Music venues

Plenary on 2014-07-16
Session date: 
July 16, 2014
Question By: 
Darren Johnson
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture


What are you doing to help safeguard the future of live music venues, of varying sizes, in the capital?


Answer for Music venues

Answer for Music venues

Answered By: 
Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture

Darren Johnson AM:  While, I completely agree with you that the Cultural Strategy should not cover everything that is already working extremely well, it does need to prioritise those things where public intervention is required.  I do think this is one of those areas.

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We know that in the last few years there have been lots of news stories about music venues of different sizes; from small-scale traditional pub venues being closed down because landlords have decided to sell up, or large-scale nightclubs that they run into difficulties in central London because developers are coming in, Crossrail, etc.  The city is changing, and developing and inevitably there are some victims of that, some vulnerable casualties.  What we can do is primarily use our planning influence, and the London Plan states quite carefully that cultural attractions, cultural venues, should be protected as much as possible. 

That is guidance to local boroughs, however, and in many cases the local borough is the one with the real power.  Where possible we have intervened, where it is appropriate, and we have tried to encourage developers and the music venues to work together.  The Ministry of Sound case earlier this year, where a development in Southwark was called in by the Mayor, who insisted that the developer and the Ministry of Sound come to some arrangement to ensure that the Ministry of Sound would not be undermined by having a residential development on its doorstep is an example where we have intervened.  There have been others, for example, the Hundred Club, the Mayor gave his support to that continuing and it has now found a sponsor.  Where we can, we try to influence.

It is partly about advocacy and recognising that music venues are both important to the night-time economy a healthy way of attracting people into an area, because they attract an audience.  They are not the same as a pub, where it is purely fuelled by alcohol.  There is therefore an attraction for boroughs.  It is also about trying to minimise the regulation and the rules that can sometimes burden music venues.  We know that the Licensing Act 2003, which has now been revised by the Government, we championed and supported that in London. 

Darren Johnson AM:  That has been very helpful.  I agree; it is varying sizes of venues, from the very, very largest like Earls Court, to the smallest pub.  They fall into three distinct categories: those that are hit by rising rents and so on because of the issues around property prices; those that are lost through major redevelopment projects; and then those whose viability are threatened because a neighbouring development threatens its future as a live music venue.  Given the ongoing problems across all types of venues falling into that category, is there need for more specific policy in the Cultural Strategy on how to protect these?

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  I can find the exact policy in the document, however as it was set out in 2010, the policy was to try to protect those organisations that might be vulnerable to developments and ensure that London maintains its status as a capital for culture, including music. 

Darren Johnson AM:  On the issue of small theatres, for example, I know Tom Copley [AM] did an excellent piece of work on that and I think some of the recommendations have found their way into the updated Strategy.  You do have a specific programme now for small theatres.  Is there a need for a specific programme to be set up to protect live music venues in the same way that you have now introduced a programme on small theatres?

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  The programme on small theatres is a collection of things, some things that we were already doing, or were in train. 

Darren Johnson AM:  Can I ask you to go away and think about putting a programme together on this, because the threats are coming up time and time and time again.  It is not just a one-off thing that has gone away. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  I completely agree with that.  We have had a roundtable with a number of the live music venues.  I think the feeling at the time was that it was not really required for us to have a taskforce or to do a big announcement, but rather just to work with them on specific issues as and when they came up, because they recognise the Mayor's powers are limited. 

Darren Johnson AM:  The Mayor's powers are limited but I think the Mayor is an extremely powerful advocate for things like this on culture and I think could be playing a real leadership role here, rather than waiting for problems to come up as they arise.  We know that more and more will arise.  Can I ask you to go away and think about putting a specific programme together on this? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  Happy to.

Tom Copley AM:  Thank you, Chair.  Funnily enough, I would like to ask a few questions about small theatres and progress on some of the recommendations from the Centre Stage report, which was published a year ago.  Can I start first of all by asking about progress on a capital fund for small theatres which I believe is something your team were working on?  What will the size of the proposed fund be and what progress has been made towards delivering it? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We have been talking to The Theatres Trust about a capital fund they want to initiate and that is probably going to be launched in the autumn.  I do not have a date yet.  I cannot tell you exactly how much it is but it is targeted at small theatres, therefore, it will address that problem you raised in your report. 

The Arts Council, in response to the report you published, has indicated it would be willing to look at applications from small theatres for capital funding up to £100,000.  There is some funding available for capital developments.

Tom Copley AM:  Can I press you a bit more on the specific nature of the proposed fund?  Presumably part of the funding will be from The Theatres Trust.  Will the GLA be providing any funding and is the idea that it is to attract philanthropic funding which then will be spent on small theatres? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  Yes.  I cannot say much about it right now because the details are being worked out.  I  think the intention is that The Theatres Trust will provide funding and then it will try to encourage philanthropic funding as well.  We will not be putting funding into that but we will be helping with trying to encourage philanthropic funding. 

Tom Copley AM:  This is something you will be publishing details of in the autumn. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  The Theatre Trust will. 

Tom Copley AM:  One of the other recommendations we made was for the GLA to establish a database of empty shops which would help, amongst other things, theatre groups looking for potential rehearsal space.  This also ties in with some of the work the Economy Committee has done on bringing empty shops into use and some of the work on High Streets.  I think the Mayor was investigating the possibility of that in his response.  Do you have an update on that and whether that is something that might be specific to your team that the Mayor is interested in pursuing? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  A database of empty space is quite a difficult thing to manage, just because things are changing so much in London; it is quite a resource intensive project.  There is an existing searchable database which is run by Meanwhile Space, which we often refer organisations to because that is probably the closest thing to that.  Rather than replicating it or trying to invent something similar, it just makes sense to encourage people to go to that resource.  We can look at it further if there is anything additional we can do but my feeling is there is already something out there.

Tom Copley AM:  OK, thank you. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  Obviously when we know of empty spaces, buildings, which we often do, then we use our own intelligence to put organisations in touch with those.

Tom Copley AM:  You mentioned about the funding for the Lyric Hammersmith, the £1 million which the Mayor authorised to be given to them which, of course, I welcome.  Can I ask why the decision was made to give the money to the Lyric and what criteria this was assessed against? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  A number of things.  The Lyric's capital project is about expanding the facilities for young people in that part of West London..  The Lyric now reaches out to about seven boroughs in West London, so the young people come from quite a wide part of the city.  Our funding is primarily to help them to do that type of work. 

Tom Copley AM:  It is outreach? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  It is outreach but it is also a very effective hub.  There are a number of other hubs that are now emerging across the city.  The Roundhouse in North London is also a very good hub for young people in a number of different art forms.  It was in conversation with the Arts Council that we realised this kind of facility and provision was really important.  That area of London was, at that point, underserved, therefore, we decided it made sense for us to join in with capital funding and we knew they would be grateful for the money. 

Tom Copley AM:  Can we expect more funding like this? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  The days of easy capital funding, capital money from the GLA are--

Tom Copley AM:  I appreciate that.  £1 million is obviously quite a large amount of money and I am just interested to know if any more will be available in the future. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We do not have plans for a capital funds programme dedicated only to culture from the GLA, but there is a regeneration funding pot of about £9 million, which will be lodged soon and which we will encourage culture organisations to bid as part of a wider consortium.  It is a bit like the Outer London Fund, where we encourage boroughs to bring in cultural organisations as part of their bid.  We will do the same but we are not in a position; we just simply do not have the funding to fund cultural organisations on their own in that way as we did maybe five years ago. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  The Mayor has voiced support for the London Living Wage and has sent a number of letters to employers encouraging take-up of the London Living Wage.  Are you aware if this includes cultural organisations and what success this has had? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  Yes.  We have just sent a number of letters to cultural organisations encouraging them to take it up. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Have you had any response from that yet? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  It was only sent about two or three weeks ago, so I will check. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  It would be very interesting to hear what the response is when that comes back.  Do you know if the Mayor is going to follow that up with direct contact with the organisations? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  I know a large number of letters were sent.  I would have to check what the process is. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  There is the example of PictureHouse cinemas, which has an ongoing dispute that we are waiting for the Mayor to intervene in. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We are looking forward to that. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  In relation particularly to music, the Musicians' Union has highlighted issues around musicians being expected to work for free on occasions and that has an impact on whether they can afford to continue as musicians and therefore, it does have an impact on live music in the capital.  There was a notable café chain that was allowing people to come along and play but basically saying, "You can come along and play but you will not be paid".  The idea was that they should be so honoured to get the option of performing that they then would not get paid.  The knock-on effect of this would be that people would then not be able to afford to play, therefore, it is not even an issue of people always getting a living wage; it is a matter for them getting paid in the first place.  Does the Mayor have a view on this? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  Yes.  We work very closely with the Musicians' Union.  I think it is reasonable if artists are going to perform that they should get paid.  In certain situations, however, if it is part of a programme or a scheme, for instance, to encourage or to give opportunities to, for example, young musicians who want to perform who have not had a chance to before, then it is about working out what the benefits are to that musician and whether they are being given an opportunity that somebody else would not be able to take up.  Is it impacting on somebody else who could be being paid to do that job?  

We have done a lot of work on busking in London and we know busking is a really important source of income for a lot of musicians.  There are regulations in parts of London which are becoming quite restrictive, and therefore we have worked with the Musicians' Union to try to allow more opportunities for buskers to earn their wage.  I think this is a really great thing for London generally, never mind the musicians.  It is good to animate our streets with music.  We are looking at some of these issues with the Musicians' Union. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Yes and the other thing they have highlighted has been the issue of the Warhorse band and the fact that theatres are trying to cut back on costs, therefore, cutting live music within theatre productions which are not strictly music performances but have an element of music in them.  Has the Mayor taken a view on encouraging the National Theatre to continue having the Warhorse band, which is a key feature of one of the major theatre productions in London?  If you start getting a situation in which theatre productions start going over to recorded music, you lose some of that live music in London. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We have not looked into that issue, we have not been asked to.  We can certainly look at it and we have a relationship with the National Theatre.  We do not tend to intervene on specific individual productions -- 

Fiona Twycross AM:  No but it is around the general trend.  If it is part of a general trend, then that is of concern because it not only has an impact on that particular production, but on productions more generally if people start thinking that is a way to cut costs in an economically difficult environment. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  I am happy to talk to somebody about that.

Fiona Twycross AM:  What do you think the GLA can do to assist the development and survival of smaller scale arts' organisations moving away from the National Theatre, which can play a vital role in providing cultural opportunities for creative employment including music and the development of emerging talent? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  One of the big things we have tried very hard to do is ensure there is still arts' funding in London of a sufficient scale that would enable those organisations to flourish.  As you will be aware, there has been a lot of media debate recently about whether London gets too much funding.  We have always made the point to National Government, to the Arts Council, that London is not a uniformly rich city, not all organisations are like the National Theatre, small organisations struggle, particularly if they find it hard to fundraise if they are in the less salubrious parts of the city. 

One of the big things we have tried to do is ensure the proportion of funding in London remains the same.  For those organisations, the grants for the arts stream from the Arts Council, the Lottery funding, is crucial because that is not directed at institutions; that is directed at individual artists, small scale activity.  The proportion of that is still very good for London.  It will shift gradually over time because there is a political impulse to try to get more money out in the regions.  I think we have made a really strong case for that in London.  I think that is the most important thing we have done; we have made the case. 

Then there are lots of ways in which we work with smaller organisations through the Olympics and the events programme we run.  We fund and work with a lot of arts' producers as part of our programmes and we are also a commissioner of these organisations.  We try to encourage boroughs to work with the organisations in their area as much as possible. 

Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Munira, are you aware of the use of Form 696 [Metropolitan Police Service Promotion and Event Risk Assessment Form]? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  Yes.

Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Have you had any discussions with promoters, especially of urban music, about the impact on the use of Form 696? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We had a few meetings about a year ago, maybe slightly longer.  Initially, we had quite a large roundtable discussion, I suppose a seminar really, for music promoters and the police and we brought them together to talk about the issues.  We also convened a meeting with UK Music which was lobbying quite hard about 696.  We brought them into a meeting with the relevant people in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).  I think there were some misperceptions about how the rules are enforced and about how venues use them.  In some cases, venues actively seek police involvement in the events they host, which was something of a surprise, I would say, to the music people in the room. 

I can report back more fully on conversations.  I was talking to colleagues about how we should have an update on where discussions led to.  I know UK Music found the meeting very useful and they had agreed to go away with the relevant people from the MPS to talk about individual instances as they come up, and how they can be resolved.  At the end of that meeting, there was not a clear directive to us that the system needs to change and the police have already amended the forms in response to some of the initial reaction, which they felt was quite prejudiced. 

Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Yes.  I was part of that work and indeed, in 2008 and 2009, the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) scrutiny of this made this change possible in terms of moving the MPS away from this form that was then agreed to be racist, in that it was disadvantaging urban music.  They had named music like rap and garage which is particularly popular with black and Asian fans. 

There was then agreement for a scrutiny panel; I do not know if that is the roundtables you are talking about.  I also know that Feargal Sharkey, former Chief Executive of UK Music, has not moved from his position about Form 696, which shows it should be scrapped because it is unnecessary.  It is an unnecessary level of bureaucracy and, in a sense, it has had a negative impact. For instance, in terms of urban music, it is my understanding there are only two promoters left because of the impact of the use of this form.  Would you be willing to meet up with representatives of this particular genre to hear what they have to say?  It is useless; on one hand the Mayor is offering funds to get young people, 14 to 18, engaged and then their music, when they do showcases, are then being stopped or cancelled.  I have examples where this has happened over the last year at places like the Barbican, Camden and across London. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  I am very happy to meet with people.  It might be helpful to convene a meeting with them and UK Music and the MPS to talk through the incidents you have mentioned. 

Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  I think it is timely in that we can understand you cannot be on one hand funding projects that young people get involved in, and then the promoters and organisations finding themselves having to cancel it on the night where the MPS come along because the brother of one of the people involved is going to be present. This was a case, they cancelled it.  If they took that view about football matches, we would never get football games, but they do not.  They go in and they take out the perpetrator or the individual identified and the football continues.  I see no reason why they should not take that sort of approach to live music. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  I am very happy to and the same with the busking in that we know there have been a number of incidents which also involved the MPS and other authorities.  We think there is a way of dealing with these problems and resolving them without creating conflict. 

Jennette Arnold OBE AM:  Yes.  Thanks for the agreement and I am happy to work with your office to pull that meeting together. 

Kit Malthouse AM:  On Form 696, as we are on that subject, do you think there is a role for the city in whatever form to monitor and discourage any art form that preaches hate in any form, whether that is misogyny, racism, homophobia, violence? 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  My instincts are broad Libertarian; this is my personal view and I think the Mayor shares a general belief that cultural organisations should be free to produce the artwork they choose unless there is an incitement to violence.  I would define that quite carefully: events where we know that certain types of activity might happen that might encourage people to go out and do something violent afterwards.  I think we should be careful how we define that, but there is probably some responsibility on the part of the MPS there. 

In general, I think living in a city like London, which is diverse, which has lots of different groups, we do have to recognise that not everybody has the same taste, not everybody has the same view of what is acceptable or not.  I would hold back from the state or the MPS policing what can and cannot be said, unless there is a direct consequence in terms of violence.

Kit Malthouse AM:  It is obviously a crime to say certain things in public whether that is in sung or spoken form to incite racial hatred, for instance. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  It is the inciting of the hatred that is the crime.  It is not the opinion that is the crime.  I hope that answers your question. 

Kit Malthouse AM:  On the protection of venues, small theatres and also music venues, particularly in relation to the pubs, I wondered if you had had any engagement on the further alterations to the London Plan and what the general policy was.  There is a policy around the preservation of pubs but where a pub might also be a music venue; The Bull in Kentish Town is currently going through a period of uncertainty around whether it will remain to be a music venue. Have you engage with the planners around strengthening or otherwise the provisions that will protect those kinds of venues.

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  The London Plan has just gone through a series of amendments, therefore, there really is no opportunity now for a long time to change the wording. 

Kit Malthouse AM:  No.  We are in the middle of a consultation on alterations to the London Plan.

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  My understanding was that there was a limit to how much change.  Either we have done that already or we have --

Kit Malthouse AM:  If you have not, I would avail yourself of the opportunity.  I believe there is still an opportunity, not least because I am lobbying on basement developments and they seem to be accepting some of those things from me.

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  OK.  If you are still lobbying, then I will. 

Kit Malthouse AM:  I would urge you, therefore. 

Munira Mirza (Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, GLA):  We do speak a lot to the planning team and they have been very helpful in issuing supplementary guidance which is often where the detail of it becomes clearer.  In some cases - I have mentioned the Ministry of Sound - we have intervened.  There are other areas, not just live music venues but other cultural venues or venues of historical importance where the Mayor has intervened and made it quite explicit.  He has used his position to make a statement about the importance of certain things in London.  I am happy to talk further to the planners about the London Plan.