“You can move to a nuisance”

“You can move to a nuisance”

Those words chilled me at the time I heard them in 2009 as they were from a senior officer in BCC’s Environmental Health Department. They were used by one of the panel members representing Environmental Health, Licensing, and Planning Departments at an informal discussion at the Town Hall, kindly hosted by them, to share views and questions between the departments and landlords, venue managers and other interested parties re recent issues around live music venues and complaints from new residents to the area around those already existing venues.

The same gentlemen referred to the “Human right to a good night’s sleep” I’ve not checked but I was convinced that he was convinced that this was in the European statute of human rights.

So his and the department’s position, revealed clearly that evening is that if a complaining resident’s sleep was disturbed after 11pm even if they knew it would be when they moved to the property then “Environmental health officers who are qualified and trained to assess whether a noise is likely to be a statutory nuisance would be legally obliged to take legal action to stop the statutory nuisance”.

This meeting was held following the closure of the wonderful Fiddle and Bone, the threat to The Nightingale, the restrictions placed on The Spotted Dog and major difficulties for The Rainbow amongst others. During the meeting I concluded that the only way to preserve important music venues was to try to ensure that there was no inappropriate building of new residences near to them and that this had to be done at the planning stage.

Oddly I’d watched fascinated as the planning department refused permission for a new apartment build in Digbeth in 2008 on fears that “Residents would find the noise of gunfire and explosions from the neighbouring Gun Barrel Proofing House unbearable”. I knew that area well and had never heard a dicky bird from the Gun Barrel Proofing House myself but this showed the planning department had grasped the concept of not allowing development near to an important resource where new residents complaints might threaten the resource.

When a planning application was recently submitted for a new apartment build immediately adjacent to the cultural treasure that is The Hare and Hounds in King’s Heath I was concerned but it seemed such a ridiculous proposition that I didn’t over worry. A 3,000 signature petition delivered to the planning department, 100’s of comments directly to the planning department and the objection of current residents of the area to the proposal further assured me that the application would be rejected and rightly on Dec 20th it was, by the democratically elected councillors who are members of the planning committee.

Then at the next meeting of the planning committee on January 24th according to the Birmingham Mail The council’s chief planning officer, Richard Goulborn, told the committee: “We do not believe that approval of this apartment will jeopardise the operation of the Hare and Hounds.” as he overthrew the elected and representative councillor’s views.

I have spent this weekend angry, as have many others in Kings Heath, Moseley and across the City. Older ones amongst us have seen the cynicism of the developers who led to the demise of the Fiddle and Bone, they even hired the venue to show off their new apartments from across the canal to potential purchasers who then, when in residence complained and had the venue shut down.
Younger ones amongst us find yet another reason to be cynical of local government and it’s processes.

I’m angry that the planning department once again are showing no sign at all of recognising the importance of culture in the lives of our citizens and I’ve been devastated that despite this Council’s, I’m sure heartfelt commitment to transparency, accountability and increased local decision making we can end up with local wishes utterly ignored, over one apartment! Worth maybe £25k’s profit to the developer! We are putting one of the city’s cultural jewels at risk for that!

Remember the spokesman from Environmental Health’s comment Mr Goulborn? “You can move to a nuisance” “Our officers would be legally obliged…” That’s the threat from this approval to the Hare and Hounds.

I’ve lived through times in the 70’s and 80’s when this city’s informal music culture was strangled by a licensing committee that was as bent as a nine bob note. They were unique in the country, it took an act of parliament to disband the self generating, mainly slime balls, helped by a chairman of said committee going to jail for fraud.
I really did not think that by 2013 the biggest threat, other than the economy to the City’s music infrastructure was going to come from our very own planning department who seem to see the gun trade deserving one set of rules and live music another.

I know the application is for one apartment, it might be rented or purchased by some lovely, fluffy party animal who loves being there or it might be someone like my neighbours who have to get up for work at 4am in the morning and then we could be in trouble and that’s the unnecessary risk that I am so opposed to.

Councillor Martin Straker Welds, one or the planning committee members replied diligently this morning to my mail to him over the weekend pointing out that there were no legal grounds on which to turn down the application, he offered however to “ask the planning officers to keep a careful watch to ensure that the new construction is enabled to coexist in close proximity with live entertainment”. The problem there is that if a complaint is subsequently made by a new resident it’s not down to planning it’s over to Environmental Health whose officers are empowered……

So what now? There is no appeal, which in itself is one of the most cack-handed bits of legislation that I’ve ever come across, well maybe there is, perhaps an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, the same court that rules that someone has a human right to a good night’s sleep. I suspect that somewhere deep in the small print there might be a clause relating to the Human Right of a community to practice and enjoy it’s culture. I’m off for a read.

handh

A great summer

500 miles from end of 3 week tour

500 miles from end of 3 week tour

Having whizzed around Europe in May I was thinking that England might be a little dull in June but – wrong.

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I took James Hunter and his fine band to Glastonbury to play on the Park Stage on Friday afternoon. Great set as always and lovely to see Emily Eavis dancing along to them.

(Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

(Jim Dyson/Getty Images)

Whilst Glastonbury slept I took the boys back to London and got them checked in at Heathrow at 5.00am for Finland then dropped tour bus and caught train back to Glastonbury for 2 days r and r.

(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Worked there lots before but never had a couple of days to wander with no responsibilities.

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Our tent was unbelievably placed almost on its own in a field of Clover – pure luck.

(Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

(Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

I enjoyed a couple of the main stage artists but by far most fun was had wondering the fringes from one gentle adventure and chance meeting to another.

(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

I know it’s a pricey event but it really does sit as a great example of what can be done with a good heart and great production values.

(Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

(Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Above is Robin Pecknold from the Fleet Foxes at Glastonbury.

I was lucky enough to catch them last year on their first UK tour when the played in Space 2 next to the Custard Factory in Digbeth.

Coming back from Glastonbury I got stuck back in with the Rainbow Supporters – just a few of them here below and everyone else who can see what Digbeth might be to this city.

DSC_0247[1]The noise abatement row rumbles on but the City is really missing a major opportunity here. Digbeth is currently the home to more than 20 venues, it’s full of galleries, creatives of all sorts and some fine engineers and metal bashers – a unique environment.

People shouldn’t have to wait a year for for the chance of a festival to share good music and good company – in a city as big as this there should be somewhere where you can do that anytime and Digbeth is the place. It has buildings and space that aren’t going to be used for anything else in the next decade or so. We should have all the creatives and promoters in the area working with the City Council and land owners to plan a quarter mile wide party zone for the people of taste of the West Midlands and further afield – now.
Let’s not build more apartments that lead to everything being quietened down, let’s build budget hotels to house the people that would come from around Europe to this cultural quarter. When Supersonic is on later this month look at where their audience comes from and what they bring into the City as an example of what can be done – currently against the odds.

Digbeth – Could be the jewel in the City’s crown said Professor Michael Parkinson. Could be an Urban Glastonbury all year round say I.

Lots of good stuff

Another couple of busy winter weeks some highlights being:

michael-wolff

Michael Wolff workshop hosted by
Creative Republic at Fazeley St Studios

Michael Wolff gives a workshop in charm without trying before he starts on the subject at hand.

Creative Republic guests gather at Fazeley St Studios

Creative Republic guests gather at Fazeley St Studios


The Lunar Society Annual Dinner at The Council House with guest Sir David Arculus who turned out to be a local chap done extremely well. Diplomat in the extreme but had a lucky break way back when chairman of IPC magazines which during his period started a mag called Smash Hits which went from 0 to 1m copies a week within a year!
Nutcracker at The Hippodrome, finished now but can’t believe how much I enjoyed it. Brilliant inspirational dancing to great tunes you know played really well. BRB in full effect.

Intense impromptu birthday partying at The Spotted Dog with some fine musicians in the house Irish music in Spotted Dog from Nicky Getgood on Vimeo.

Mama Matrix at The Rainbow were a joy too. As above we can’t host the video on this version of WordPress but for a Gypsy punk folk psychedelic treat just click here

And not forgetting the Custard Factory team who lured those Fleet Foxes to their first ever Birmingham gig. It was a blinder and if you missed them here’s a hint via Letterman of what a top live show they do:

Happiest place in Britain

According to a survey published today , Powys, in Wales for the geographically challenged, is named as the place in Britain where people are happiest. I’ve suspected this for some time. Some people might wonder why I have a wholesome section in my links to the right. Well Clare Edwards is about to be moved from that to music as she revs up for this November’s Gigbeth but my dear friend Sorelle (Soz) will stay there as an island of peace and wholesomeness in this crazy world. Where does she live? Powys. Take 5 minutes, have a cup of tea and take a trip to Sozland, you’ll feel better for it. She’s coming to a party in Brum on Saturday – I hope she’s ready for it.