Today I promised to rewrite London’s planning rules to protect fringe music and arts venues if I’m elected Mayor.
Part of my plan is to set up a register of “meanwhile” spaces in empty buildings to provide a home for arts and cultural organisations under threat from property speculation, and to protect rehearsal and production spaces, as well as places for artists to learn their trade.
The policies were worked out partly as a result of Darren Johnson AM’s work on the London Assembly helping to set up a task force to look at music venues, one third of which have been closed since 2005, and also in collaboration with Caroline Russell, the Green Party’s No 2 candidate for the London Assembly, who practised as a fine artist earlier in her career.
Caroline says: “Arts education is under threat from the property squeeze too, with institutions closing and skills, teaching expertise and facilities being lost.
“I was involved in the sadly unsuccessful campaign to save the Cass art faculty – a creative powerhouse on the edge of the City – from being redeveloped. Just because it stands in a place where land values are rocketing off the scale, it is now being sold off, with courses disbanded and so much staff and student skill lost.
“We have to think about values other than profit in this great capital of ours, otherwise we are in danger of losing the cultural richness that helped make it great in the first place.”
I’ll also help with new advertising policies on London’s transport network. This will include discounted spaces for local music and arts venues, and dedicating new digital advertising space in Tube stations to actual art projects for one minute every hour.
For Londoners on normal incomes, the premises that matter more than big West End venues and major arenas are fringe theatres, music venues and local arts centres – many of which are currently battling to stay open in the face of rising rents or predatory property developers.
This squeeze is in danger of the stifling the grassroots creativity for which London has been justly renowned for generations – from rock ’n’ roll and punk to Britart.
Our new planning rules for London will give protection to fringe venues and rehearsal and production spaces. That will help us build a more diverse economy which is less reliant on financial services and the undue influence of the biggest of big businesses.
In the photo above, Caroline and I are pledging to back the arts manifesto of Patrick Brill (better known as artist Bob & Roberta Smith), who is also an associate professor at the Cass art faculty