Friday, 20 November 2015

#SaveLondonMusic Friday Update - Support from GLA rep Darren Johnson

This is going to be a new regular feature on the Barnet Eye. Every Friday I'll give you an update on the #SaveLondonMusic Campaign. This is a campaign I passionately believe in. For those of you who don't know my background, I run a large music studio in North West London, I play guitar in  band called the False Dots, I'm a member of the organising committee of the Mill Hill Music Festival and I founded the Save London Music campign in February 2015. The campaign is working to make the case to protect London music venues and studios Specifically we want to see the following

1. Special protection for important London music venues from redevelopment. This should take two forms. The first should grant important venues the same protection as listed buildings. The second is that where large infrastructure projects destroy venues (such as the Astoria), the venue should be resited elsewhere in equivalent or better premises at zero cost to the operator.

2. Established venues should be protected from noise and disruption complaints from neighbours. Soundproofing etc should not be the responsibility of the venue, where the venue is an established music site.

3. As creative industries are a key component in the UK economy, tax breaks, planning assistance and grants should be made avaialble to any company or individual investing in infrastrure to support creative industries.  This should be done with a view to ensuring the UK maintains its leading position as the centre of world music.

From a music perspective the following should be available.
    * Generous Capital allowances for investment in venues and studios
    * Free or discounted planning costs for studios,  music venues and other music related companies
        (such as instrument manufacturers etc).
    * Rates holidays for start up businesses involved in the music and creative sector. A six month
       period of zero rates and a six month period of 50% rates would give businesses a great
       opportunity to get off the ground and generate employment
     * Offer grants to creative industries to assist with the costs etc of starting a creative business,
        specifically for assistance with the cost of consultants for noise control and other issues which
        are specific to the music industry.
    * Enact legislation to ensure that major new developments include an element of light industrial
       space suitable for creative industries and studio space at low rent.
    * Offer mentoring and assistance to young people wishing to set up SME's focussing on the
       creative sector.

Yesterday I went to the GLA to see Darren Johnson, who is one of the Green GLA reps and who has been a leading light in the campaign to get the Mayor to recognise the importance of music venues in the London music scene and the important role it plays in the UK economy. We discussed the issues raised above and Darren was totally in agreement on the issues I raised. We both agreed that this is not a party political issue and I was reassurred to hear that the Mayor is also on board with this. Darren gave me some useful contacts for other people running various campaigns and has agreed to help with ensuring that the issues are recognised and moved forward within the GLA and the Mayors office. I explained to Darren that this campaign is very much one which seeks to influence people and build consensus, rather than a man the barricades style campaign.

It is important to note that it is not just teenagers in rock bands that these issues affect. There is virtually no aspect of your daily life that isn't touched by music. Every commercial on TV has music, every program you watch has music. Every radio station has music and jingles. Every West End show has music. When we are married and at our funeral we have music. At our parties we have music. When we relax we have music. All of this is made by creative musicians. Every one of them has spent years learning their craft, generally at  great expense. In our studios we see dozens of musicians every day coming in to fine hone their trade.  It is a passion and requires dedication.  We shouldn't just be seeking to defend the ever shrinking number of venues and studios, we should be encouraging the sector to grow. I am a great believer in local venues and local studios. As I explained to Darren, whilst the big venues are significant, the small puds, occasional venues such as  schools and church halls are equally important. This is where the talent starts and hones its trade. We need these venues to thrive. This year we had the most successful ever Mill Hill Music Festival in June. It is clear that there was a huge audience for all sorts of music, from the Reggae of Joe Angel to the Opera of Opera Up Close. I'd like to see every district in London have such a festival.

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The Chandos Arms win the best newcomer award
Good music can turn around a failing pub. One such example is the excellent work done by Emily at The Chandos Arms, very good friends of this blog. They won the "Best Newcomer" category in the Pub awards ceremony yesterday. Eighteen months ago the pub was on its last legs. Emily has completely turned it around. I've worked with her to stage gigs, including some incredible shows by Madness Sax player Lee Thompson.

They have another concert by Lee coming up on the 12th December, Don't miss it.

Finally, as it's Friday,  I thought I'd share one of my favourite pieces of music with you, as performed by one of my favourite artists. You may wonder why I am choosing an American artist with no strong London ties to finish this particular blog? Because Joni Mitchell inspired me and I really hope she isnpires you to write some great music.  As this series progresses I will highlight some of my favourite music in this slot. This song is one of the most haunting and beautiful pieces of music ever written. People often think of Joni as the cheeky hippy chick of Big Yellow Taxi. This is an altogether darker song. I hope you enjoy it.

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