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Suffolk’s John Peel Centre says continued support needed for venues amid UK Live Music Census findings

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:45 19 February 2018

The John Peel Centre in Stowmarket says it is vital venues are supported. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

The John Peel Centre in Stowmarket says it is vital venues are supported. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

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Music industry professionals in Suffolk have warned that a “long, sober look” is needed at supporting live music venues across the country, as a new national survey reveals threats to the future of some spaces.

Musician's Union representative Andi Hopgood performing live Musician's Union representative Andi Hopgood performing live

The first ever UK Live Music Census report was published on Friday, which assessed multiple areas of the music industry including payment of musicians, the economic and cultural value of live music and the threats venues face.

The findings revealed that a third of venues felt increased business rates had created some kind of negative impact, a fifth reported that planning and housing development in the last 12 months had been a problem, while 27% said noise complaints had been an issue.

Stagnating pay for musicians also made it difficult to make a viable income, leading to some venues across the country to voice concerns over the future.

Andrew Stringer from the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket said: “We need a long, sober look at this. If these venues are not there for musicians to hone their craft then that economic return will not come.

“We as a country need to understand and choose the way we want to go – if we want to encourage music as an economic growth indicator we need to look at how we do it.”

The economic value of music in Oxford – a city with a slightly larger population than Ipswich – is estimated at more than £10million, the equivalent of more than 350 full time jobs.

Mr Stringer said the clear economic benefit, alongside the cultural boost and wellbeing aspect of enjoying a live gig made it vital.

The John Peel Centre as a community interest company gets grant funding from local authorities and is supported by reduced business rates, but said that there were different challenges associated with that business model.

“Because it’s a community run thing, we want to run events that have a community impact, and sometimes they are not necessarily the ones that make money,” Mr Stringer said.

“With the name we have above the door we want to have a challenging programme that isn’t always mainstream, and therefore you are already a niche within a niche.”

Andi Hopgood, Ipswich musician and Musicians’ Union vice-chairwoman, said for many venues it was a case of ‘use it or lose it’, but said measures such as the Agent of Change principal – a scheme which protects venues from noise complaints for developments made after the venue has been established – were helping support venues.

“The cultural benefits of having music venues and the other things that musicians bring I think gets overlooked,” she said.

“Pubs and clubs are so important. If you haven’t got that first rung for people to make the step, you won’t get the economic benefit – it is absolutely vital.”

To see the full report visit the website here.

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