Sir Paul McCartney and many rock and pop legends – among whom Chrissie Hynde, Craig David, Sandie Shaw, Ray Davies, Billy Bragg, Feargal Sharkey and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason – are backing a move in Parliament to protect music venues from closure.
Senior Labour MP John Spellar is introducing a bill in the Commons to change planning laws in an effort to implement the “Agent of Change” principle into UK law. If implemented, the principle would force developers to consider the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses – like music venues – before going ahead with their plans. That could mean a developer of new flats takes responsibility for soundproofing to avoid the risk of new neighbours complaining about noise from a music venue.
UK Music – a campaign group representing both the recorded and live music industries – said that over the past decade 35% of music venues across the country have closed. London’s iconic dance club Ministry of Sound and the 100 Club, where The Who, Sex Pistols and Oasis have performed, are among the venues that had to fight closure threats.
Sir Paul 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.”
Hynde, a founding member of rock group The Pretenders, 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 follows 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.”
Craig David stated: “As an artist I’m concerned that music venues are facing unprecedented threats and it is a matter of great concern to us all. I give my strong support for proposals to change planning law so that we can keep music live.”
MP Spellar said: “Fewer venues means 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.”
The bill is backed by at least 75 MPs and peers, including the former Tory culture minister Ed Vaizey, and organisations like the Music Venue Trust and the Musicians’ Union.
Three Bristol venues, the Thekla, the Fiddlers and the Fleece, are currently under threat today and campaigners are also battling to protect the Womanby Street music quarter in Cardiff from developers.
Among the venues that have closed in recent years there are:
– The Free Trade Hall in Manchester (Sex Pistols, Bob Dylan…) was demolished and has been replaced by a hotel.
– The Boardwalk in Sheffield (The Clash, Arctic Monkeys…) was closed in 2010.
– The Square in Harlow (Coldplay, Blur, Supergrass, Muse …) was closed last year because of a planning dispute.
UK Music’s chief executive Michael Dugher stated: “The UK music industry contributes more than £4bn 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.”