January 2015 sees the 22nd anniversary of the opening of Tunbridge Wells Forum. It steps ever closer to a silver anniversary in 2018. All being well…

The Forum’s birthday party starts on Friday 23rd January with a gig by The Blockheads, and carries on for a week with assorted events for Independent Venue Week, many in conjunction with BBC Radio Kent and BBC Introducing.

One band that was picked up by BBC Introducing in Kent, Slaves, are playing The Forum in February as a warm up to their place on the NME Awards Tour. Slaves have also made the long list of BBC Sound of 2015, the winner of which will be announced on 9th January. Having played many early gigs at The Forum, the February show should be a special one. Likewise Standard Lamps, who played The Forum in December, after four evenings supporting The Who on their Who Hits 50 Tour. The Lamps featured on BBC South East Today mid-tour, with a late afternoon visit to The Forum to film some footage. It’s great to see some local bands doing so well, and getting good coverage. It’s also inspiring for up and coming acts to see others doing well.

Without The Forum and the other small venues around the country giving their time and energies to support up and coming acts, we would run the risk of losing the successors to The Who. Young musicians and songwriters need to look forward to more than the hope of gracing the stage of X-Factor. A venue run by those with links within the industry can offer so much more than casual gigs here and there in pubs and bars, and provides a community type base for musicians to meet-up and exchange news and ideas.

The Forum’s 22nd anniversary follows shortly after the first National Venue Trust Day. Both Independent Venue Week and the Music Venue Trust are aiming to promote and help venues around the country, as they suffer from various problems, including rent rises and noise pollution orders.

This year’s IVW ambassador is Frank Turner, who is also the face of a petition which urges Culture Secretary Sajid Javid and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to bring about a change in law. Beverley Whitrick of the Music Venue Trust explains, “The Agent of Change Principle is not complicated or controversial, it’s simple common sense: The person or business responsible for the change is responsible for managing the impact of the change. This means that an apartment block to be built near an established live music venue would have to pay for soundproofing, while a live music venue opening in a residential area would be responsible for the costs. A resident who moves next door to a music venue would, in law, be assessed as having made that decision understanding that there’s going to be some music noise, and a music venue that buys a new PA would be expected to carry out tests to make sure its noise emissions don’t increase.”

The petition is a collaboration between Frank Turner and Music Venue Trust, and is supported by
Musicians Union, Music Industries Association, UK Music and many other music industry bodies. The petition doesn’t just apply to Tunbridge Wells Forum, so anyone who cares about the future of other venues should have a read. It also applies to stopping people moving next to a farm and then complaining about noisy animals – in fact, to anyone moving anywhere.

(Written for, and published in, Tunbridge Wells Town Crier magazine January 2015)


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