|Pictured above, left to right, are Ewan Moor, Michael Dugher, Thom Bentley and Alex Owen|
02/06/2017: UK Music has today thrown its weight behind efforts to preserve and support the under-threat live music quarter in Cardiff.
Campaigners formed the Save Womanby Street group in March of this year as a result of growing concerns about the future of the city’s music hub, which has been known for its rich variety of venues.
Michael Dugher, the chief executive of UK Music, today visited Womanby Street to meet organisers of the campaign to hear more about the problems.
The street is considered to be the heart of the city’s grassroots music scene and hosts festivals such as HUB and Swn. But one key venue, Dempsey’s, has recently closed and there have been concerns that the opening of a Wetherspoons business will potentially change the nature of the area.
There has been a marked decline in grassroots venues across the UK with numbers dropping by 35% in the space of the past decade. UK Music has been campaigning for practical support to help venues thrive with some key measures contained in its Music Manifesto 2017 which outlines how politicians and policy-makers can help ahead of the General Election.
They include business rate reforms and the introduction of a statutory UK-wide ‘agent of change’ planning principle to protect embattled music venues.
Agent of change applies in situations where new developments are proposed near pre-existing businesses, such as music venues, to make developers responsible for ensuring measures to mitigate noise are put forward as part of the application.
The Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, recently declared an intention to adopt this principle across Wales. The Save Womanby Street campaign is also lobbying for the street to be recognised as an area of cultural significance for music and performing arts as part of Cardiff’s local development plan.
UK Music research in its annual Wish You Were Here report found the annual total live music attendance in the city is in excess of 600,000. Music tourists visiting the city generate £52 million for the local economy
Michael met campaigners Ewan Moor (of Cardiff’s City Arms venue), Thom Bentley and Alex Owen as well as Rob Toogood (owner of Fuel Rock Clwb) and Richard Hawkins, the promotions and works manager for Clwb Ifor Bach, which hosted the meeting. Also attending were Kevin Brennan, the Shadow Minister for DCMS (Arts and Heritage) and Jo Stevens, who performed on the 2016 Jo Cox Foundation charity single while MP for Cardiff Central.
Michael said: “Live performance at small, local gigs is the engine room of the music industry and we need to take action to protect this important part of the economy. Grassroots venues are where the stadium bands of tomorrow learn their craft. Without them we lose that vital pipeline. They are also accessible, giving people a chance to see live music spontaneously without booking tickets months in advance – and at an affordable price.
“Womanby Street has a special place in the hearts of music fans in Cardiff and for many miles around and we want to see it protected for generations to come. All politicians should look at the measures we have proposed in our Music Manifesto to support a music economy for everyone.
"I was alerted to the potential threat to venues in Cardiff by Kevin Brennan and Jo Stevens - two outstanding local campaigners and two of the biggest champions of music in Parliament. It was also great to meet campaigners Ewan Moor, Thom Bentley and Alex Owen as well as Rob Toogood and Richard Hawkins.”
Ewan said: "The breadth of support we have seen shows how important it is to protect grassroots music venues, not just in Wales but across the UK. We are excited to work with UK music to lobby Welsh government, not only to protect the beating heart of live music in Wales but to support venues in order for them to flourish.
“The SWS team – which has also worked with the Musicians’ Union and Music Venue Trust – will continue to work tirelessly to ensure grassroots venues are protected in law and recognised in their vital cultural role. There are exciting times ahead,” he added.
To read more about the UK Music Manifesto 2017 click here