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Music biz leaders head to parliament today in fight to save venues

A raft of artists and industry figureheads will challenge Government to enshrine the Agent Of Change principle in law later this morning

Music biz trade body UK Music will this morning (January 10) spearhead a fight to save venues up and down the country, as an array of artists and industry figureheads head to Westminster to make their case for the Agent Of Change principle to be enshrined in law.

The proposed legislation would mean developers would have 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.

The campaign for the Agent Of Change law has attracted cross-party support from politicians and several leading musicians, including Sir Paul McCartney, Brian Eno, Chrissie Hynde, Nick Mason, Sandie Shaw, Nadine Shah, Ray Davies, Imogen Heap, Billy Bragg, Feargal Sharkey and Craig David.

The proposed legislation is being brought forward by Labour MP and former Government Minister John Spellar who will table his Planning (Agent of Change) Bill in the House of Commons later today.

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.”

John Spellar added: “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.”

Speaking to PSNEurope, Shah outlined the importance of independent venues for the future of the music industry: “Every independent music venue has its own unique history; if the walls could speak we would be presented with thousands of stories of musical legends which have graced their stages over the years. It is of the utmost importance that we protect these places. Independent venues are the backbone of the music industry, places where we nourish and grow tomorrow’s musical icons. The agent of change principle will require those responsible for new residential accommodation to ensure that measures are put into place to allow venues to continue to operate as they do whilst co-existing with these new developments. The UK prides itself on its musical output and without these measures being put into place to ensure the safety of these venues then the British music industry itself will quickly become a grey dull version of its former vibrant glittering self.”

Beatles legend McCartney added: “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.”

Commenting on the plight of grassroots venues, Chrissie Hynde stated: “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 follow 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.”

Recently, the Music Venue Trust set up an outreach campaign online to spread the message of its Agent Of Change campaign, gaining almost double the support than initially hoped. The charity has gained 992 supporters at the time of writing on its Thunderclap page supporting the proposed law amendment, almost double that of its initial target of 500. You can find out more on the campaign here.