Russia kicks out British Council and ends 60 years cultural exchange

Russia kicks out British Council and ends 60 years cultural exchange

By Simon Tait

Top 10 suffer drop in visitors

Top 10 suffer drop in visitors

London less successful than rest of UK, according to ALVA figures

TaitMail     The enchantment quotient

TaitMail The enchantment quotient

Hooray! Despite everything, Brexit, terror attacks, Southern Rail and London Bridge Station,  the Beast from the East, Russian nerve gas and the Arsenal’s dismal form, tourism is up!

THE WORD     Working to keep playing – vital support our musicians need

THE WORD Working to keep playing – vital support our musicians need

A musician’s career is precarious and its stresses can have a devastating effect on their health and well-being. The charity Help Musicians UK is 100 in 2021 and has increased its impact by 600% in three years. Its chairman, Graham Sheffield, director arts for the British Council, sets out its mission and centenary target

THEATRE    British theatre's unseen East Asian playwrights

THEATRE British theatre's unseen East Asian playwrights

A source of great drama is missing from the British canon. A conference next month aims to open the treasure chest of work by South East Asian playwrights and theatre-makers, as Cheryl Robson, founder of the publisher Aurora Metro, explains

Hull’s cultural explosion seen by 5.3m

Hull’s cultural explosion seen by 5.3m

A total audience of 5.3m went to 2,800 events in Hull during its successful UK City of Culture year in 2012, according to the University of Hull.

Artists back Bradford Odeon venue plan

Culture leaders urge Hancock to use Northern Powerhouse funding

UK soft power exports worth £21bn, £6bn more than official stats

UK soft power exports worth £21bn, £6bn more than official stats

New research published today shows that the value of the UK’s creative digital exports, from video games to the BBC’s Blue Planet - our so-called soft power - is £6bn higher than official figures, at £21bn a year.

THEATRE    Traveller's tales and mission faith with the RSC

THEATRE Traveller's tales and mission faith with the RSC

Erica Whyman, deputy artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, is in charge of its touring programme, and as the current tour ends there are some popular myths, she tells Simon Tait, that need to be set right

 We're losing our future music makers!

We're losing our future music makers!

The crisis in music education, with teenagers’ involvement at its lowest level ever, means the next David Bowie, Adele or Ed Sheeran will be lost to the future, unless a new consortium being launched tonight in Shepherds Bush can halt the slide. Simon Tait reports 

Sky man to take over ENO

Sky man to take over ENO

Former television executive Stuart Murphy is to be the new CEO in succession to Cressida Pollock in the latest chapter of English National Opera’s turbulent story.

Teaching the arts to ask for money

Teaching the arts to ask for money

The arts get 2% of charity giving, so free crash courses to learn fundraising are being offered online to tackle the urgent problem of how to fundraise for culture projects. Simon Tait reports

Youth theatre is victim of Scottish cash cuts

Youth theatre is victim of Scottish cash cuts

Scottish Youth Theatre became the latest victim of funding cuts with the announcement that it is to close in July.

Seeing the world - art helping save children's sight

Seeing the world - art helping save children's sight

Artist Tim Benson puts a mirror up to Zambia for Orbis in Mall Galleries exhibition.

Coalfields could become ‘deserts of culture’ says MP

Labour’s John Mann demands action from Arts Council England

Women at War - the untold story is told at last

Women at War - the untold story is told at last

The Imperial War Museum has created an archive dedicated to the key work women did in the First World War, launched tomorrow (March 8) to mark International Women’s Day.

Culture goes digital

The government is opening the way to the latest digital technology for theatres, museums and heritage organisations in a £2m programme, culture secretary Matt Hancock announced today.

Those daring young women…

Those daring young women…

Women’s place under the big top is being celebrated in this year’s Circus 250 programme the launch tomorrow, March 8, of the film Women in Circus, helping to mark International Women’s Day  

VENUES Facing the music

Grassroots music and arts venues are threatened by ever encroaching residential development. Patrick Kelly reports

The redoubtable East End pub landlady may be a fictional trope beloved of casting directors everywhere, but at the George Tavern in Stepney they have a real live version. Not that Pauline Forster is anything like a stock character. A successful designer who gave up her business to study art and was hauled off by police for staging an artistic intervention at the open- ing of Tate Modern, she took over the George Tavern in 2006 and has turned it into an iconic music venue and performance art hub. A string of celebrity acts have appeared here, often at the beginning of their career.

Last month, Pauline won an important victory in what’s been a 10 year- long battle to save her pub from possible closure. A planning inspector has just thrown out an application to build a block of flats next door to the George, backing Pauline’s objections.

Why would a pub turn away potential local customers? Because she is certain her new neighbours would complain about noise and the 3am licence that keeps her business going would be lost.

This isn’t a case of paranoia. In Manchester major gig venue Night & Day, which has seen the likes of Elbow and the Arctic Monkeys play there in its 23 year history, is under threat after a noise complaint. Despite backing from Elbow’s Guy Garvey, The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and the Musicians Union, the venue has been served with an abatement notice and Manchester City council is reviewing the club’s licence.

The Blind Tiger and Freebutt in Brighton and the 200 Club in Newport, Gwent, have closed as a result of noise problems. Another Newport pub has been forced to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise £10,000 to soundproof the roof after being served with a noise abatement notice.

And one of Bristol’s most famous venues, The Fleece, in business for 32 years, feared “a deluge of complaints” after developers decided to convert a neighbouring office block into flats. A joint campaign with Bristol City Council to insist that developers include sound insulation measures in their plans, has failed.

Not far away from the George, the Wapping Project, a creative arts project and café closed following a slew of complaints from nearby residents.

What’s more, a major report by the Mayor of London found that London
has lost 50% of its nightclubs and 40% of its live music venues over the last eight years, many as a result of plan- ning and noise issues.

“We need work and office space in this area, not flats next to a music venue,” Pauline told the East London Advertiser, fresh from a celebratory concert to mark her court victory. “But it’s been marketed as ‘residential’. Each resident would have the right to complain about our noise.”

Tension between local residents and successful (and usually, noisy) venues is nothing new, of course. But recent legislation and new planning rules have made the situation much worse, says the Music Venue Trust, which campaigns for grassroots venues. The shortage of housing has encouraged developers to build on former industrial sites, where many music venues, attracted in past decades by cheap rents and lack of neighbours, have grown up. City centre sites are also attractive to developers, and most of these sites lie close to night-time venues.

There’s also a problem of attitudes, says the Trusts strategic director, Beverley Whitrick. Local councils say they are legally bound to investigate the complaints of council taxpayers, but fail to take into account the interests of venues, who are ratepayers and who contribute to the economic and commercial health of cities and towns. “Music venues are not perceived as cultural institutions in the same way that theatres or arts centres are. They are put in the same bracket as much more pro table enterprises like nightclubs and bars”.

She added that many grassroots venues are run on a shoestring and have no access to the lawyers and consultants who represent local authorities or developers.

“Venues are suffering up and down the country. Most of them are small businesses and they don’t really have the finances to fight this kind of thing, and they end up losing their business” adds Beverley.

Small grassroots venues have played a crucial role in the development of British music over the last 40 years, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their skills, she points out.

It’s this contribution to the cultural life of city centres which is under threat, says MVT. Small venues form “the entire bedrock of the whole British music scene”, according to MVT founder Mark Davyd, who co-owns the Forum in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. “Without these music venues we simply will not have any musical talent coming through” he says.

The Music Venue Trust wants the UK to adopt the “agent of change” principle, which would force de- velopers who build a block of flats next to a venue that is not otherwise causing a nuisance, to pay for sound- proofing.

The idea has been adopted in Melbourne, and both the Greater London Authority and the Welsh Assembly have agreed to pursue similar proposals. But so far, despite support from MPs of all parties, the UK Government maintains that current regulations on noise nuisance should be upheld, with no ifs or buts.

“This problem is very fixable” says Michael Dugher, chief executive of UK Music which is launching a major campaign to protect grassroots music venues this autumn. “All that you need is a sensible planning sys- tem in place which means that the conflict between residents and venues doesn’t lead to closures.”

He believes that there is now widespread acceptance that the “change agents” rule should be part of statute. It was part of the Labour Party’s manifesto in the June election and he is hopeful that MPs will support the campaign.

The venues’ case has an unlikely supporter in the Noise Abatement Society, which agrees that many problems would be nipped in the bud if developers installed good insulation. It wants stricter requirements on the developer at the planning stage.

Meanwhile, Pauline Forster faces another problem. Just weeks after her celebrations, she heard that other developers who have put in a planning bid to convert an empty office block in Jubilee Street at the back of her pub into, what else, but 40 luxury flats.

The Music Venues Trust is organising its annual Venues Day on October 17 at the Ministry of Sound in London. De- tails from

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