Venue closure prevention bill causes controvery

February 19, 2018 2:24 PM

With 35% of UK music venues closing, parliament has proposed some affirmative action. Is this the final word in safeguarding emerging talent?

Clashes between residents and music venues is an age-old issue for venue owners, but a host of high profile celebrities and politicians have backed legislation to ensure these cultural springboards receive protected status.

UK Music's campaign for a proposed new law has attracted cross-party support from politicians and music stars including Sir Paul McCartney, Brian Eno, Chrissie Hynde, Nick Mason, Sandie Shaw, Nadine Shah, Ray Davies, Imogen Heap, Billy Bragg, Feargal Sharkey and Craig David.

Ex-Beatle, McCartney provided a wake up call. Without the grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues my career could have been very different, he said. If we don't support music at this level, then the future of music, in general, is in danger.

Free Trade Hall, Roadhouse and Sound Control are some of the venues that have closed their doors in Manchester. Equally, Liverpool's Kazimier, Sheffield's Boardwalk, and potentially Bristol's Thekla are at risk of closure.

The campaign to get the Agent of Change' principle enshrined in law to protect venues has the backing of at least 75 MPs and peers including former culture minister Ed Vaizey, as well as organisations including the Music Venue Trust and the Musicians' Union.

The proposed legislation would mean developers have to take account of the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses, like music venues, before going ahead with their plans.

That could mean, for example, the developer of new flats takes responsibility for soundproofing to avoid the risk of new neighbours complaining about noise from a music venue.

The proposed new law is being brought forward by Labour MP and former government minister John Spellar, who will table his Planning (Agent of Change) Bill in the House of Commons.

Commenting on the Bill, introduced in Parliament by MP John Spellar, UK event guide and ticketing outlet Skiddle, commented: We are delighted that a Bill has been introduced. The fact 35 per cent of music venues have closed in the past decade is truly shameful. This often comes down to greedy building developers who have no regard for the UK's cultural spaces, and are only interested in lining their own pockets by knocking down these vitally important venues.

MP John Spellar, added: Fewer venues mean less work, less opportunity to develop talent or even find out that you are not going to make it in the industry, but also to move up from amateur to part-time, to full-time, to national or even international stardom. If the present situation does not change, we are in danger of taking away the ladder that has served individual musicians and the Music Industry so well for so long.

Among the venues that have had to fight closure threats in the past are London's Ministry of Sound and the 100 Club. Other venues facing similar threats today include Bristol venues the Fiddlers and the Fleece. Campaigners are also battling to protect Cardiff's Womanby Street from developers.

Tom Hall

Editor