Winners of The London Borough of Culture Awards, a new initiative launched by the Mayor Sadiq Khan last June, have been announced, with Kingston picking up a Cultural Impact Award for live music.
The funding received from the award will go towards a brand-new music festival – inspired by the musical heritage of the area, including the old Decca Records pressing plant in New Malden. Young musicians, promoters and businesses will take part in this festival, which will bring further investment into Kingston’s night-time economy.
There are many individuals and groups who make the live music scene in Kingston, vibrant, inclusive, affordable and exciting. Just this January, The HeART of Kingston, a not-for-profit festival, collaborated with Kingston born movement “Love Music Hate Crowds” - an initiative, which seeks to make live events seem less daunting, put on an event which raised over £1500 for local mental health charity, Kingston Mind. This was a, self-funded, volunteer powered event, which brought the community, and people of all ages and backgrounds together.
There’s also the great work of IYAF, and of course, Banquet Records, bringing up-and-coming talent to venues across Kingston, as well as so many acts with number one albums, often including an all-ages show, giving a safe and affordable local live music experience to young people.
With new developments proposed for the town centre, which includes the closure of the Hippodrome in the not too distant future, the attempted stifling of Kingston Carnival, and the gone but not forgotten Kingston Peel, it’s hard to take the current administration’s commitment to live music and a vibrant night time economy seriously.
Last October’s full Council meeting saw large numbers of residents in Kingston ask for the council to commit to retaining a large music venue. Labour Councillor Linsey Cottington said no action should be taken to close The Hippodrome until as suitable alternative is found.
At the meeting the following was resolved: ‘This Council affirms its commitment to ensuring that a large venue to house live-music events with significant production requirements, capable of accommodating multiple genres and events, and able to facilitate concerts for a 14 years and above age range, remains in Kingston town centre, and agrees to use all planning and other policies and mechanisms to this end. This Council agrees that a report will come to Growth Committee, detailing how this can be achieved, as soon as practicable, but certainly within 6 months.’
With only a couple of months to go, we keenly await plans.
The Agent of Change Bill could be a valuable piece of legislation for protecting our existing venues. It was introduced by Labour MP John Spellar and backed by Sadiq Khan in the 2017 London Plan, and is supported by high profile names across the music industry. The proposed legislation would mean developers would have to take account of the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses like music venues before going ahead with their plans. Over the past 10 years, 35% of music venues across the UK have been forced to close.
Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party, backs the Agent Of Change Bill, and has also spoken passionately about the vast cultural significance of grassroots venues and their importance to the future of the music industry.
The Kingston and Surbiton Labour Party is committed to protecting arts and culture in its many forms across the borough.
Photo by Emma Francis from a Musicians Union event at the 2017 Labour Party Conference.