Music Venue Trust have reached a huge step forward to save grassroots venues

The Agent of Change campaign has seen some massive success in the last few days. Here’s the low-down. 

Three years after Frank Turner launched the Music Venue Trust campaign to make Agent of Change a part of UK Law to protect grassroots music venues, music fans, artists, organisations and politicians are uniting behind John Spellar MP’s Ten Minute Rule Bill, which will be read in Parliament on Wednesday 10 January and could finally bring this long overdue protection onto the statute books.

The Agent of Change Principle is not complicated or controversial, it’s simple common sense: Agent of Change says that the person or business responsible for the change is responsible for managing the impact of the change.

This means that an apartment block to be built near an established live music venue would have to pay for soundproofing, while a live music venue opening in a residential area would be responsible for the costs. A resident who moves next door to a music venue would, in law, be assessed as having made that decision understanding that there’s going to be some music noise, and a music venue that buys a new PA would be expected to carry out tests to make sure its noise emissions don’t increase.

While most people would see Agent of Change as a common sense legal position, MVT Strategic Director Beverley Whitrick explains this is not the case: “At the moment, UK law says that whoever is making a nuisance is always responsible for that nuisance. If a noise exists, you can deliberately move next to it and demand it be turned off and UK law will support you. You can build balsa wood huts next door to a music venue and simply wait for your residents to complain and the venue will have to pay all the costs to reduce their noise. This is unfair and unreasonable. John Spellar’s Bill will stop it, and that’s why we are reaching out across the music industry, cultural sector and politics to ask parliament to act and make Agent of Change the law.”

The measure has attracted cross-party support across parliament. Ed Vaizey MP said: “Adopting agent of change into planning laws is an important step in protecting the future of our country’s many excellent small music venues. As well as sitting at the heart of so many communities, these venues are vital in providing the first rung on the ladder for artists’ success and  in enabling our world-leading creative industries to continue to grow”.

Now, Music Venue Trust is calling on all music fans to take action to support John Spellar’s Agent of Change Bill. A Thunderclap to unite social media accounts has been launched and has already reached its first target. The charity is urging music fans to write directly to their local MP, asking them to support the Bill.

“I’m delighted to see movement on the Agent Of Change bill,” said Frank Turner who led the Music Venue Trust petition in 2014, starting this campaign which could now be reaching a successful conclusion. “It’s a simple measure which will help solve a serious and long-standing issue for small music venues around the country, the centres of our underground culture. I’m excited at the prospect of the bill becoming law, it needs all the support it can get!”

Music Venue Trust is working with key music organisations on the campaign, with UK Music spearheading the efforts to ensure that the music industry’s concerns are heard by government.  Michael Dugher of UK Music said:

“The Music Venue Trust does a fantastic job highlighting the urgent need for action to save our amazing live music venues which give artists their first break, make a significant contribution to our economy and culture, and bring pleasure to millions of music fans. The music industry brings £4.4 billion a year towards the UK’s economy.  However, despite that success, many smaller and grassroots venues are battling for survival, often due to the threat posed by new developers. I would urge everyone to join the fight to save live music and our cherished music venues by getting behind our battle to get Agent of Change enshrined in law.”

MVT’s newest trustee, barrister Sarah Clover, is an expert in Licensing and has been working with both MVT and UK Music to advise on Agent of Change. Sarah explains:

Music venues and all types of licensed premises have to operate within the framework of the law. Too often, the law hinders or even harms our valuable cultural assets, for no good reason, and it doesn’t have to be this way.  I am passionate about scrutinising our licensing, planning and noise control laws to see how they can work better together, and where improvements can be made. The Agent of Change principle is all about negotiating relationships in our increasingly vibrant communities. We need housing and we need our cultural spaces, and both have to co-exist. Agent of Change is the tool we will use to reconcile any conflict in land uses so that these different needs are met and I am proud to be part of this work.”

So there you have it. You know this is important, you know we need to save our venues.