Leading figures from the music industry have come together to launch a parliamentary battle to save music venues from closure. Over the past decade, 35 per cent of music venues across the country have closed.
Free Trade Hall, Roadhouse and Sound Control are some of the venues that have closed its doors in Manchester. Equally, Liverpool’s Kazimier, Sheffield’s Boardwalk, and potentially Bristol’s Thekla are at risk of closure.
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.
Sir Paul McCartney said: “Without the grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues my career could have been very different. If we don’t support music at this level, then the future of music, in general, is in danger.”
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 would 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.
MP John Spellar, said: “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.”
“We are delighted that a Bill has been introduced in Parliament to protect music venues and stop the rapid and ever-increasing threat of closure,” said Richard Dyer, co-founder and director of ticketing company Skiddle.
Dyer continued: “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. But all this can change. With cross-party support and backing from a host of big-name artists, campaigning organisations and venues, we are confident that our rich and vibrant music scene can be protected, nurtured and encouraged before it is too late.”
The presentation of the bill coincides with Independent Venue Week, the week-long festival taking place at live music venues across the UK.
Venues at risk
Among the venues that had to fight closure threats in the past are London’s iconic Ministry of Sound and the 100 Club. Other venues that face similar threats today include Bristol venues, the Fiddlers and the Fleece.
Campaigners are also battling to protect the Womanby Street music quarter in Cardiff from developers.
The Free Trade Hall in Manchester saw the Sex Pistols play one of the most important gigs of all time in 1976. The venue, which also hosted Bob Dylan, was demolished and replaced with a hotel.
The Boardwalk in Sheffield saw the debut of The Clash and the Arctic Monkeys breakthrough before shutting in 2010.
The Square in Harlow, which hosted the Coldplay, Blur, Supergrass and Muse when they were starting out, closed last year as a result of a planning dispute.
UK Music said that if the closures continue, “they will severely impact the music industry’s ability to grow the huge contribution it makes to the UK economy”.
UK Music chief executive, Michael Dugher, commented: “The UK music industry contributes more than £4 billion to our economy and brings pleasure to millions of people at home and overseas. It’s time for the Government to get behind the legislation and help save the venues that are such a crucial part of the music industry.”
Commenting on the campaign, American musician Chrissie Hynde, said: “When I heard of the impending threat to small venues, my heart skipped a beat. It isn’t talent shows on television or theatre schools that propagate great music; it’s small venues. They’re the setting of everything great that’s come out of the music scene in this country, from the Beatles to Oasis and beyond.
“England has long led the world of popular music; the rest of the world follow England. If small venues shut down, so will England’s unique creative output. It will be like locking up playgrounds at schools. The whole world will suffer, not just England.”