Ensuring small music venue experience will live forever


    Apart from being world famous, platinum selling artists, Oasis, Coldplay, Adele, and Muse all have one thing in common: they cut their teeth at The Forum.

    The importance of small music venues to up and coming artists, communities, and the music industry is universally acknowledged.

    Yet many such venues around the country are under threat of closure, and The Forum is in the vanguard of the fight for their survival.

    A report on how to protect venues is due to be published this month, the result of a task force set up by London Mayor Boris Johnson and Music Venue Trust, a charity run by the minds behind the Forum.

    Forum co-owner Jason Dorman said: “Every small venue in the UK is under threat because they rely on the passion and commitment of their volunteers.

    “All it takes is for someone to say, ‘I need to earn some money, I’m not doing this any more’, and that place will probably close. It’s a very precarious business model.”

    Mr Dorman hopes the task force will bring about changes in attitude and legislation that will make it easier for small venues to thrive.

    Business partner Richard Simm said: “There’s a historical bias towards funding for more esoteric forms of art.

    “Putting on a gig used to work better as you had more customers and bigger bar takes. But, through the internet, music has increasingly become free and people aren’t coming out as much to experience it live.

    “We aren’t looking for much subsidising, but a fairer chance in terms of tax breaks and business rates as well as support from the larger bodies in the industry.

    “Somewhere like the Royal Opera House gets lots of government funding, but is only for a very few people. That’s fine, we just want a level playing field.”

    Mr Dorman added: “It’s an argument we were having locally and decided to have on a national scale.

    “We have the weight of hundreds of venues behind us now, and if we can change the attitude in London, the rest of our cities and counties will follow.”

    Trust patron Frank Turner, who played The Forum in 2003 before hitting the big time, said: “Acts like Coldplay didn’t pop fully formed into this world.

    “These are skills and talents that have to be honed somewhere. If we’re careless about the places where this sort of culture can evolve, then it won’t exist.

    “The only thing you will be left with at the top of the food chain is Simon Cowell.”

    The Forum Tunbridge Wells

    Agent of change principle

    The Music Venue Trust is campaigning for a change in legislation that would protect small venues from one of the most serious threats they face: new housing developments and resulting noise complaints.

    Frank Turner explained: “Across the country we are seeing music venues being threatened with closure because of changes in planning laws to encourage more residents to move into town centres.

    “Music venues are now fighting off noise complaints, abatement notices and planning applications.

    “Under UK law the business or person making the noise is making the nuisance, and they must manage it. The simple solution is the agent of change principle.

    “Under the agent of change principle, if a music venue is in place before the residential building, the residential building would be responsible for paying for soundproofing.

    “Likewise, if a new music venue opens in a residential area, the venue is responsible for the cost.”

    The agent of change principle is already being successfully used in Australia, and it is hoped its adoption in the UK would go a long way to help protect our small music venues from closure.