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Sir Paul backs moves to save live music

By Pete Madeley | Entertainment | Published:

Sir Paul McCartney and a host of rock and pop legends are backing a move in Parliament to save music venues from closure.

Sir Paul McCartney is backing a move to protect music venues

The Beatles legend is the most high profile supporter of Warley MP John Spellar's Agent of Change bill, which was discussed in the Commons for the first time this week.

The proposed legislation is aimed at changing planning laws that the Labour MP says don't currently take into account the impact that new schemes have on gig venues nearby.

UK Music, a campaign group representing both the recorded and live music industries, said that over the past decade two thirds of music venues across the country have closed.

Sir Paul said: "Without the grassroots clubs, pubs and music venues my career could have been very different.

"If we don't support music at this level, then the future of music in general is in danger."

Other stars to back the bill – which passed through its first stage – include Chrissie Hynde, Craig David, Sandie Shaw, Ray Davies, Billy Bragg, Feargal Sharkey and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason.

Hynde, a founding member of The Pretenders, said: "When I heard of the impending threat to small venues, my heart skipped a beat.

"It isn't talent shows on television or theatre schools that propagate great music, it's small venues.

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"They're the setting of everything great that's come out of the music scene in this country, from the Beatles to Oasis and beyond. England has long led the world of popular music; the rest of the world follow England.

"If small venues shut down, so will England's unique creative output. It will be like locking up playgrounds at schools. The whole world will suffer, not just England."

David, who scored number one hits with Fill Me In and Seven Days, said: "As an artist I'm concerned that music venues are facing unprecedented threats and it is a matter of great concern to us all."

Warley MP John Spellar is spearheading the campaign

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Mr Spellar's bill proposes that developers must take account of the impact of any new building scheme on pre-existing businesses like music venues before going ahead with their plans.

That could mean a developer of new flats takes responsibility for soundproofing to avoid the risk of new neighbours complaining about noise from a music venue.

Mr Spellar said: "Fewer venues means less work, less opportunity to develop talent or even find out that you are not going to make it in the industry, but also to move up from amateur to part-time, to full-time, to national or even international stardom.

"If the present situation does not change, we are in danger of taking away the ladder that has served individual musicians and the music industry so well for so long."

Mr Spellar's bill has been backed by scores of MPs and peers, including the former Tory culture minister Ed Vaizey, and organisations including the Music Venue Trust and the Musicians' Union.

According to UK Music, venues under threat from developers include three Bristol venues: the Thekla, the Fiddlers and the Fleece, as well as the Womanby Street music quarter in Cardiff.

A number of high profile venues have closed in recent years.

They include The Free Trade Hall in Manchester, where the Sex Pistols played a major gig in 1976.

The venue, which also hosted Bob Dylan, was demolished and has been replaced by a 5-star hotel.

Another is The Square in Harlow, which hosted Coldplay, Blur, Supergrass and Muse in their early years, but closed in 2016 as a result of a planning dispute.

Meanwhile, London's iconic dance club Ministry of Sound and the 100 Club, where The Who, Sex Pistols and Oasis have performed, are among the venues that have had to fight closure threats.

UK Music's chief executive Michael Dugher, himself a former Labour MP, said if closures continue they will severely impact the music industry's ability to grow the huge contribution it makes to the UK economy.

He added: "The UK music industry contributes more than £4bn to our economy and brings pleasure to millions of people at home and overseas.

"It's time for the Government to get behind the legislation and help save the venues that are such a crucial part of the music industry."

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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