to start up again.”