So, you knock yourself out for years and years to establish a live music venue. You build a profile for your venue so that agents and promoters start putting some of their better bands in. You give local bands the chance to cut their teeth live and you establish a popular destination for people in your community who want to experience live music. All good then, so good in fact that you would naturally expect your local authority to recognise the importance of your music venue as a valuable component in the rich cultural tapestry of the community. Wouldn't you?
If only this were true. Unfortunately, the reality is very different. There is a worrying trend that has emerged over the last few years whereby it only takes one or two complaints from neighbours in the vicinity of the venue to spark off a flurry of noise abatement notices from the local authority environmental office, often culminating in the closure of the music venue.
Here's a select list of premier music venues that are currently under threat or have closed:
Night and Day, Manchester: One local resident objects and the venue is fighting for its survival.
The Fleece and Firkin, Bristol: A seminal music venue for 32 years, under threat from noise complaints as a result of an adjacent office block being converted into apartments.
George's Tavern, Stepney: Similar to the Fleece, developers want to build apartments next to the venue with the inevitable consequence of noise complaints.
Blind Tiger, Brighton: New resident moves above the venue and complains about the noise, eventually leading to the closure of the venue
Now, I like my sleep as much as the next person and, whilst the Trubridge offspring are now of an age that means they are more likely to be in the venue than in a cot, I still remember how hard it is to get a baby to go to sleep when there is a distracting noise. Nevertheless, if I chose to move into a flat or a house which is situated near a music venue then surely I'm likely to know that there will be times when I will hear the music coming from the venue, and if I have young children or a predilection for insomnia to contend with then maybe I should consider moving somewhere else.
When the local authority processes noise complaints do you think they ask the complainant the key questions? Such as, 'how long have you lived there?' Or, 'did the estate agent not tell you that there is a live music venue next door?' I don't know, that's why I'm asking. I suspect they just process the complaint and fire off the noise abatement notice. The next thing you know, the venue is under threat, the owner is contemplating the closing down of the business they have worked so hard to establish and Live Music UK suffers yet another casualty.
Perhaps even more alarming is the scenario whereby the music venue is situated in an area that - prior to the establishing of a successful music venue - held no attraction for property developers. However, with the emergence of a popular music venue, the area suddenly becomes more attractive, the developers move in and Bob's your uncle, following complaints from the new neighbours, the venue closes down. This particular practice is on the increase and seems totally unfair to me. Of course, by shutting down the music venue a valuable piece of real estate then becomes available in an area that property developers are keen to utilise but far be it from me to suggest that anything underhand has gone on, I'll leave that for you to ponder, dear reader.
I think it's about time that the UK adopted a new law that has worked very well in countries like Australia. The law is sometimes referred to as 'The Agent of Change Principle'. You can read about it here: http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/planning/publicationsandresearch/codes-and-guidelines/live-music-taskforce. What it basically says is that it is the legal responsibility of the person or persons who have brought about the changes that inadvertently affect an individual or an individual's business to take steps to remedy the problem. In other words, in the case of the property developer who builds homes in the vicinity of a music venue, it is the property developer's legal and financial responsibility to use sound proofing to prevent any inconvenience to the residents. The music venue bears no responsibility. This would seem to me to be a fair and proper arrangement and it's about time we adopted this law here. In the meantime, support your local music venue and let them know how much you appreciate their, albeit precarious, existence.