Friday 14 December 2018

Future Ed Sheerans face threat of nowhere to perform, warns music chief

Campaigners want a change in the law.

Ed Sheeran (Isabel Infantes/PA)
Ed Sheeran (Isabel Infantes/PA)

By Joe Nerssessian, Press Association

The next generation of British musicians risk having nowhere to perform unless the Government acts to save threatened venues, a music industry chief has warned.

More than a third of grassroots venues have closed over the past decade, according to research by UK Music, as Parliament prepares to discuss introducing the Agent of Change principle, which could offer a legal lifeline to live performers.

Chief executive of UK Music and former Labour MP Michael Dugher said the Bill, which has cross-party support including backing from former culture minister Ed Vaizey, was an “SOS to ministers to act and act urgently”, in an interview with the Press Association.

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Save Womanby Street group

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.

Mr Dugher said Britain’s status as a hub of musical talent was threatened by the closures of grassroots venues across the country.

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Michael Dugher on guitar (Ian West/PA)

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… Agent of Change is an SOS to ministers to act and act urgently.”

Referencing the threats of rising business rates and other licensing laws, Mr Dugher described the Agent of Change principle as a “significant piece in the jigsaw” to saving live music.

“The industry is speaking with one voice here… This is people who have seen it, been it, and done it saying this is the critical factor in our success that has brought enormous enjoyment and enormous wealth to the country, and so that’s something really worth fighting for,” he said.

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.

Press Association

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