The nightlife scene gives so much to the economy and they feel they have been left out to dry,” says Bristol DJ Andrew Hartley when asked how coronavirus has affected his city.
Ask anyone in the music industry about the impact of the pandemic on their livelihoods and they’ll no doubt tell you the same thing.
“The effects span all the way from the bar staff to the cleaners – everyone across the board has been affected,” adds Hartley, a man widely credited with establishing the hip hop and RnB scene in Bristol.
Hartley, known as DJ Style, has been DJing in Bristol since the 1980s. He’s well known in iconic venues across St Pauls and beyond, including Blue Mountain, Crystal Dove, Moon Club, now Lakota.
He launched his music brand, Code of the Streets, in the early 2000s and continues to make his mark on the Bristol music scene to this day.
But the events industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and he feels people like him, working in entertainment, have been overlooked by the government in terms of support.
“It’s had a dramatic impact on all industries, but the entertainment and hospitality industry has been hit the hardest,” Hartley said.
“The long term implications are still being seen.
“From a personal point of view I had gigs cancelled instantly and a lot of them were supposed to carry me through summer and all the way to September.
“I lost all of my bookings and then everyone didn’t know when they could book again. A lot of frustration was felt,” he added.
During lockdown many creatives used social media as a way of connecting with people around the world and for DJs like DJ Style, that meant doing live streams to get audiences to engage with their music.
He launched a group called the DJ Alliance, who would organise live streams and broadcast for up to ten hours. But those efforts to entertain were also thwarted, as they breached Facebook’s copyright rules.
He said: “At the end of the day it was a way of keeping the industry alive at a time when there felt like there was no hope for the future.
“There were even key workers and parents logging in to engage with some light entertainment during a very stressful period for them.
“It feels a bit unfair as I think as much as there should be copyright laws and artists should be paid for their music, DJs were also playing a role in promoting the musicians and not using it for our own benefit.”
Despite numerous bookings being cancelled in recent months, DJ Style now has his first Code of the Streets performance lined up and will be DJing at Lakota Gardens for the first time in ten months.
Speaking ahead of Black History Month, Hartley said support for Black-led businesses was crucial.
DJ Style said: “It’s important that as local people that we continue to support Black run companies. But I think it’s important to be shown as a business and not just a Black business just for Black people.
“We should have equal opportunities and have the chance to have our businesses flourish. We are living in a different moment in time and we have to get used to it.
“We just have to hope for the future.”
Photos by James Beck/Bristol Live