Photo by Jannica Honey

Lord Tim Clement-Jones’ Opening Speech, Venues Day 2018

I am delighted to be helping to introduce the fifth Venues Day.

I’ve attended all of them, from when Music Venue Trust and the Music Venues Alliance was just a concept through to now.

There are now 470 venue members of the Music Venues Alliance.

It’s the largest venue membership organisation in Europe, part of a network of over 3500 venues right across Europe, all of them facing similar challenges to those we have in the UK. Huge credit to Mark and Bev in particular for their vision and dedication in building the MVT to this stage.

6 years ago, I celebrated the coming into force of the Live Music Act – itself the culmination of a 5-year campaign with UK Music the MU and many others to deregulate the performance of live music in small venues.
But I celebrated too soon. There has been, in recent years, a perfect storm of circumstances resulting in a continuing decline in live music venues.

Rising rents and business rates, property developments, noise complaints, complaints about anti-social behaviour and more are all conspiring to damage our night-time economy.

As is stands, the cultural contribution of a Grassroots Music Venue is not considered at all. Once gone, these venues will not come back into our towns and cities.

In response, the work of the Trust across the last four years has exploded in all directions, encompassing the law, planning, licensing, tariffs, live music industry issues, the cultural framework, and it is working on your behalf with all layers of government, the cultural sector and the music industry.

There are always new threats which need to be met. Just take business rates In London alone the Nordicity study carried out for the Mayor of London last year showed that 21 of London’s 94 GMVs are at high risk of closure due to business rates increases of an average 26%.

Successful campaigns like Agent of Change are the public facing outcomes of that work.

The introduction of Agent of Change in the National Planning Policy Framework marked a key moment in the fight to protect under threat music venues. Local authorities are legally bound to comply with the NPPF which means that all planning committees must consider the principle when making decisions on applications and in framing their own planning decisions.

But again, it has been really important to keep the pressure up on local government to properly adopt the changes and on Ministers too to make sure the guidance issued by the Government on Agent of Change is clear.

But this day, and the way it has grown, is the most important part of the work of the Trust. Bringing us all together but maintaining the unique independence of each venue.

As Mark says the Trust believes that you know best how to run your music venue in your town or city. It is the independence of Grassroots Music Venues as one of the key elements that make them so distinct and unique.

But by working together on the collective challenges and opportunities we face at a national level, it can make it easier for you to do that wherever you are.

Every one of the venues represented here today is facing some of the same pressures, whether it is noise complaints, or a local council that doesn’t seem to understand the work you do. I don’t have to tell you how important music – particularly live music – is in all our lives. Music is powerful, socially, culturally and economically.

Everything in this fantastic live music industry begins the first time a young person takes a tentative first step on to a stage at one of your venues. Without you, there’s nowhere to start and no one in the industry, or government, or in culture or the creative industries, should be allowed to forget that.