Liberal Democrats Overwhelmingly Back More Help For Grassroots Music Venues

16/09/2019: Delegates at the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth were told how the music industry makes a massive contribution to the UK economy.

They heard how music tourism generated £4 billion a year with over 30 million people flocking to live events in 2016, according to UK Music’s Wish You Were Here report in 2017.

Beatrice Bass, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Hove and Portslade and former bass player with The Wedding Present, opened the debate and urged Lib Dems to support grassroots music venues.

She said: “It is absolutely vital to have small and grass roots venues. We need to have these venues so that up and coming young artists have the opportunity and the space to practise, to perform and to build up a following.”

UK Music’s deputy chief executive Tom Kiehl, a Liberal Democrat member in Kingston and Surbiton, was asked to sum up an amendment on business rates and their impact on music venues.

Declaring his interest due to his role at UK Music, Tom said the 2017 business rates revaluation had hit music venues hard - with the Macbeth in London hit with an increase of more than 800% and many other venues facing “extortionate” business rates.

Tom added: “Without grassroots music venues, emerging artists would not build performance skills and confidence and the talent pipeline will become preserve of the elite few.

"Without grassroots music venues we wouldn’t have Ed Sheeran soundtracking the first dance to your wedding. Stormzy wouldn’t be taking to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, bringing grime to the masses and Adele wouldn’t be selling out huge arenas around the world.”

Tom said one hope was the Government’s retail discount scheme which offered relief to pubs and clubs. He called a policy change for it to be extended to music venues too.

He explained: “This relief could impact over 124 venues across England. These many be the home to the future British headliners and who many be taking their first steps this evening. Their next hit single could be tested in front of a new audience.”

Asking Lib Dems to support extra help for grassroots venues, Tom said it was vital to keep the pressure up on the Government to give music venues a lifeline by helping them with their rates’ bills.

Lord Tim Clement-Jones, the Lib Dem Lords’s spokesman on Digital, talked about how he spearheaded moves to get the Live Music Act enshrined in law seven years ago.

But the Lib Dem peer warned he had celebrated the legislation - supported by UK Music, the Musicians’ Union and many other campaigners - too soon because venues had been hit by rising rents and business rates, the threat from property developers, noise complaints and other issues which he warned were “conspiring to damage our grassroots music venues”.

He added: “These venues are of huge cultural importance. Music is of vital ingredient in all our lives.

“We need to make sure that successful campaigns like Agent of Change are properly implemented and these venues protected.  We need to keep the pressure up on local government to properly adopt the changes to the national planning policy framework.”

At the end of the debate, Lib Dem members voted to accept the amendment on business rates and agreed overwhelmingly to support the amended motion as party policy.

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