Save Our Scene: How Manchester and Salford’s nightlife has found hope
Throughout this year, the threats presented by COVID-19 have tossed and swirled in chaos. First, physical health risk was amplified; next: menace to employment security, domestic security, mental health, economic health – an ongoing metamorphosis of reporting exposure. Apparent methods of salvation have followed suit: lockdown, furlough, virtual counselling – each threat crystallising on a different locus of fear, each hopeful solution veering the spotlight onwards. For many, the supposed timing and gravity of each has waxed and waned according to government priorities.
Yet plainly, the fibres of crisis are interlaced. Trouble in any combination of threats constitutes trouble for the individuals, thus shaping the functioning of whole communities. Community is reciprocal of itself, its fortitude rocked when the looping cycle of mutual provision and interaction is forced to a screeching stop. Whereas bread plus convenience might cost a quid at a supermarket, collections of people perform work and deliver value together which cannot be enumerated.
Manchester & Salford’s ‘Save Our Scene’ initiative, which aptly – and presumably consciously – acronymizes to SOS, is the Samaritan-incarnate to those forced to tread the temporarily stagnant water of The Rainy City’s nightlife. Bar staff, sound engineers, event organizers and more – essential community members, without whom another form of public health and happiness would collapse – have been able to access immediate hardship funds.
Replacing faltering employers and government, MSSOS, a ‘group of community-minded promoters’, mobilised during their first phase to raise over £18,000, remedying a level of financial (and no doubt mental) toll. Via a raffle, live-stream event, and Crowdfunding campaign, the group has conquered ‘bureaucratic blockers’ to normal funding in momentous style.
As relayed by a member of MSSOS, who wished to remain anonymous to preserve the feeling of collectivity, the first organisational phase “was about providing a financial safety net, of sorts, for COVID-19”. A craft of localised resourcefulness forced to suddenly seed, sprout, bloom, soothing the strain and preserving communal health.
These efforts have extended to the Black Lives Matter movement – every penny of funds raised through a 20-track compilation during Bandcamp’s latest fee-free Friday has been donated to QTIPOC organisation Rainbow Noir. BLM demonstrations have welcomingly dipped the glare from coronavirus in recent weeks, swivelling focus to the more enduring pandemic of racism. Late-in-the-day reporting on the significantly disproportionate risk of death for BAME people, despite the pandemic seething for months, is one more siren echoing the depth and breadth of the global racism problem.
For MSSOS, ‘saving’ a scene does not signify a temporary fix. Momentum in buffering future blows is as vital as bandaging existing sores. From the initial funds, £1000 has been delegated to ‘invest in future initiatives focused on making the dance music scene… more inclusive for marginalised groups’. The ambition behind this impending second phase is strong: ‘laying long-term foundations for something new’.
The collective hopes to actualise this transformative ethos by re-establishing a new fund, this time to invest in initiatives for improving – saving – the dance music landscape for those on its fringes. Through an application process, funding will be available for projects committed to creating more inclusive, accessible, and welcoming nightlife for marginalised groups. Encouraging diversity further, MSSOS shall shortly open up membership opportunities, overseen democratically.
If COVID-19 has one fruitful outcome, it might be recognition that we must foster a wider culture that sees concerted efforts to cocoon, defend, or uplift those most susceptible to threat. With the work of MSSOS, Manchester is setting the bar.
You can keep up to date with the campaign’s activity through their social media channel.
Buy the campaign’s digital album available through Bandcamp here.
Rainbow Noir can be found here.