The City of London has backed a detailed rescue plan prepared by a coalition of music industry experts, designed to turn around an alarming loss of small music venues in London.
In the past eight years more than a third of London’s grass roots music venues have closed down, from 136 in 2007 to 88 today. Mayor Boris Johnson’s Announcement identifies a number of reasons for these closures including:
“rising rents and licensing restrictions; noise complaints by resident; landlords selling venues to developers to turn into housing; and the lack of an oversight body to represent the industry when issues like these arise.”
Many iconic venues loved by music fans have gone, including the Marquee, the Astoria, the 12 Bar Club and Madame Jojos. These are the venues, as in any city, where artists hone their craft, build a fan base, and are vital stepping stones to the development of successful music careers.
Musician Ed Sheeran, lending his support to the Rescue Plan, underscores this point. He includes a statement where he recalls contacting 300 venues doing acoustic nights. He emailed them all and received 50 replies. “I did all those gigs. And then I went back and did them again. And again.”
The report has been prepared by a Taskforce Chaired by Mark Davyd, head of the Music Venue Trust, set up as we have previously reported, as a campaigning organisation to address what is now a nationwide problem in the UK. Mark Davyd commented that chairing the Taskforce “has given us chance to speak up for grassroots music venues, clearly explaining why they are so important to the future of British music and why London needs to be their flagship.”
Recommendations include support for the Agent of Change principle, with the report quoting Australia as an example where this approach has been successfully used, placing the onus on developers to mitigate impacts of new developments in neighbourhoods with music venues. Other recommendations include “a champion for the night time economy” using a Dutch model to engage key stakeholders and review policies to maximise potential; a London Music Development Board involving industry and key agencies to implement recommendations; and a Culture and Planning Guide to advise the music and culture sectors on planning issues.
These recommendations will be taken forward in an action plan in early 2016.
You can download London’s Grassroots Music Venues Rescue Plan here.