The Charlatans perform in 2008 at the Astoria, one of 50 live music venues to have closed in London in eight years. Photograph: REX Shutterstock
A urgent city-wide campaign has been launched to save London’s live music venues, the number of which has declined by 35% in eight years.
Since 2007, 50 venues have shut their doors for good, leaving the capital with just 88. Historic venues such as the Marquee Club, the Astoria, the 12 Bar Club, Water Rats and Madame Jojo’s have disappeared from the map, falling victim to high costs, complaints from residents and pressures from developers. Many more are on the brink of closure.
“An increasing population means that residential development is taking place cheek-by-jowl with night-time activity, ” a report by the mayor of London’s music venue taskforce says. “This pressure, coupled with rising property prices and increasing costs for grassroots music venues, is proving too much and venues are closing.”
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The report makes six major recommendations which will be put into practice over the next few years to ensure that London’s remaining music venues will not continue to die a slow death.
They includes the creation of a “night mayor” to champion the night-time economy, and adopting the “agent of change” principle, which makes residential developers responsible for the costs of soundproofing if they build near an existing venue.
Thanks to the pressures of gentrification and increased demand for accommodation, many music venue landlords have chosen to sell their properties to developers. Venues such as the Flowerpot in Camden have been demolished and turned into flats, while escalating rents have forced others to close.
The task force’s report urges local authorities to offer urgent relief on business rates for grassroots venues, and to change highly restrictive and outdated planning and licensing laws.
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Venues that have been there for decades but have new residential neighbours are vulnerable to noise complaints, and local authorities have been quick to withdraw licences at the first sign of grievance by residents.
The mayor’s office has vowed to work with councils to demonstrate how live music venues, far from bringing trouble and increased police costs, are actually economically and culturally beneficial.
The report has the backing of both musicians and venue owners, who said it was vital something was done before it was too late.