Monday, December 21, 2015

Silent nights

"A watershed in the gradual erosion of the UK’s small-scale music venues"? That, says Ed Gillett ominously in an excellent (though very much London-centric) article for the Quietus, may unfortunately be one of the ways in which 2015 is remembered. The year saw the closure of a number of significant venues (including, incidentally, Madame JoJo's in Soho, which I went to once, to see Japandroids' first UK show). The worrying trend, he suggests, is being fuelled by several factors, including the creep of gentrification, noise complaints (often from NIMBY newbies), local councils revoking licences and the austerity measures that are impacting on many people's financial ability to go out and support live music. (No mention of Tinder or Grindr, though...)

Some might point to the prevalence of pop-up venues as cause for measured optimism, but Gillett is very far from convinced: "Their finite lifespan demands a quick and direct route to profitability, which perhaps explains why so many of them veer towards universal feel-good fodder: an ocean of barbeques, cupcakes, and cocktails, pop culture references, and cheerfully bland infantilisation of a ball pit for ‘adults’".

On a positive note, however, Gillett observes that the Music Venue Trust continues to fight the good fight with such publications as Understanding Small Music Venues, and that the "agent of change" principle, if implemented across all relevant policy areas, can offer some hope in protecting the cultural history and heritage of venues from assault by disgruntled individuals and/or newcomers.

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