• Liam Machin

#SaveThe30 Spiritual Bar: Camden's Little Gem

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

Anyone who has a love for live music can tell you about the strong sense of community that comes with grassroots venues.


Undoubtedly the intimate ones are those which resonate with us the most and create that unique, interconnected, energised atmosphere we love.


Spiritual Bar epitomises this better than any, with a capacity of less than a hundred yet still managing to draw names such as Michael Kiwanuka, Beans On Toast and The Kooks over the years.


Located in Camden, the quaint spot is one of seven London based venues that missed out on government funding and is now facing a ‘crucial turning point’ in its bid to survive.


Owner Rafael Pesce applauded the ‘incredible work’ of Music Venue Trust (MVT) in securing the culture recovery fund to help thousands of venues in the UK, however also touched upon the difficulties of the application process.


“Many venues had to employ people to complete the application and the MVT took on a hugely important role by offering detailed help and assistance. Luckily only a few venues did not receive funding,” said Pesce, speaking to ShinGig last week.

“Despite being open for 10 years and creating such a unique community of artists and customers, it was claimed we were not culturally important enough!


“On the advice of the MVT we have set up a crowdfunder to try and raise the amount we applied for to keep us afloat. Due to our limited size we have been unable to open safely since March.”


This sense of community and deep affection was proven mid lockdown as regulars pulled together to record a video in support of their little rustic bar.


When lockdown was enforced, Pesce and his team at Spiritual Records (the venue's parent record label) began organising home live stream performances from its regular artists - five days a week until the middle of June!


“It was a huge effort but we did it to keep our community of artists and patrons entertained,” he explained.


“This video shows that our hard work paid off and that we are a truly unique venue able to call upon so many artists who were more than happy to play and help raise funds for Spiritual.”



The Spirit Of Camden

The bar’s impact on the surrounding area and its emphasis on supporting emerging artists cannot go a miss with the likes of Jade Bird, Ferris & Sylvester and Billy Lockett all playing regularly.


A recent documentary highlights the importance of such venues for artists, venues and fans to have an environment that enables everyone to be creative, enjoy the present and express themselves.

“Artists inevitably want to get their music out there and entertain,” said Pesce.


“There has been a lot of frustration this year for many different reasons but it's a well-known cliche that artists flourish in adversity and this is exactly what we have seen with many of those that we work with.”


He raised that the label itself had in fact released more music this year than any other and despite the difficult situation currently surrounding the bar, he’s hopeful for the future.

“I think like in many other sectors the whole entertainment industry is having to rethink and rework their strategies.


“Undoubtedly many people in the music industry are going to lose their jobs which is tragic but I do feel that it will definitely come back stronger.


“Hopefully we along with the other 30 venues will survive and become stronger in the future.”


Read more about Spiritual Bar’s journey as well as donate towards its survival here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/savespiritualbar

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