A proposal to the City Fathers

This sounds like an interesting opportunity:

The City of London is planning to convert empty office space into 1,500 homes and is considering banning cars from the Square Mile at weekends as part of its post-pandemic recovery strategy.

In an attempt to boost its appeal as a place to live and socialise, the City of London Corporation said it is considering traffic-free weekends and all-night festivals, as well as providing new cultural and exercise spaces for the public.

Low-cost, long-term leases in vacant buildings could be also offered to artists and musicians.

That very last there.

Not “musicians” but “rehearsal rooms for musicians”.

Gissa nice long term lease at peppercorn rent on space. Rehearsal rooms. It’s difficult to find somewhere to go play that doesn’t cost a fortune because there’s a mixing desk in the corner. Given the size of modern housing “garage band” doesn’t really work these days.

So, a series, within the one building, of rehearsal rooms. Places where everything from the horn section through the three guitars and drums to the sampler plus dancers can actually work on the public presentation of gigs.

One can imagine rather quickly building up an ecosystem of lights lads, sound engs and session folks – hmm, perhaps would be session folks – that would hang out with bands trying it out. Moving out further, an office upstairs that specialises in those new EU carnets, visas for tours and so on. Some cubbyholes where songwriters are allowed to rent for a pittance. Who knows, if Islington Technical College still teaches some actual subjects there could be NVQ trainees around.

If the City Fathers would kick in the premises for near nowt then perhaps a music charity or two would pick up the operating bills?

Oh, and that four bed three reception penthouse with a roof terrace in The City for the person who first thought of this, of course.

31 thoughts on “A proposal to the City Fathers”

  1. Off topic but the BBC is going all apocalyptic over the 200,000 Covid total deaths in India.

    In proportion to the population of the UK that’s equivalent to around 9,700 deaths.

    Around 30,000 people die in India every single day.

  2. And how will anyone get their kit, amps, drums, pedals and guitars, into the room of a weekend if there are to be no ex-Royal mail Transit vans allowed in?

    When I worked in the city the weekend was when giant crane lorries would put mainframe computers through high=floor windows. I suppose they don’t do that now. But there was other essential weekend traffic.

  3. Sorry, but just sounds to me like they’re intent on subsidising an outpost of the far-left in the Square Mile.

  4. But why would you move to the city as a musician? The whole thing around Abbey Road getting turned into flats is that it’s just too expensive to record there. There’s really good studios in Cornwall, Wiltshire. Same with arts. Most of Damian Hirst’s operation is in Gloucestershire. He doesn’t need to make his crap in Soho, what with motorways and all.

    Music gets recorded globally. A British songwriter talks to a producer in Sweden. They work a rough version of the song, then play it to Rihanna in LA, and she likes it, walks into a studio and puts down the vocal.

    The only benefit London has for work is all those train lines that allow a large group of specialists to congregate daily.

  5. There’s this mistake of conflating “creative people” with creative people. The best thing you can do for the Arts is to stomp on it whenever you see an outbreak. That way, what survives & succeeds is what people want & are willing to pay for. Otherwise you end up with a lot of entitled parasites wanting to be subsidised to do stuff nobody’s interested in.
    BritRock didn’t take over the music scene in the 70s on the back of local authority handouts.

  6. It sounds like they want to create official squats and organic produce markets for people to recreate the 60s. Traffic-free weekends is an especially inane policy.

  7. You’re talking about recording. I’m talking about rehearsal. To be able to play live you do have to actually play, together, in the same room, for some number of hours and weeks. And live gigs are still where the people are – London, with 10 million, can support many more different strands of music than, say, Bath can. Yea, even Bath, where Tears for Fears were once the gigging band in the pub when I was trying to umm, with whassername.

  8. “But why would you move to the city as a musician?”
    Because on musician out in the boonies is one musician out in the boonies. Generally you need more than one.

  9. Yeah Tim. But you’re talking as if this would give kids from Bath a place to go do their stuff. It won’t. Places like this will get taken over by the usual suspects. It’ll end up hosting Drill. You won’t see a white face in there.

  10. “You’re talking about recording. I’m talking about rehearsal. To be able to play live you do have to actually play, together, in the same room, for some number of hours and weeks. London, with 10 million, can support many more different strands of music than, say, Bath can. Yea, even Bath, where Tears for Fears were once the gigging band in the pub when I was trying to umm, with whassername.”

    So why rehearse in the city, rather than in Manchester or Reading? Prince did it in Minneapolis, Radiohead did it in Didcot. They’re going to provide rooms, where are people going to live? It’s not going to be cheaper than Didcot.

  11. Sure, but your four bed three reception penthouse with a roof terrace in The City will be directly above the rehearsal rooms.

  12. The business rates avoidance strategy would involve moving the musicians on to another office or warehouse space every 6 weeks and then the Landlord can claim empty rates relief again. The music kit should be fairly portable though so they’ll adapt and moving around is part of the experience.

  13. bloke in spain,

    “Because on musician out in the boonies is one musician out in the boonies. Generally you need more than one.”

    It’s not that hard to find musicians good enough to play in a band in a town of 100,000 people. The rare talents are the singing and songwriting.

  14. Yeah but no but yeah. There’s a definite period in this process where there’s a bunch of kids who want to do gigs. At the other end of the process is a band that’s out on the road making money. That second end sure, why the hell not Didcot? Peter Gabriel (and Van Morrison at one time) does it near Bath. Own studios and all that, on the A4 at the bottom of Box and Solsbury Hill, just where Eddie Cochrane snuffed it. Cool. He bought the place from my parents’ best man.

    But there’s that interim between a crowd of wannabes and the sorting process into those who can and those who gel as a band. While everyone’s still bunking off from school/the shift at Maccy D’s is when the roiling crowd isn’t moveable.

  15. “It’s not that hard to find musicians good enough to play in a band in a town of 100,000 people.”
    True. Basildon of all places, spawned some good talent in the 80s. But the catalyst was a wine bar in Covent Garden. Where kids into that sort of music went to rub shoulders.

  16. My neighbour is in “the music industry” and tells me that London has been losing gig spaces for years and it is becoming a crisis. Councils are also reluctant to give licences for music in pubs. Khan has promised to do something, long wait there methinks.
    I haven’t worked in the City in years, but it used to be pretty traffic free at the weekend anyway and you certainly couldnt get a pint past 5pm on a Saturday. I used to visit innunerable grotty offices on labyrinthine corridors around London Bridge, with just a chair and desk upon which was a phone, a fax a kettle and a Reuters terminal. I wonder if they are still there ?

  17. The Meissen Bison

    That ‘mixing desk’ in the corner is no mixing desk but part of a poxy PA. The drum kit, sans cymbals, sans snare, was second rate when it was young which is a long time ago.

    It’s the location that has the largest influence on price and a village hall in the sticks can be very good value because such places are generally under-used, have good access and reasonable accoustics and the only major snag is that many won’t allow bands because of the noise and the dwellings close by.

    If you’re in a train rumbling out of Charing Cross and just before you reach Waterloo East, you are above a cheap “inner-city” rehearsal room I’ve used in Alaska Street. You can’t beat the sound insulation in a nice brick railway arch even if the accoustic does rather boom. Of course, there being no windows and no air conditioning there is an overwhelming smell of goat.

    And the snag with rehearsal rooms that are grouped together is that when there’s a rock trio in, you can forget about doing anything other than beat your own head against the wall to any discernible rhythm from elsewhere in the building. There was a regular rock trio in a place I’ve used whom we nicknamed “Atomic Migraine”.

  18. I foresee a possible future for the City that’s somewhat grim. It’s always functioned well because it doesn’t suffer much from the blight of “democracy”. You put a combination of arts facilities & residential accommodation in the City you’re going to get the arts scum living there. And having votes. The end point for that one is the City wanting to merge with wonderfully diverse Tower Hamlets & calls for the capitalist financial industry to be pushed out of “Our City” “Long Live the Revolution!”

  19. Well, it does sound like a wonderful way to keep the damn din away from some poor bastards out in the sticks.

    And as for the City’s diversification, no doubt they’ll all be moving to Paris to keep their EU customers any day now.

  20. A better business rates avoidance scheme is to convert them to residential. Business rates go to Whitehall, council tax goes to the local council.

  21. @Rhoda
    Never EVER buy an ex-Royal Mail van, especially the small ones used by your local postie. The transmission will be shot by being driven in 100 yard bursts all day long.

  22. Low-cost, long-term leases in vacant buildings could be also offered to artists and musicians.

    Has anyone told the companies which own these properties this is happening? The City of London Corporation owns quite a lot of property, but not that much of it is office space and that space has Corporation employees working in it. Perhaps the skiving parasites have decided that 3 emails a day from home at the taxpayer’s expense should be a permanent arrangement.

    The whole ‘everyone’s going to desert the cities’ line is an absolute crock. We’ll see more flexible working and changes in office occupation at the margins, but that’s it. In provincial cities, converting retail to housing is a good call, as those new populations will support retail, F&B and office space. More housing in the City would be a good thing, but pedestrianising it and filling it with bullshit ‘arts programming’ from the council is a waste of time.

    The best thing the City and city councils generally can do is stay the fuck out of it, apart from granting change of use permission when landlords ask for it.

  23. Sure, but your four bed three reception penthouse with a roof terrace in The City will be directly above the rehearsal rooms.

    Tim got used to that kind of ambience, pre covid. Such pleasures should be returning soon.

  24. If you ever see the wonderful Peter Cushing “Dr Who: Daleks Invasion of Earth” film, it is comforting to know that they still have GPO Commer vans in the 22nd century.

  25. Mr Womby, my kid’s band, the main one not JF5, had a red van which was ex-PO. They got it, natch, from another band. The reason for that kind of van was room for everybody plus a secure compartment for the gear*. They drove it to Norway, gigs along the way. They were big in Norway. The van gave no serious trouble.

    * The musical gear, that is.

  26. Bloke in North Dorset

    Why pay for a pokey little place in the city? There’s loads of village halls on the outskirts of London that will be desperate for money, they were before the pandemic, and there’s much more room. Our village hall in Bucks used to have 2-3 bands practicing a week and there was even a story that Ian Anderson used to practice there many moons ago, but I never got confirmation despite writing to his management company.

  27. Dennis, This Week's Tottenham Manager

    If anyone really thinks that shit is going to lead to the revitalization of anything?

    Creating 1,500 homes in a series of Grenfell Towers, Version Two? Giving luuvies and music wannabes low-rent spaces to be luuvies and music wannabes? Increasing parking problems in all parts of the city to clear out a bit of space for the weekends?

    Yeah, that should do it.

    London would do better to lower taxes, cut bureaucracy, provide better services – especially policing. But then, that’s all out of the realm of possibility isn’t it?

  28. Dennis, this is one of these Woggisms. “The City of London” is the Square Mile, the old medieval city. It’s not all that shit that surrounds it. It’s the financial district. It’s like Wall Street and 1,000 yards in any direction and that’s it, just that area. Population that lives there is 10,000 folk or so. 450,000 work there each day.

    Policing “in the City” is pretty good, they’ve their own force.

    Most of the budget comes from the fact that the City Corporation owns the freehold to a lot of it. Even their business property taxes aren’t kept by them. They’re “donated” – at a certain amount of central government insistence – to other, poorer, cities and towns.

    Historical overhang from medieval woggism but works pretty damn well.

  29. How much empty office space would there be Tim if Bogus Johnson hadn’t spent 12 months fucking up UK PLC with his virus freakshow. The space should be occupied by money-making businesses not given at peppercorn rates to musical twats.

  30. The Meissen Bison

    BiND: Why pay for a pokey little place in the city?

    Just so.

    (Elymentally, as they say out East when reality is bludgeoned to suit a theory)

  31. MC,

    “The whole ‘everyone’s going to desert the cities’ line is an absolute crock. We’ll see more flexible working and changes in office occupation at the margins, but that’s it.”

    Once you’re doing flexible working, what are the benefits to being in the city? It was that got a wide network of people (because of rail) that could all come into the same place every day. If you’re only meeting once a week, time is less critical.

    This isn’t going to happen overnight, but it’s going to happen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *