Boris Johnson backs fight to save small music venues

Infinity Tunbridge Wells

The Forum-led fight to save small music venues gathered steam last week when London mayor Boris Johnson threw his weight behind the campaign.

The people who operate The Forum also run the Music Venues Trust, a charity set up in response to the threats small venues face from housing developments, falling customer numbers and spiralling costs.

As reported by the Times this month, the charity chairs a taskforce launched by Mr Johnson in March charged with securing the future of these venues.


A report based on the charity’s recommendations published on October 19 announced the mayor’s support for its proposals, including backing the ‘agent of change’ principle, which makes developers responsible for conflicts arising from building homes near live music venues.

Forum co-owner and charity trustee Jason Dorman said: “Things look really positive with regards to the agent of change principle being adopted.

“Everyone agrees that it’s a good idea that will go a long way to helping small venues, but it’s a major law change and actually putting it into practice will take a bit more time.

“We’ve got to keep the pressure on.”

As well as support for the agent of change, the report also announced plans for a ‘night time economy champion’ to promote the merits of an industry worth £66 billion a year to the UK, and for a London Music Development Board to take forward the action plan to protect venues.

Though the report focuses on London, the hope is that changing attitudes in the capital will be a catalyst for change nationwide.

Mr Johnson said: “The Music Venues Taskforce report makes it clear that protecting live music venues is crucial to London’s continued position as the music capital of the world.

“This timely report will shape our long-term action plan to safeguard and revive London’s vital network of live music venues, ensuring the future of the capital’s culturally and economically impor-tant music scene.”

Jason Dorman said: “Through changing atti-tudes and policy in London, we can change them nationwide.

“With the capital as a flagship, we can lead small venues in every town, city and county to a more secure and fairer future.”

The report was released in advance of Music Venues Day on October 20, an event that celebrated smaller venues and brought together professionals from the sector to network, share ideas and plan for the future.

Mr Dorman said: “The Forum was there in force and it was a well organised and very successful day.

“Minister for culture Ed Vaizey and a lot of other prominent people from the Greater London Authority and the Arts council were there.

“It’s essentially a symposium to get everyone together and unite them in the fight.

“It’s through joined-up pressure that we have a chance of making the changes that can safeguard the future of the industry’s grassroots.”

What is the agent of change principle?

An idea that has already proven successful in Australia and Canada, the agent of change principle puts the onus on a developer to mitigate against future problems, such as noise complaints, that arise from a new development arriving in an area where a live music, or any other venue, is already established.

Noise complaints are one of the most serious threats venues face, with one from a resident sometimes enough to put it on the path to closure.

Under the agent of change principle, developers’ responsibilities would include footing the bill for soundproofing, while venues currently might have to fork out thousands of pounds if a new residential development is built nearby.

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