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Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson: ‘Power must be given back to venues’

Watson was one of many politicians, artists and industry leaders to gather outside parliament to support the Agent Of Change Bill

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party, has spoken to PSNEurope about his support for the much publicised Agent Of Change bill, highlighting the vast cultural significance of grassroots venues and their importance to the future of the music industry.

Watson was one of many politicians, artists and music industry figureheads, including the likes of Pink Floyd legend Nick Mason, Sandie Shaw, Billy Bragg, Music Venues Trust chief Mark Davyd, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher, acclaimed artist Nadine Shah and many more, to gather outside parliament this morning (January 10) to fight for the protection of grassroots music venues in the UK – specifically in regard to the Agent Of Change bill being proposed today. The bill would put the onus on property developers to take account of the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses like music venues before going ahead with their plans. Over the past 10 years, 35% of music venues across the UK have been forced to close.

Speaking to PSNEurope outside the Houses Of Parliament, Watson commented: “The industry and people who love music have been talking about agent of change for several years. Developers come into a community, their legal teams kick in, they put these yuppie apartments up and then complain about the noise. To give power back to venues and venue owners and the people that use them is really important. What’s significant about to day is that the Music Venues Trust and UK Music have really stamped their authority. If the bill does go through it really will give power back to venue owners and managers to say to these developers, Look, we can’t stop you coming into our neighborhood but play by the rules and respect the fact that we were here first and that our culture is not going to be diluted by your pursuit of profit.”

Among the venues that have been forced to fight closure threats in the past are London’s iconic Ministry of Sound and the 100 Club. Venues that face similar threats today include Bristol venues, the Thekla, the Fiddlers and the Fleece. Campaigners are also battling to protect the Womanby Street music quarter in Cardiff from developers.

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.”