After the Dust Has Cleared:
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What Now for the British Music Scene?
THERE is a sense of disappointment for Labour supporters because Jeremy Corbyn…
IN THIS PHOTO: Jeremy Corbyn
did not become Prime Minister last night. It was a bloody-close-run thing but, as we are seeing, Theresa May has joined with DUP – no…me neither! – to form a new, hopeful government. In other words, she has climbed from the cliff-edge, dazed, and is hanging by her fingers. It has been shrouded in the guise of a galvansised, new government that is forward-thinking and solid. In actuality, it is a compromise and desperate attempt to retain her position and ensure the Conservatives, weakened as they are, retain a foot in 10 Downing Street. I am not sure how long May’s position will be tenable but there are definite changes and truths being revealed.
Unlike the Brexit fall-out, Labour’s (slender) failure cannot be blamed on voter apathy.
Then, there were so many not turning out: the young were especially culpable of not voting – feeling the issue was not important our the U.K. would never leave the E.U. Yesterday, the same mistake would not be made: their voices were heard and, in many ways, they are responsible for Labour’s great showing when the polls closed. One of the reasons I was excited about Labour’s (potential) victory was their stance on the music industry. Corbyn is a new, vital force and has single-handedly rejuvenated the Labour Party. They are a party to be proud of and, who knows, might well be in government before too long. I hope that is the case because Corbyn’s pledges to musicians and venues should not be ignored.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
In a recent interview with The Independent, Corbyn revealed how important the British music scene was. We have seen him adorn the covers of Kerrang! and NME. They were not publicity stunts but a man who is more in touch with the youth of this country than any government in recent memory. Perhaps not as cool as Barack Obama: Corbyn understands the plight of live venues and is determined to make changes. In the interview, something stuck out to me:
“What I’m interested in is the sense of expression that music gives people, hence the points I’ve been making endlessly about musical instruments children for children. Any teacher will tell you that a child learning music at school is likely to do better at a lot of other things because there is a discipline in learning music, a sense of rhythm, a sense of timing involved…”
It may seem axiomatic – to say learning an instrument at school-age fosters a love for music and aptitude – but is something not being parroted by the government in power. One feels May and her creaking cabinet is so detached from the contemporary music scene they would be flustered were one to mention names like ‘Radiohead’, ‘Jorja Smith’ and ‘Dutch Uncles’.
Maybe Jeremy Corby would never be caught traipsing around Islington in a Ramones T-shirt; he understands the fundamental need to fund and sustain our fantastic musicians.
Corbyn has gained kudos and brotherhood from the leading lights of the Grime scene. That is almost unprecedented and a hugely credible boost from a man who, a few months ago, was seen (by many) as a shambles. I am not sure what is behind this spectacular Phoenix-rise but Corbyn’s confidence as an orator has grown: he is more fluid and confident; able to articulate his passion and promises with greater clarity and expression.
IN THIS PHOTO: KOKO, London
Regardless, we are in a position where we might not see the overhaul of Form 696 – which could see an entire genre being scrapped. If that were to happen, it would deny this country of some of our finest and most important young voices. A man who understands that should not be second-place and a gallant fighter – he should be P.M. and planning a new dawn for this country! It may sound like bias getting in the way of pragmatism but I know Corbyn is not hot air and false promises. He pledged to cut/eradicate student debts/loans and make sure the young generation were not burdened with fiduciary anxiety like so many of my generation. Some are calling that rose-tinted and impossible: one can argue the same thing about Mrs. May’s ideals and manifesto lines. Strip away the what-ifs and so-closes and we are left with the question: what now for our glorious music scene?! Sure, it was not on its last legs a few days ago and will continue on as it has been doing. The man admitted he is not very musical but (confessed) he loves music a lot. Talking about small venues and the café scene; he expressed some concerns:
“What you have is a number of independent venues, sometimes pubs, cafes, so on, that have become almost informal live music venues“
Those independent coffee bars are being monopolised and gentrified by the tyrannical commercialism of the big brands – the Starbucks, Neros and Costas. It is sad to think those great coffee shops and bars could well be overtaken by the lure for commercialism and something more ‘family-friendly’. Just typing those last words makes me want to throw up in on a box of kittens so, for that reason, we cannot idly stand by. Corbyn is someone who appreciates how important live spaces are for musicians – from the ‘toilet scene’ to the high-profile venues proving so important to our upcoming artists. Corbyn, in the same interview, went on to say:
“[It’s] the same with pubs, which are often very reluctant to have live music on. Those live venues are absolutely crucial to the future of the music scene. So the £1,000 pub-licensing rebate is a good thing – we want to extend that a lot further.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Kerrang!
It would be terrific to think the current government are incumbent and look beyond their own interests. Music is not a niche industry that can survive on its own or does not need to exist. From the outside, one might assume music is fine and if a venue is open, they must be doing well. There are so many battles and struggles they have to face – this extends to our artists, their welfare and the foundations that build the industry. I can see may and her cronies listening to BBC Radio 4 or cranking up some bangers by Vivaldi but will you ever see her or anyone in her cabinet check The Amazons at Camden’s Roundhouse or an Indie band down at Green Door Store?! Perhaps Corbyn prefers a night in but he is getting his face out there and connecting with artists.
Those poses and features for NME and Kerrang! were not sly election tactics and ways to curry favour with the young voter.
There is an authenticity there that extends beyond music – to our healthcare system, education and national security. Humanity and thoughtfulness are commodities one does not often associate with politicians but, in Labour, there was a burning hope they would snatch victory and start the fire – get the country on a stable footing and undo the mistakes made by the Conservatives. I am not a venomous anti-Tory-boy but feel things that are important to me – including music – are not being preserved and mothered. Corbyn still holds a lot of sway and has the power to implement his ideas. There is little talk in the Tory camp about realistic funding for music and mental health: two interlocking titans that are incompatible sweethearts and require constant supervision. I fear the lack of common sense regarding the mental health crisis is one of the biggest threats to our musicians – an industry where many of its participants suffer the blight of poor mental health.
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
I shall end this by echoing the concerns of many of my contemporaries: among the debris and cobwebs that is the state of British politics; music and our small venues will be one of the first casualties. It might be far-fetched to think appropriate finances can be given to music and mental health, say, in addition to education, health and security.
What Mrs. May needs to think about is how huge and evolved our music scene is: surpassing the U.S. scene and fostering some of the finest young artists anywhere in the world.
That prosperity and lucrativeness depend on sustained funding and an understanding government. Whilst the police are threatening to stringently regulate small venues and create confounding variables; we, the music public and players, are left with a lot of questions. It will be a while until the government stabilises and rebuilds but I am a bit gutted Jeremy Corbyn is not currently microwaving a Pot Noddle at 10 Downing Street. It has been over a year since another Independent article exposed the sad plight of our small venues – but we are no more assured and stable than we were back then. It is paramount someone in government realises how precarious the state of music venues and the current culture is. With Jeremy Corbyn, there was a chance we could elect someone who would not ignore the needs of the musician: tackle the incongruity of the Conservatives and forces that do not have the passion and understanding of music most of us do. To turn a blind eye to the vulnerable state of the music industry is taking a shot at a corner of the arts that is not only important for bringing people together but helping those with mental health issues (and other ailments) find a loving voice and safe place – and ensuring our current generation do not have to struggle and have the opportunity to perform their songs live. If we close our venues and do not combine surveillance with committed financing then we are likely to see huge cracks appear. Jeremy Corbyn is not a man who is lying down and going away so I am hopeful, in some way, his important voice can join with musicians and ensure our beloved music scene continues to thrive…
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
FOR generations to come.