For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here.
Staff at a Brunswick live music venue that has been closed for most of this year have opened their hearts with a free food program for struggling artists.
The Brunswick Ballroom cannot yet host shows, but staff will give out free Saturday meals to arts workers until the end of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Chewy Tjoe and Will Ewing (rear) give free meals to musicians Ben Mastwyk and Ruby Jones at Brunswick Ballroom.Credit:Chris Hopkins
The ballroom’s venue director Will Ewing says sound technicians, dancers and musicians are among the grateful recipients.
Since the premises in Sydney Road opened in February, it has hosted only 70 gigs, with the most recent on August 4. The venue switched to selling takeaway food, but Mr Ewing said with the amount of “heartbreak and depression” in the industry, staff wanted to give something back.
Those accepting free meals on Saturday from 4pm to 8pm came as much to feel part of a community as for the food.
Filmmaker Rick Mereki said artists were “trying to work out how to survive in this new world. And stuff like this can only help. It’s bringing the community together, which is fantastic.”
Mereki was in Los Angeles shooting a travel documentary series when the COVID-19 pandemic started. He headed home to Melbourne and has been living on his savings or doing work such as house painting and setting up bands at the ballroom, when it’s open.
Stella Paisley, who started her fashion label Luxe Country Rhinestone just as the pandemic began, said an administration job had kept her afloat. She said the free meals were “a fantastic idea”.
“Some people have been financially on a knife edge this entire time,” she said. “Not everyone can get support.”
Singer-songwriter Ruby Jones said the past 18 months had been “the biggest challenge of my career”, having played just a few gigs, the last here in April.
Jones has been teaching singing online and has received “a few grants here and there”.
She feels the arts have been “systemically ignored throughout the entire pandemic” in terms of government assistance.
She said Brunswick Ballroom’s free meals gesture was lovely.
“It’s nice to feel like your community is still there,” she said. “A lot of us, in the Melbourne music scene, when the pandemic hit, we lost our livelihood, but we also lost our community and our sense of identity. Having something like this is a reminder that your friends are out here. And that these venues are still here even though we can’t access them.”
Mr Ewing, an actor-musician who was singing with the Rolling Thunder Vietnam stage show before the pandemic, said the ballroom had survived helped by government grants.
“But it’s been incredibly tough, for our venue and for every venue. We’re just looking forward to getting back open.”
Brunswick Ballroom has already planned two shows for when lockdown ends – one in the ground-floor foyer on October 26 and one on November 5, upstairs in the ballroom, with the artists to be announced.
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Most Viewed in National
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article