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Thekla calls for support

Thekla, a live music venue and club space, is operated by independent national promoter DHP Family. Photo as seen on its Facebook page

DHP Family, the Bristol-based festival organiser and promoter, is under pressure for Thekla – a live music on a boat in Bristol Harbour – is at risk of closure following council plans look set to give the green light to a residential development.

On board a converted German cargo ship, Thekla has been moored in Bristol Harbour since 1984.

The Redcliffe Wharf planning application directly opposite the Thekla has been recommended for approval by officers despite its own Pollution Control Team recognising the need for a new and more comprehensive noise survey. The planning committee meets on Wednesday 8 November to make its decision.

“It’s vitally important that planners take into consideration existing venues when making decisions on new developments,“ said Alex Black, general manager at Thekla. “The decision they take could potentially have a disastrous impact on the Bristol music scene and night-time economy. We’ve seen too many venues fall victim to residential developments and being forced to close.”

DHP Family is calling for the planning decision to be deferred to allow the second noise assessment to take place so the findings can form part of the decision-making on the planning application.

Julie Tippins, head of compliance at DHP, commented: “If this development goes ahead with inadequate soundproofing, it would leave the Thekla vulnerable to complaints from residents about noise. The Thekla’s whole future is at risk.”

This is an issue that has been facing venues around the UK, forcing many to close. An estimated 35 per cent of grassroots music venues closed down between 2007 and 2015 across the UK. In London alone, the capital has lost over a third of its grassroots music venues in the last 10 years.

In line of this trend UK Music has launched a campaign to protect grassroots music venues. The industry body is working to enshrine the “agent of change” principle in law to transform the future of Britain’s music scene by safeguarding the future of hundreds of venues for decades to come.

Currently, the guidance to planners to consider agent of change, whereby the burden is on the developer to make sure that solutions are in place to mitigate the potential impact of their scheme on existing businesses, is voluntary.

“Sensible and adequately planned residential developments near to grassroots music venues like the Thekla mean that residents and music lovers can happily co-exist,” said Mark Davyd, Music Venue Trust. “That outcome starts at the planning application stage when a good developer recognises the cultural value of the existing music venue and takes steps to protect it.”

Davyd said that recognising the existence of an iconic music venue like Thekla starts with a thorough environmental impact study that specifically understands the noise in the area.

“Properly understanding noise and activity results in great design for any refurbishment or new building, ensuring noise is managed and controlled, and in commitments such as Deed of Easement and accurate marketing to future residents.

“We are concerned if that process has happened so far in the proposed development near Thekla and would encourage the developer to start it,” he concluded.

In recent years DHP has expanded into festivals, tour promotion, band management and ticketing. The company started with Rock City and has since added Rescue Rooms, Stealth and The Bodega in Nottingham, The Thekla in Bristol; Oslo in Hackney and relaunched Borderline in Soho and The Garage in Highbury in 2017. DHP also runs Manchester Cathedral’s music programme.

DHP also runs the 20,000 capacity ‘Splendour’ in Nottingham, overall winner of Best Festival (15,000-39,000 cap) at the 2016 Live Music Business Awards; Dot To Dot, a multi-venue festival taking place in several cities; MIRRORS, a metropolitan multi-venue event around Hackney; while Everywhere runs across Nottingham. The company is also behind the charity festival Beat The Streets in Nottingham aiming to raise money for the homeless.