Sir Paul McCartney among musicians lobbying for change in law to save venues
Sir Paul McCartney has warned the future of music is in danger as he called for a change in the law to protect live venues across the UK.
The former Beatle is joined by Brian Eno, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, The Kinks’ Ray Davies and an array of politicians and campaigners in backing a plan to stop the closure of grassroots venues after more than a third were said to have closed in the past decade, according to research by UK Music.
A number of stars are to gather outside the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday morning as parliament prepares to discuss introducing the Agent of Change principle into law, which could offer a legal lifeline to live performers.
Chief executive of UK Music and former Labour MP Michael Dugher said the cross-party backed Bill was an “SOS to ministers to act and act urgently”, in an interview with the Press Association.
He said the next Ed Sheeran may struggle to succeed in the future as they cannot hone their craft in small venues.
The principle would force property developers to consider nearby clubs, bars and gig venues before proceeding with construction, placing the onus on them to find solutions to potential noise issues for their future tenants.
For example, they could be forced to fund extra soundproofing for the venue to avoid the risk of new residents complaining.
Other stars lending their support include Craig David, Nadine Shah, Chrissie Hynde and Billy Bragg.
Among the venues that have had to fight the threat of closure are London’s Ministry Of Sound and the 100 Club while Bristol’s barge-based venue, Thekla, is among others in danger.
Campaigners are also battling to protect the Womanby Street music quarter in Cardiff from developers while last year The Square in Harlow, which hosted Coldplay, Blur, Supergrass and Muse when they were starting out, closed as a result of a planning dispute.
Sir Paul said: “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.”
Hynde said the “whole world will suffer” if the venues are not kept open.
“It isn’t talent shows on television or theatre schools that propagate great music, it’s small venues,” she said.
“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,” she added.
Mr Dugher said Britain’s status as a hub of musical talent was threatened by the closures.
He said: “If you don’t have really healthy grassroots music venues where on earth are the next generation of global superstars going to get their chance to learn their craft, hone their trade, build an audience?
“It’s tomorrow’s Adeles, tomorrow’s Ed Sheerans, tomorrow’s stars… All of the biggest names in music, all started somewhere. They were all given a stage somewhere and we’re in danger of taking that stage away from them.
“The huge global success we enjoy at the moment is being put in jeopardy unless we do something about protecting music venues.”
The Agent of Change is currently included in planning guidance but can be ignored as it is not compulsory in England, Scotland or Wales.
At the end of last year, London Mayor Sadiq Khan added the principle to his draft London Plan while the Welsh government has pledged to introduce it in future planning policy.
Labour MP John Spellar will table the Agent of Change Bill on Wednesday and is expected to receive support from his frontbench colleagues as well as a number of Lib Dem, SNP and Tory MPs.