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Supporters rally round to help raise funds for The Portland Arms in Cambridge

Steve and Hayley Pellegrini with Daniel Zeichner, left, when the city MP visited the best pub contenders in 2018. Picture: Keith Heppell
Steve and Hayley Pellegrini with Daniel Zeichner, left, when the city MP visited the best pub contenders in 2018. Picture: Keith Heppell

Benefit albums and virtual gigs have been among the initiatives staged for The Portland Arms by its supporters to try to overcome the struggles faced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The popular pub on Chesterton Road in Cambridge has seen musicians and promoters rally to the cause of the live music venue.

The landlords and staff are currently furloughed, but when Simon Baker, of Green Mind gigs and one of the main music promoters at The Portland Arms found out the full details of their travails, he decided to launch a crowdfunding initiative on the pub's behalf.

“We talked about if the government support and loans would be enough to ensure we could open again in the future,” said landlord Steve Pellegrini. “It was only when we mentioned the loans and support would only just cover the bills and utilities and that our brewery, Greene King, are still intending us to pay rent totally over £25,000 just on the basis of being closed for 12 weeks.

“It’s been running for about three-and-a-half weeks now and has raised just shy of 50 per cent at time of writing which is fantastic.

“We have created a number of rewards from t-shirts and your name on the wall of fame to ticket packages and rehearsal days."

The pub have been humbled by the support of the community, with people organising and staging events on their behalf, such as the ‘Mind the gig’ scheme which was set up by a gig-goer for those working from home to donate the cost of their commute to a local venue or charity.

Promoter and record producer Aaahh!!! Real records has organised a benefit album featuring a compilation of some of the acts that call Cambridge and the Portland home on bandcap, which can be found at theportlandarms.bandcamp.com.

Rishi Nag, of Karmadillo, organised a virtual benefit gig that featured performances from B-Sydes, Powderhead, Pete Um, James Scallan and many more, and last Sunday there was another benefit live-stream featuring Gaz Brookfield, B-Sydes and Justin Crane.

On June 4, punk and folk singer/songwriter Frank Turner will performing a live concert in aid of the crowdfunder.

“We have spent the lockdown doing some maintenance and improvements and will soon be opening for some takeaway food and drink but we are still very anxious of what the future will bring and the uncertainty of post-lockdown restrictions,” said Steve.

“It is clear that we will not be having any gigs for the foreseeable future but how the pub side operates as restrictions begin to be lifted and if we can sustain enough trade to ride the wave remains to be seen.

“We are still trying to remain positive and the overwhelming support from the local community gives us real hope that we can still be here when the current crisis is over.”

A #SaveOurVenues campaign has also been set up by the Music Venues Trust to support more than 550 venues that are at risk of closing permanently.

For more information about the Portland Arms crowdfunding initiative, visit crowdfunder.co.uk/portland-arms-fundraise.

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