What do Neo Soul, Psychedelic Folk, Dubstep, Blues, Jazz, Psychedelic Rock and Reggae have in common? Not much but we have recorded all that and more at Highbury Studio in January. Goodness knows what February has in store. If you know singers or musicians around the West Midlands who might appreciate our warm analogue sound please do everyone a favour and just send them a link to us: http://highburystudio.com
“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.
Spring 76 and after five years in Brum I’d spent a couple of years as a roadie and a couple being a sales rep for the wonderfully niche Transatlantic Records. It was time to find a new music related challenge.
Since I’d seen 100’s of venues around the UK this agency business – finding gigs for artists – sounded interesting with less driving for sure.
There were 2 that caught my eye in town – Jim Simpson’s Big Bear agency for one but I didn’t fancy that since they’d recently booked my mate James Langstone’s band to play on the Isle of Man ferry. In the storm that they sailed through as the band were playing the power supply varied as the ship’s propeller came out of the water causing James’s vocals to vary in pitch an octave or so during just one vocal line. People subsequently paid a lot of money for this effect but it didn’t work when unplanned.
The other agency that I’d noted – Endale Associates didn’t really appeal as I knew of Dave Corke’s Juda Priest connections and I’d never bought into that bit of metal but the company had promoted some good gigs too so I called him anyway. I went to see him in an office up a few stairs in the Jewellrey Quarter on the afternoon of December 1st. An amaimable fellow, Corky figured that my experience was just the ticket to be a useful booker so it was quickly agreed that I’d start the next day. Corky explained that he was going to be out of the office in the morning so gave me a set of keys with instructions to “Answer the phone” until he arrived around lunch time.
I didn’t see the Grundy interview from Granada Studios that went out Nationally that night and caused the media furore led by the Daily Mirror but travelling on the No 9 into my new work place that morning and reading the Mirror I did wonder what the day might have in store.
I let myself in to the office at 9.00am and both phones were ringing. Neither stopped for the rest of the day. The first calls were from 2 of the Universities that had dates on the upcoming Sex Pistols tour which Endale had booked – cancelling the shows. Then the BBC looking for comments, then more cancellations followed by press from Europe as it’s press woke up to the story. Different people from the BBC and ITN called – no one could reach Mclaren or Corky’s mate Bernie Rhodes and most of the people calling from the media didn’t know the difference between an agent and a manager anyway so the calls just kept coming and by the time Corkey arrived in the office at 1.oo pm I had four sheets of A4 with numbers for him to call back and felt like I’d spoken to every journalist in Europe. Certainly the UK.
He hadn’t seen the TV the night before or read the morning’s press so a cheery “Alright. How are things?” from him led me to pass over a copy of the Mirror and explain that every date on the tour had been cancelled plus it seemed like every journalist in Europe had been on the phone. Corkey wasn’t phased and set about trying to find Mclaren or Rhodes. Failing at that he turned to getting the dates re-instated. “No problem Kid” he says. “Just watch this”
He called the first venue which I think was Stafford Uni and they weren’t having any of it. The date was cancelled and that was that. He called a couple more and got the same response. By the time he got to the fourth – Colchester Uni he took a different line and asked the Social Secretary who’d booked the date what the problem was. “It’s not us” says the Sec “It’s the Dean. He called up this morning and said we couldn’t do it after seeing the Grundy interview last night”. “Give me his number” says Corky. He calls The Dean. I could only hear one side of the conversation but that went something like this: “Good afternoon Dean I’m calling as the agent for the Sex Pistols who have a show contracted with your University later this month…. No hold on a minute you don’t understand they are really nice young men who’ve been misrepresented… Look they are lovely chaps, I know them well and this behaviour is totally out of character. I’ve met their Mums and Dads – lovely people. No! No! you are wrong, what you saw wasn’t really them…. Now will you listen to me or not? …. Look you f..king pillock”
… and the Dean was gone and so was the whole tour.
I left Corky with the 4 x A4 sheets of numbers and wondered out into the December chill musing on what I might do next. I didn’t see Corky again but I did hear from a friend a few years later who had seen him hiding behind a newspaper in the lounge of a Dublin hotel during a music biz conference when he realised that 2 a&r guys from 2 different record labels that he’d just signed the same band to were about to meet at the bar.
A couple of years later I had a quiet smile when working with the brilliant Mr John Dowie & The Big Girl’s Blouse and the NME described them as “Making the Sex Pistols look like babies farting in the bath water.”
Dave Harte after reading my last post said that he “wouldn’t mind having my life for a while sometimes” Well he wouldn’t have wanted it on this weekend in August. Off with James Hunter and the chaps again to the Rhythm Festival Bedford. You haven’t heard of it? Keep it that way. We arrive at a disused Second World War airfield just north of Bedford where the event is held. Lots of original buildings still there including the control tower. The promoter shows me the control tower pointing out that “That’s the door Glenn Miller walked through to catch the flight that he disappeared on:
So that cheered me up.
The whole festival was themed around ….well camouflage I suppose, check the main stage:
Looking for some light relief from the Camouflage theme I ask him what the only modern building in sight is. “Oh that’s the Immigrant Detention Centre” he says, Here’s the front of it:
Photo by Dan Chung from The Guardian
Having my new phone with me I thought I’d see what went on there and found this in The Guardian.
Frankly a long time since I wanted to get out of a gig so fast.
Another couple of busy winter weeks some highlights being:
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.
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:
Clearly as a new blogger one sometimes hits a little non compliance techy moment. In my attempt to put up a picture below of Jo Hamilton I seem to have put up erm.. many and now I can’t figure how to take them down but I’ll come back to it later in the day. Oops now I’ve deleted the entire post – rats. Look the point is that Jo Hamilton and Jon Cotton her producer have made a stunning album and you can listen to some tracks on Jo’s myspaceIt’s a 100% made in Moseley affair and deserves the success that was met by the last major production that Jon did for Scott Matthews’s brilliant award winning album two years ago.
‘There It Is’ is on heavy rotation in the office at the moment -I can’t wait to hear the rest.
Drove 1,300 miles to 2 gigs by splitter bus in 72 hours with these inspirational chaps: Jon Cleary and The Absolute Monster Gentlemen. My first ever visit to the 100Club into the bargain. Felt like a great trip to New Orleans(in the snow) without getting on a plane. Off to see what’s happening here now.