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Abbey Road engineer battles to save arts venue

An Abbey Road engineer and musical artist manager/PR who started their own occasional performing arts centre are seeking to safeguard its future after concerns were raised about licensing arrangements.

An Abbey Road engineer and musical artist manager/PR who started their own occasional performing arts centre are seeking to safeguard the venue’s future after concerns were raised about its licensing arrangements.

Andy Walter – a senior surround sound engineer at Abbey Road Studios – and his wife Katherine, who runs Katherine Howard Artist Management & Public Relations, have been holding infrequent comedy and music nights in an outbuilding of their Norfolk Broads, UK, home for more than a year. The Henschel Quartet, string ensemble Trio Broz and comedian Dan Antopolski are among those to have performed in the Walters’ house under the banner of Loddon Mill Arts.

“When national and local government are making large cuts in arts funding, London Mill Arts is here for the people of this community, providing high quality entertainment at an affordable price and in the welcoming and intimate setting of our home,” says Andy Walter, whose recent Abbey Road credits include SACD reissues of recordings made by legendary German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler.

To date, the venue has operated under a temporary events licence, but in November this arrangement was queried by the planning department of South Norfolk District Council. The council has suggested that a total of 48 hours of events a year could constitute a ‘material change of usage’ to the couple’s home, and may oblige them to apply formally for planning permission to continue operations.

Highlighting the charitable nature of the venue and the limited number of events last year (11), Walter observes that “the licensing regulation is meant to be a ‘light touch’ device, but we have found ourselves now increasingly wrapped in red tape and expense, such that continuing to organise events will be unaffordable [without an alternative resolution], which would be an enormous disappointment to the local community.”

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon has taken up the Walters’ case and is bringing it to the attention of local government secretary Eric Pickles, who has previously expressed support for the liberating effects of temporary licences.

Pending further discussions with the local council, Walter urges those who support the campaign to sign a declaration on the centre’s website (link below). He is also keen to hear from PSN-e readers who may be able to help provide the venue with permanent PA equipment.

“We are desperately in need of a permanent quality set-up and hope that one of your readers or organisations might be interested in contributing to what we are doing,” says Walter. “Arts grow through support and close links and we welcome any support so that we can bring more national artists to local communities.”

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