THE man who has been running The Cellars at Eastney for nearly two decades has spoken of his concerns for the future of small music venues as his closes this weekend.
Steve Pitt took over The Cellars in 1998 and has weathered the threat of closure before in 2010, as well as personal bankruptcy.
But he is already looking ahead to becoming more active as a music agent and promoter, teaching students about the music business and even entering local politics.
Steve said: ‘I don’t think any of us who are part of the team – we’ve been a tight unit for some time – are leaving with any dense of defeat.
‘We set out to achieve something in the city, and that was to bring back a whole raft of touring artists who hadn’t played in the city in a long time. We’ve done that, we helped to revitalise the circuit, and we’ve kickstarted young bands like Kassassin Street by giving them access to a professional venue.’
Psych-rockers Kassassin Street, from Southsea, are fast-gaining a national profile and will be headlining the final sold-out gig tomorrow.
‘But Portsmouth has always been a tough place to sell tickets for certain types of gigs,’ added Steve.
‘It wasn’t an appropriate use of energy to try to sustain something that wasn’t commercially viable.’
He also paints a worrying picture about the national scene.
‘I tour nationally as a promoter so I get to see the bigger picture, and it’s not just Portsmouth this is unique to,’ said Steve.
‘A lot of places are struggling – some are doing well though. There have been plenty of venues that have closed down, which is sad.
‘It’s always been hard for smaller venues to be financially viable and that has become more extreme in recent years.
‘We’ve lost some really lovely venues. It’s not about just losing the room, it’s about losing the people and the expertise.
‘Pretty much any big band that came up through this system will tell you that playing these smaller venues was important to them for honing their craft.’
Steve, who is chairman of the Portsmouth Cultural Partnership, added: ‘I’ve also thrown my hat into the ring and been selected to stand for the Liberal Democrats in Central Southsea ward in next May’s local council elections.’