Thursday, 26 November 2015

Why I started the Save London Music campaign

The seeds of the campaign were sown when I was organising the Mill Hill Music Festival earlier this year. I realised that in Mill Hill alone, we've lost seven venues where the festival has held gigs since I became involved in 2001 (Mill Hill Sports Club (School), St Josephs College, The Rose and Crown, The Mill, Holcombe House (all Flats), The Bell, The Jolly Badger (Restaurants). I then had a look at the list of venues I've performed with my band at, and this was an even longer and far sadder list with some great London venues disappearing. Some such as The Moonlight Club in West Hampstead and The Purple Turtle were well established venues with important musical histories.  I wasn't the only one to notice, with a cottage industry sprining up detailing lost venues. Another disturbing trend is the number of rehearsal and recording studios closing. In North London, we've lost two excellent studios (Blues and Station Studios) in Southgate. These were long established and well run establishments.

Rog T's gig records
FYI - Here's a list of London Music Venues that I've gigged at with the False Dots that have closed (taken from my scrapbook records)

Gooners at The Copper, Tower Bridge Road
The Ad Lib Club, Kensington
Tunnel Club, East Greenwich
The Moonlight club, West Hampstead
The Prince Albert, Golders Green
The Bald Faced Stag, Burnt Oak
The Pinder of Wakefield, Kings Cross
The Cricklewood Hotel, Crickelwood
St Josephs College, Mill Hill
The Red Lion, Colindale
The Mill Hill Sports Club, Mill Hill
The Purple Turtle, Camden Town

Some people have said to me that the reason music venues are in decline is because the world has changed and there is no demand. I don't believe a word of this. During this years Mill Hill Music Festival, we saw record crowds at venues. Our final night party at The Three Hammers with Joe Angel saw the Hammers more packed than I've ever seen it in 35 years going to the pub. All of the events were well attended. We've also seen The Chandos Arms in Colindale transformed by new owenrs who have turned it into an award winning establishment, with music being a key feature in their package.  It is clear to me that if you put the right music on and make the effort to promote it, you will develop a good business. Sadly the economics of London put no value on the benefits to the economy of music and creative industries. Instead the way it works in London is that you get rich by asset stripping and destruction of anything of cultural value. That is why we need a Save London Music campaign. That way our important venues will have a future we'll have a better standard of life and the economy will continue to benefit from the huge contribution from creative industries.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The BIG London Venue Project – In association with The Robert Elms Show on BBC Radio London

Robert Elms - BBC Radio London
The #SaveLondonMusic Campaign, in association with the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London are embarking on a mission to identify all of the current music venues in London. Once we have identified them, we are aiming to stage a gig at each one, before the end of 2016. We launched the project on Roberts show today.

We got a fantastic response on Roberts Facebook Page. We’ve agreed to set up a central list of venues here. This list is divided into two sections. The first is the list that was identified by the London Mayors Music Venues Task Force, you can Checkout the Interactive map here. We’ve only listed the Grassroutes venues listed.  It is also worth having a look at the London Music Venue Trust website.
We’ll issue regular updates of all #SaveLondonMusic gigs as we aim to get a gig at every single one by the end of 2016.  Check our events for the upcoming events.
Massive thanks to Robert and all at BBC Radio London for their help.
Please follow the #SaveLondonMusic facebook page for more details on the campaign events.
Identified for GLA report

229 229 Great Portland Street London, London W1W 5PN
100 Club 100 Oxford St London, London W1D 1LD Phone Number: 7636 0933 Group: Grassroots Music Venue
12 Bar (New) 203 Holloway Road London, London N7 8DL Phone Number: 020 7240 2120
93 Feet East 150 Brick Lane London, London E1 6QN Phone Number: 7247 3293
Ain’t Nothin But Blues Bar 20 Kingly St, Soho London, London W1B 5PZ Phone Number: 7287 0514
Bedroom Bar 62-68 Rivington Street London, London EC2A 3AY
Big Chill Bar Dray Walk (off Brick Lane) London, London E1 6QL Phone Number: 020 7392 9180 Group: Grassroots Music Venue
Birthdays 33-35 Stoke Newington Road London, London N16 8BJ
Borderline 16 Manette St London, London W1D 4JB Phone Number: 7434 9592
Bulls Head Barnes 373 Longsdale Rd London, London SW13 0PY Phone Number: 8876 5241
Cafe Oto 18-22 Ashwin Street London, London E8 3DL
Corsica Studios 5 Elephant Rd London, London SE17 1LB
Dingwalls Middle Yard, Camden Lock London, London NW1 8AB Phone Number: 20 7428 5929
Electrowerkz 7 Torrens St London, London EC1V 1NQ Phone Number: 7837 6419
Fabric EC1 77a Charterhouse St London, London EC1M 6HJ Phone Number: 7490 0444
Fiddler’s Elbow 1 Malden Road London, London NW5 3HS
Fox & Firkin 316 Lewisham High St London, London SE13 6JZ Phone Number: 8690 8925
Green Note 106 Parkway London, London NW1 7AN Phone Number: 7485 9899 Group: Grassroots Music Venue
Halfmoon Putney 93 Lower Richmond Rd London, London SW15 1EU Phone Number: 8780 9383
Hope & Anchor 207 Upper St London, London N1 1BZ Phone Number: 7354 1312
Hoxton Square bar and Kitchen 2-4 Hoxton Square London, London N1 6NU Phone Number: 7419 4696
Jazz After Dark 9 Greek St London, London W1V 5LE Phone Number: 7734 0545
Jazz Café 5 Parkway London, London NW1 7PG Phone Number: 7916 6060
Jazz Club Soho 10 Dean Street London, London W1D 3RW Phone Number: 0845 6027 017
Klinker @ The Sussex Pub 107a Culford Rd London, London N1 4HT Phone Number: 8806 8216
Koko 1a Camden High St London, London NW1 7JE Phone Number: 0870 4325 527
Le QuecumBar 42 Battersea High St London, London SW11 3HX Phone Number: 7787 2227
Nambucca 596 Holloway Rd London, London N7 5LB Phone Number: 7263 6939
Nell’s Jazz & Blues 3 North End Crescent London, London W14 8TG Phone Number: 0207 7921200
New Cross Inn 323 New Cross Road London, London SE14 6AS
Notting Hill Arts Club 21 Notting Hill Gate London, London W11 3JQ Phone Number: 7598 5226
Olivers Jazz Bar 9 Nevada St London, London SE10 9JL Phone Number: 8858 5855
Passing Clouds 1 Richmond Rd London, London E8 4AA
Plan B 418 Brixton Road London, London SW9 7AY
Power Lunches 446 Kingsland Road London, London E8 4AE
Purple Turtle **Closed 65 Crowndale Rd London, London NW1 1TN Phone Number: 7383 4976
Roadtrip & The Workshop 243 Old Street London, London EC1V 9EY Group: Grassroots Music Venue
Ronnie Scotts 47 Frith St London, London W1D 4HT Phone Number: 7439 0747
Sebright Arms 9 Alston Road London, London EN5 4ET
Servant Jazz Quarters 10A Bradbury Street London, London N16 8JN
Shacklewell Arms 71 Shacklewell Lane London, London E8 2EB
Shapes 117 Wallis Road London, London E9 5LN
St Moritz 159 Wardour Street London, London W1F 8WJ Phone Number: 7437 0525
Surya 156 Pentonville Road London, London N1 9JL Group: Grassroots Music Venue
The Barfly 49 Chalk Farm Road London, London NW1 8AN Group: Grassroots Music Venue
The Bedford 77 Bedford Hill London, London SW12 9HD Phone Number: 8682 8940
The Betsey Trotwood 56 Farringdon Rd London, London EC1R 3BL Phone Number: 7253 4285
The Black Heart 2-3 Greenland Place London, London NW1 0AP
The Boston Arms 178 Junction Rd London, London N19 5QQ Phone Number: 7272 8153
The Coronet 26-28 New Kent Rd London, London SE1 6TJ
The Dome 178 Junction Rd London, London N19 5QQ Phone Number: 7272 8153
The Dublin Castle 94 Parkway London, London NW1 7AN Phone Number: 7485 1773
The Ealing Club / The Red Room 42A The Broadway London, London W5 2NP
The Fiddlers Elbow 1 Maiden Rd London, London NW5 3HS Phone Number: 7485 3269
The Fighting Cock 56 London Rd, Kingston London, London KT 2 6QA Phone Number: 8546 5174
The Finsbury 336 Green Lanes London, London N4 1BY
The Garage 20-22 Highbury Corner London, London N5 1RD Phone Number: 7607 1818
The George Tavern 373 Commercial Road London, London E1 0LA
The Good Ship 289 Kilburn High Road London, London NW6 7JR
The Harrison Harrison Street London, London WC1H 8JF Phone Number: 7278 3966
The Hideaway 2 Empire Mews London, London SW16 2ED
The Islington 1 Tolpuddle Street London, London N1 0XT
The Lexington 96-98 Pentonville Road London, London N1 9JB
The Macbeth 70 Hoxton Street London, London N1 6LP
The Montague Arms 289 Queens Rd London, London SE15 2PA Phone Number: 7639 4923
The Nest 36 Stoke Newington Road London, London London N16 7XJ
The Old Blue Last 38 Great Eastern Street London, London EC2A 3ES
The Pheasantry 152 Kings Road London, London SW3 4UT
The Puzzle Pub 175-177 Fulham Palace Rd London, London W6 8QT Phone Number: 7381 8682
The Social 5 Little Portland St London, London W1N 5AG Phone Number: 7494 2998
The Spice of Life 6 Moor St London, London W1V 5LJ
The Stillery 18 Kentish Town Road London, London NW1 9NX
The Strongroom Bar 120-124 Curtain Rd London, London EC2A 3SQ Phone Number: 7426 5100
The Troubadour Club 263-7 Old Brompton Rd London, London SW5 9JA Phone Number: 7370 1434
The Unicorn 227 Camden Road London, London NW1 9AA
The Waiting Room 175 Stoke Newington High Street London, London N16 0LH
The White Lion 232, Streatham High Rd London, London SW16 1BB Phone Number: 8677 3341
The Windmill 22 Blenheim Gardens London, London SW2 5BZ Phone Number: 8671 0700
Troy Bar 10 Hoxton Street London, London N1 6NG Phone Number: 020 739 6695
Underbelly 11 Hoxton Sq London, London N1 6NU
Underworld, The 174 Camden High St London, London NW1 0NE Phone Number: 7482 1932
Upstairs @ The Garage 20-22 Highbury Corner London, London N5 1RD Phone Number: 7607 1818
Upstairs @ The Ritzy Coldharbour Lane London, London SW2 1JG Phone Number: 020 7326 2627
Village Underground 54 Holywell Lane London, London EC2A 3PQ
Vortex Dalston 11 Gillett St London, London N16 8JN Phone Number: 7254 6516
XOYO 32-37 Cowper Street London, London EC2A 4AP
606 Club 90 Lots Rd London, London SW10 0QD Phone Number: 7352 5953

Newly Identified venues

Blues Kitchen, Camden Town

Bussey, Bussey, BLOCK A, BUSSEY BUILDING, 133 RYE LANE, PECKHAM, SE15 4ST TEL 020 7732 5275
Chandos Arms, Colindale

Distillers Arms, Hammersmith

Ealing Eclectic The Ealing Club

Earl Craig Hall, Crouch End

Guns And Smoke, Barnet, Regular music . Various covers and originals . Open mic
Hilary Viana Que cum bar, 47 – 44 Battersea High Street SW11 – Gypsy Jazz nightly
London Fields Brewery, London Fields Brewery 365-366 Warburton Street London E8 3RR UK
Mill Hill Jazz Club, Mill Hill Golf Club

Neils Blues Bar, Fulham

Peltam Arms, Greenwich

Pizza Express

Quicks Road Club, Kilburn

Rochester Castle, Stoke Newington

St Giles in the Fields Church, 60 St Giles High St, London, WC2H 8LG

St Harmonicas Blues Club Cannon Hill, Southgate

St John Smiths Square, St John’s Smith Square, London, SW1P 3HA

St Monicas, Southgate, Jazz Blues

T Chances, Tottenham High Road

The Alleycat, Denmark St

The Balham Bowls Club

The Bridgehouse2, Canning Town

The Brooklyn Bowl

The Cavern Freehouse, Raynes Park

The Duke, 112 Wood Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 3HX

The Earl Hague Hall Crouch End

The Eleanor Arms, Victoria Park

The Enterprise Haverstock Hill

The Garage, Islington

The George Tavern, Commercial Road

The Gladstone Arms, SE1

The Grape & Grain, Crystal Palace, 20 piece Big Band on a Mon night

The Great Northern Railway Tavern, Hornsey hosts Kalamazoo Acoustic
The Green Note, Camden Parkway

The Griffin in Whetstone . Fairly regular music and open mic

The Gunners, Blackstock Road

The Hand in Hand, 61 New Park Road, Brixton, London, SW2 4EN

The Hanwell Hootie

The Hare, Cambridge Heath Road,

The Harvey Arms, Crouch End

The Ivy House, Peckham

The Jambourie, Cable St Studios

The Kensington Park Hotel, Ladbroke Grove, Jazz (fighting redevelopment)
The Main Yard, Hackney Wick,

The Man Of Kent, Peckham

The Midland Hotel, Hendon

The Mitre, Tooting

The Oddfellows, Arms Pinner

The Old Nuns Head, Peckham

The Paradise, Kensal Green

The Pelton Arms,Greenwich

The Pickle Factory, 13-14 The Oval

The Red House aka St Anthony’s club, Upton Avenue, Forest Gate, E7

The Southampton Arms, Kentish Town,

The Three Wishes, Edgware

The Worlds End, Finsbury Park

Under The Bridge, Chelsea

Whats Cookin, Leytonstone,

Windmill, Brixton

Monday, 23 November 2015

Save London Music - Rog T on The Robert Elms Show on BBC Radio London, Tuesday 24th November 1.30pm

By Roger Tichborne 
Studio owner, music festival organiser, guitarist and campaigner

I will be on the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London between 1.30 and 2pm on Tuesday 24th November. The subject is  London's lost music venues and those that are still open and the campaign we are running to preserve our musical heritage - The Save London Music Campaign. Why do we need such a campaign? The music industry needs small venues and studios to survive. You have to hone your trade in the small pubs and clubs, before you can step up to Wembley and the O2. And you can't even step out at your local chip shop to perform unless you've had a few rehearsals! Music is an important part of London culture and the UK music industry contributed £4.1 billion to the economy.

Since we started the Save London Music Campaign in February, over 20 venues and music studios have signed up as supporters of the campaign. We've had support from politicians such as Green GLA member Darren Johnson, who was instrumental in setting up the Mayor's small venue task force, and the leader of Barnet Council, Richard Cornelius amongst others. We've also received support from a whole range of highly regarded and influential musicians, including Lee Thompson (Madness, Ska Orchestra), Wendell Richardson (Osibisa), Boz and Lyn Boorer (Morrissey, Polecats) ; Emily Ovenden (Medieval Babes), all of whom have given their time to support the campaign.

Darren Johnson had a letter published in the local press detailing the threat to local venues. In this he detailed that the number of  live music venues in London has shrunk from 136 to 88 in eight years.

The Save London Music Campaign is setting out to identify these 88 venues as well as any Darren may have missed and hold gigs at all of them before the end of 2016, under the banner of the Save London Campaign.

To support the camapign and to help us raise awareness, we had the launch party for our campaign website at The Fiddlers Elbow in Camden on the 6th November.  On the Robert Elms show, we will be detailing our ambition to find all of London's live music venues and to stage gigs at every one, recording the details for posterity on the Save London Music website.

We are delighted to be kicking off with some amazing gigs.  Lee Thompson is playing a special gig at The Chandos Arms in Colindale (North West London) on 12th December for the campaign and Boz and his wife Lyn have organised a special Christmas party on the 19th December for the Campaign at The Alliance in Mill Lane, with the iconic singer James Hunter.  My band, The False Dots will be playing at the  Midland Hotel in Hendon on the 18th.

If you want to organise a gig for the Save London Music Campaign, or you know of a live music venue, please let get in touch via the contact details on this website.

And if you want to know what we are aiming to achieve, these our goals:

The campaign is working to make the case to protect London music venues and studios. Specifically we want to see the following;
1. Special protection for important London music venues from redevelopment. This should take two forms. The first should grant important venues the same protection as listed buildings. The second is that where large infrastructure projects destroy venues (such as the Astoria), the venue should be re-sited elsewhere in equivalent or better premises at zero cost to the operator.
2. Established venues should be protected from noise and disruption complaints from neighbours. Soundproofing etc should not be the responsibility of the venue, where the venue is an established music site.
3. As creative industries are a key component in the UK economy, tax breaks, planning assistance and grants should be made available to any company or individual investing in infrastructure to support creative industries.  This should be done with a view to ensuring that the UK maintains its leading position as the centre of world music.
From a music perspective the following should be available:
* Capital Tax allowances for investment in venues and studios.
* Free or discounted planning costs for studios,  music venues and other music related companies (such as instrument manufacturers etc).
* Rates holidays for start up businesses involved in the music and creative sector. A six month period of zero rates and a six month period of 50% rates would give businesses a great
opportunity to get off the ground and generate employment.
* Offer grants to creative industries to assist with the costs etc of starting a creative business, specifically for assistance with the cost of consultants for noise control and other issues which are specific to the music industry.
* Enact legislation to ensure that major new developments include an element of light industrial space suitable for creative industries and studio space at low rent.
* Offer mentoring and assistance to young people wishing to set up SME’s focusing on the creative sector.

We believe all of these measures are vital for the long term health of London as the heart of the worlds music scene. 

 Roger Tichborne is the founder of the #SaveLondonMusic campaign. Roger founded Mill Hill Music Complex Studios in 1979 and has run them ever since. He is heavily involved in the live music scene, promoting gigs in London and beyond, as well as being an organiser of the bi-annual Mill Hill Music Festival which recently celebrated its 20th birthday. Roger is also a blogger and campaigner for local people in the London Borough of Barnet. He is also a prolific musician and songwriter and has played with his band, The False Dots for 36 years.

Guest Blog - Now A Sports Bar – The Torrington, Finchley by Allen Ashley

By Allen Ashley

Now A Sports Bar
But back in the day the Torrington – or “Torrington House” as it lately styles itself – tucked like an afterthought onto the side of Lipton’s supermarket in North Finchley High Road, was the musical oasis that glittered, sweated and heaved every Sunday evening.  Sundays in the 70s were exactly like they’re always made out to be: grey; rain-soaked; “Horizon” or “The Onedin Line” on telly; most shops not allowed to open; tubes and buses on an infrequent, if they can be bothered timetable.  Sunday roast was the fulcrum of the weekend.  I might have played football up the park with my mates in the morning then stuffed myself with potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and Paxo; but by 7 o’clock that evening I was ready to meet up with my mates John and Ade and check out who was on at the Torrington that night. 

Food Orders Taken
We had our own band, of course – me on 12 string acoustic guitar, Adrian on bass and John on biscuit tin percussion.  We never progressed any further than playing very loudly in my grandmother’s living room.  The bands that graced the Torrington, however, were often on their way to somewhere, be that brief fame or oblivion.  We’d read about them in the “New Musical Express” and now they’d rolled into Finchley.  The bigger names of the day, the people whose albums we saved up for and cherished – Hawkwind, Al Stewart, Gentle Giant – would do annual tours that climaxed at Hammersmith Odeon.  The Torrington was in the league below, along with its sort of sister venue, The Hope and Anchor in Islington.  Up and coming rock stars; rhythm and blues singers; bands incorporating elements of Stevie Wonder / Bobby Womack style funk; rock ‘n’ roll revivalists…
By day and on all other evenings, the Torrington’s extra bar was a restaurant serving the Berni Inn style good quality British cuisine that would have delighted Regan and Carter from “The Sweeney”.  On the Sabbath, though, they shifted the tables out and handed over control to George: an imposing, no-nonsense Scotsman who handled all the bookings.  It was standing room only.  Walk-ups most nights but pay in advance at Christmas.  Foolishly, I once risked George’s wrath by scribbling an addition to his “Forthcoming Attractions” list.  It read something like: “20 December – Kokomo. 27 December – No gig.”  Beneath this latter, I appended: “Plus support”.  My hormone-scrambled teenage brain obviously thought it was funny at the time.  Clearly, I’d learned nothing from having been beaten up by a prefect a few years earlier when I entered “Lady Godiva” into the school swimming gala.

Party Bookings Taken
The Christmas show drew a huge crowd, promising two or three bands plus a DJ and a stripper.  We were on nodding terms with the DJ.  Think of all the Simon Bates, Gary Davis, and DLT clichés and he adhered to them.  Although, to be fair, he probably hasn’t troubled Operation Yewtree.  As for the stripper… this was my first time and I’ve blanked out a certain amount.  She was a fairly ordinary looking, long-haired white woman who did her routine pretty quickly.  No tattoos, no piercings, no Brazilian shaving, no surgery or enhancements – these were simpler times.  I spent the whole act focused on the main issue, which was: Shit, what if my mother finds out?

All England Games Shown Live
There were the bands I saw at the Torrington and the ones that I somehow inexplicably missed.  Why did I not manage to mooch along for the Sensational Alex Harvey Band?  Now, that would have been a tick-off.  But I saw Dr Feelgood in their original incarnation with mop-topped Wilko Johnson and his 1000 yard stare as scary as hell as he paced metronomically backwards and forwards whilst chopping out electrifying guitar riffs.  I saw Brinsley Schwarz complete with Nick Lowe.  I also saw hastily assembled supergroups that might include the likes of Mike Patto, Carol Grimes and Dave “I Hear You Knocking” Edmunds.  I saw The Flying Aces – a version of Welsh psych-rock pioneers Man – and I spent the whole show clutching the 12 inch cardboard LP sleeve of Deke Leonard’s album which some of them had played on and which they autographed for me in the cupboard that passed for a dressing room to the side of the barely raised stage.  Sensibly, I’d left the actual vinyl record at home for fear of damage.
I saw the Kursaal Flyers and String Driven Thing.  The list goes on.
The 1970s witnessed a massive 1950s revival.  This was apparent from the more commercial acts who filled “Top of the Pops” every week: Mud, Alvin Stardust, Showaddywaddy, Suzi Quatro and (whisper it) Gary Glitter.  In Torrington terms, pub rock meant bands who could play 3 verses, a bridge and a chorus; who could sprinkle their set with classic American rock ‘n’ roll standards such as “Route 66” or “Get Out of Denver”; who could encore with “Johnny B. Goode” with the crowd jabbing back with “Go! Go, Johnny, go!”  A night at the Torrington was a musical education in the roots of the music that I loved, that powered my bloodstream. 

Special Offers on Bottled Beers During World Cup
The biggest star I ever saw at this 100 to 150 capacity back room was Shakin’ Stevens.  This was way back when, believe it or not, he had real credibility.  Backed by his tight outfit The Sunsets, this was before he did a year in the West End playing Elvis; this was before “Green Door” and “Merry Christmas Everyone”; this was before screaming and fainting female fans; before the hypnotic leg-jerking in slacks; before the snowman jumper and other chunky knitwear.  Like fans of a lower league team who’ve drawn Arsenal or Man United in the FA Cup, John and I found our home venue “taken” that night by dozens of itinerant rockabillies: appearing as if from time capsules, Brylcreemed quiffs immaculate, dressed in leather jackets or brothel creepers, motorbikes parked outside and egos in full flow within.  It was quite a night as Shaky and his crew turned the clock back to 1956.  I’d seen him stand on top of a piano on TV during a performance of “Mean Woman Blues”.  To his credit, he attempted it that evening, even though the ceiling was pretty low, maybe 8 or 10 feet high.  The show ended shambolically with a huddle of drunken biker types mobbing what passed for a stage.  Most of us lived to tell the tale.

Smoking Area Available
I almost didn’t live to tell that tale.  One evening I was standing nodding my head in time with some rhythm and blues band or other when a guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder.  “Your coat’s on fire,” he stated laconically. 
I panicked and ripped off my blue quilted jacket to discover a perfect, expanding burn-hole caused by somebody’s lit cigarette.  Nylon can go up in seconds and I was lucky to extinguish the fire quickly.  In fact, I showed off the damage like a battle scar for the next few months.  I don’t miss smoking in pubs one bit. 

Special Offers on Selected Beers
Lager was even fizzier in those days.  Well brought up, I didn’t tend to use shop doorways on the way home but instead made my way to the public convenience in Stanhope Road that was open all hours.  It seems unthinkable now that an unstaffed gent’s could be open on a side street on a Sunday at 11pm but… more innocent times, I suppose.

Watch Premier League Games Live Here
The best group I ever saw at the Torrington was one you may never have heard of: A Band Called O.  They were a five piece with a lead singer sporting blond curly locks – like a later version of me in my twenties or like a younger Robert Plant.  His name was Pix.  I wanted to be him.  They went down a storm on their first visit with a catchy yet dreamy set and were re-booked for a rapid return.  They were later signed to a major label – CBS/Epic – and released an execrable debut LP that had been produced to vacuity.  John bought it and we listened intently.  It sounded nothing like the band we knew and, in turn, led to nothing.  Sadly, a typical tale from the time. 
When punk crashed the airwaves in the mid to late seventies, pub rock became derided and the scene shifted to spittoons and ripped out cinemas to catch – or be caught by – the happening bands.  And yet many of punk’s progenitors cut their teeth on the pub rock circuit – the aforementioned Nick Lowe, Joe Strummer in the 101ers, Ian Dury in Kilburn and the High Roads.  In a recent BBC Four documentary, Wilko Johnson spoke of driving up to the Torrington all the way from Canvey Island in order to check out the opposition.
It was a scene; now long gone.  It was a happy ritual; now long gone.  It was my youth.
Allen Ashley is an Author, Poet and Singer. For full details see Allens website . Guest blogs are always welcome at The Barnet Eye. (Allen is also a long time musical collaborator with Rog T in the False Dots). We are featuring this guest blog as part of our special series for the #SaveLondonMusic campaign.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

ISIS are not a threat to the United Kingdom, bad government is

How many people have Islamic State murdered in the UK in set piece terrorist atrocities? None. Lets look at a few other statistics.

The last major terrorist attack in the UK by terrorists claiming to be Islamic fundamentalists was the  7/7 bombings in 2005. Since then, more people have been killed by dogs in the UK (16). That group were not ISIS relaetd as ISIS didn't exist then.

No one is proposing a "war on dogs" as they are more lethal than UK based Jihadi terrorists. There are however a few similarities between these killer dogs and the Jihadi's. The main one is that there are millions of lovely dogs that will never kill anyone but who get a bad name from a few, generally who have very stupid owners. My personal view is that it is bad dog owners rather than the dogs which should get the bad press.

Dogs have killed more UK citizens than ISIS
To me there is a huge similarity with ISIS. Just as bad owners create the small number of dangerous dogs, suicidal Jihadists are the product of several factors. The chief one is an extremely hard line interpretation of the Koran by Wahibbi clerics in Saudi Arabia. We blanche at the atrocities perpetrated in Syria in ISIS controlled land, but exactly the same sort of thing happens in Saudi Arabia and is sanctioned by the Saudi government, a supposed ally. On Friday the Guardian reported that a Saudi court had sentenced a poet to death for the crime of renouncing Islam. The wider picture is equally shocking, Amnesty International reports that 102 people were put to death by the Saudi government between January and June 2012 and almost half of executions in 2014 and until June 2015 are for non-lethal crimes. Beheadings are the most common execution method in Saudi Arabia, but some executions also carried out by firing squad. Many Public executions typically take place in the public square of a town or city. Whilst ISIS clearly are operating such practices on a larger scale, this is partly because the local population has until recently been of a lot more secular nature. The funding and support for groups such as ISIS is based in Saudi Arabia and the religious authorities would be in firm agreement with the interpretation of Sharia Law implemented by ISIS. When the US authorities were battling with gangsters in the 1930's they found that the way to stop their activities was to "follow the money". If you follow the money for ISIS, the trail ends in the bank accounts of wealthy and seemingly respectible Saudi backers. If ISIS really was a threat to our way of life, then surely this is the first place we'd seek to launch our war on terror. There would be no ISIS without money.

Daleks have killed as many people in UK as ISIS
Just how deadly are these Jihadi terrorists? The sad truth is that a few nutcases running around with bombs and guns does have the ability to cause mayhem and kill lots of people. But when yyou look at it, the ones in Paris were and incredibly stupid bunch. I was talking to a friend who is a police officer involved with counter terrorist activities. He told me a fact that, whilst rather macabre, I found quite amusing and reassuring. The bombers at Stade de France only managed to kill themselves and one passer by. Do you know why? Well it seems these terrorist masterminds had not actually bothered to get tickets for the game. They also turned up late, after the crowds had entered the stadium. What greater act of futility and stupidity could there be? Even by their own appalling standards, they were not martyrs, they were simply stupid men committing an act of mass suicide for no purpose whatsoever. If the level of people we have to deal with is so stupid that they can't figure out what time a football match starts and that you need tickets to get in, do you really believe that such people have the wherewithall to topple our democratic society? Does an ideology that has been less successful at killing people since 2005 than bad dog owners really threaten the people of the UK with anything more than isolated and random acts of carnage? Our security forces and Police have kept them at bay for ten years. They deserve massive credit for this although clearly we cannot let our guard down and let ourselves relax. But however you look at it, ISIS are not a threat to our way of life and they will never be anything more than capable of killing a few innocent people in a few public places in the UK. That is the sum total of their powers. There are however far greater threats to the population, that it seems we completely ignore.

 In 2013 1,713 people were killed on the roads (latest govt figures available). That sounds quite a lot doesn't it? But in actual fact this is a tiny number compared to the 9,500 who die in London alone from poor air quality. That sounds like quite a lot, but again is dwarfed by the 40,000 people a year killed in the UK by cold. Sounds quite a lot? What about the 100,000 a year killed by smoking?

All of these figures dwarf anything that a few nutters with Kalashnikovs and bomb vests could achieve. The appalling fact is that all of these figures are totally avoidable. With modern technology, it would be quite straightforward to pass legilsation that compells manufacturers to build anti collision techology into all cars and also that enforces speed limits, restricting cars to the speed limit for the road. I've no idea if it's true or company propoganda, but I've read reports that state that 90% of accidents could be prevented by technology.  It seems absurd that we pay billions to prevent terror attacks, but the government won't compel car firms to include technology that would save over 1,000 lives a year. If it was as simple as protecting unsafe drivers from themselves, I suppose it could be argued as a civil liberties issue, but it isn't. It is other road users, cyclists and pedestrians that suffer. It is not just the deaths. There are all of the people who require hospital treatment and long term life changing injuries. Reports list this as half a billion pounds a year for the 0-15 year old age group. When George Osborne talks about cuts in funding, why doesn't he ever consider cutting the cause of the costs? I can't see any reason why the UK doesn't lead the way, cut the death toll and save billions. It is a win, wi win scenario. 

Then there is poor air quality. In London this is caused by pollution from cars, lorries and buses. Again the technology exists that can prevent this. The problem has been known about for years. It is as simple as compelling manufacturers to fit it on all vehicles and after a suitable period banning non compliant vehicles fro town centres and pollution hotspots. Again there are costs involved for motorists, but they have no earthly right to poison the rest of the population. It is scandalous that 9,500 people a year die from completely preventable causes. Reports list the cost  to the UK economy of air pollution as £54 billion. This figure would presumably fix George Osbornes budget defecit for once and all. It would allow us to keep our libraries, invest in the Police we need to stop the few lone wolf nutters and we'd all be healthier. It really isn't rocket science, is it?

Then there are the 40,000 people a year killed by the cold. Unlike the first two categories, this doesn't need new technology and infrastructure investments to fix. This simply needs compassion. People freeze to death because they can't afford to keep warm. No one in a developed country should ever freeze to death. What many people don't realise is that the issue puts a huge strain on the NHS budget. AgeUK estimate that the cost to the NHS is £1.36 billion

Age UK’s new estimate of the cost of cold homes to the NHS is £1.36 billion.There will also be further avoidable costs to social care services and to informal carers. At a time when the Government is looking to the NHS to make efficiency savings, taking further action to enable older people to protect their health in winter will also bring savings for the public purse.

Such a death toll cannot be justified on any level. It is quite simple, anyone who has issues paying their energy bills should be given whatever assistance they need to fix the problem. Of course there will be costs associated with this, but I for one would rather pay more for electricity or more in tax than see anyone freeze to death. If we can afford billions to keep the population safe from a few nutcases, we can most certainly afford to keep our elderly citizens safe from the cold.

The last of the things which cause preventable deaths is smoking. It kills over 50 times more people than car accidents. The cost to the NHS is huge. But this is a very complicated issue. The vast majority of people who will injure themselves or die because they smoke are adults who have made the choice to smoke. We live in a free society and I don't believe we should be telling adults how we should live our lives. What worries me though is the fact that despite all of the health risks, smoking is still viewed as a cool thing to do by teenagers. How do we change this perception? I haven't got a clue. Tobacco brings in huge sums of money for the treasury, which is why I suspect that the government has no real interest in dealing with this toll. If cigarettes were made illegal, then people would still smoke, but the government would simply lose tax revenue, which is a lose/lose. It would probably seem even more subversive and cool for the teenagers of the world. A friend of mine had a novel solution to the problem, which I have no idea whether it is a good idea or not. He suggested that over 65's should pay less tobacco duty and pubs and clubs should have smoking areas reserved for over 65's. This would put more money in the pockets of pensioners and presumably by this age, it is one of the few pleasures in life. If we had a few sitcoms set in old folks homes, where the residents were happily puffing away and reminiscing about the good old days of steam trains and national service, then would the younger generation still think smoking was a cool thing to do. I spoke to a cancer doctor recently (I've spoken to a few). He joked that having seen geriatric wards and cancer wards he knew which he'd prefer, which is why he smoked.

What do you think are the main threats to the UK? As far as I am concerned it is not ISIS. If you look at it rationally, the bloke who sells you a packet of fags is more likely to kill you than ISIS. The bloke driving a diesel car is more likely to kill you than ISIS. George Osborne with his energy policies is more likely to kill you than ISIS. However you look at it, if you are sane, rational and intelligent, ISIS are not a threat to the ongoing national security of the UK. Sadly for us all, the same cannot be said about bad, unenlightened and stupid government.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

You can't beat living in Mill Hill for the links to London and the Green belt

I had a great night last night I met up with one of my friends and had a great evening. We had a couple of beers in the excellent real ale pub The Cask, an excellent real ale pub in Pimlico. We also had  couple of beers in  the fine Fullers Pub, the Jugged Hare on Vauxhall Bridge Road and finished it off with a rather tasty curry at the Millbank Spice Tandoori. You may think that this is a rather odd way to start a blog about how marvellous Mill Hill is? Not at all, my friend Keith lives in Croydon, so when we have such an evening we meet in town. Of course Keith misses out on the fine curries available at The Day of The Raj and The Mill Hill Tandoori as he is silly enough to live in South London, but I suppose someone has to!

If you live in Mill Hill you can get to these great pubs  in less than 40 minutes, if you get  your timings right. I got the 16.43 train from Mill Hill Broadway and walked into the pub at around 17.25 The great transport links are a major reason why I've always lived in Mill Hill. I bought my parents house when my mother decided to retire to  Christchurch in Dorset in 1987 after the death of my Father. Mum had always dreamed of living in a nice town by the sea. Within a year, she'd moved back and bought a flat six doors up the road. In her later years she confided that this was the best decision she ever made. When mum hit 60 she got a free bus pass. Every Tuesday, she'd jump on a 113 bus and go on an expedition into London. She'd have tea at Harrods or Selfridges go and sit in the Public gallery at the Royal Courts of Justice, visit Parliament, but be home in time for tea. That is a real benefit of living in Mill Hill. The world is literally on your doorstep.

When Marks and Spencers arrived she said Mill Hill had reached its pinnacle. As an elderly lady, living independently, she was in walking distance from the buses, the train, the doctor, the pharmacy, the dry cleaners, the Catholic Church, an excellent off license and with Marks, if she was feeling lazy she had somewhere to get a tasty meal that could be popped in the microwave. If she wasn't feeling lazy, she'd hop on the 251 bus to Burnt Oak, where she said the mushrooms and the oranges were half the price. She was also rather partial to a nice chinese takeaway and Hees provided this. She was heartbroken when LaCarp d'Or fish restaurant closed down. She loved fish and chips. She said that the period between the opening of Marks and the closing of Carp D'Or was the the ultimate.

Woolworths - sadly missed in Mill Hill
I tend to agree. Mill Hill does miss a good fish and chip shop. Another big loss was Woolworths. All of the family miss it.  My wife worked there as a teenager and for the first few years of their lives, every Christmas and Birthday present bought for my children came from Woolies.Every Sunday I'd take them in and let them select some pic and mix (that was the reward for going to Church and being good). My daughter recently told me that this was one of her favourite memories of being little.

The common myth is that Woolies failed because its model was out of date. This is a complete myth. The company was bought by assett strippers, who sold the land and then made the retail organisation lease back the shops at ever more extortionate rates. Had they simply kept the stores, the group would have remained in rude good health. But like everything, times change. Since the Glory days, there have been some very good addition s to Mill Hill. The Rising Sun Pub now has become an excellent place to eat. Run by Roberto and Amanda, the food is excellent, the beer is good and the wine list will send you home with a smile on your face. The Adam and Eve is also a great place to spend an evening.

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The Glorious view yesterday afternoon from Arrendene looking West
Autumnal views in Mill Hill Park
I specifically mention these two places for a good reason. One of my other passions for Mill Hill is the beautiful Green Belt. When I awake in the morning, If I look West from my bedroom window, I see the M1 motorway and the Thameslink Rail line. If I look east I see St Josephs college in the distance and the Ridgeway. The West represents the great Transport Links, that facilitated my evening last night. The East represented what I did before I went into town. I went with Clare and our two hounds, Tilly and Bruno for a beautiful walk.

This is something we do every day. It is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Yesterday our route took us from Millway, via Mill Hill Circus across St Josephs College fields, through Poets Corner, up the footpath across Mill Hill School fields to Arrendene. We walked through Arrendene and down through Mill Hill Park under the subway, down through the Broadway and back to Millway. The views were absolutely stunning.

Mill Hill - mostly green belt (pic Courtesy Google Earth)
This is one of our most popular walks, but perhaps the best walk of all is to start at the Adam and Eve Pub and have a pint and a bag of crisps. From here, walk down the Ridgway. From here you can walk down and across Totteridge Valley to the footpath by St Pauls School, walk across Totteridge Valley and then walk down Totteridge Lane to the Rising Sun for a great meal and a few fine pints of Ale and a bottle of wine. There are many great walks you do in Mill Hill. The Mill Hill Preservation Society has a page suggesting several routes. I'd recommend doing all of these. We do on a regular basis.

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French Market in Mill Hill
Mill Hill is not stuck in the past, but it has a great heritage. We are lucky to have several great organisations which fight for our little patch of London. We have the Pres society (as mentioned above), we have the Mill Hill Residents Association. We also have the Mill Hill Neighbourhood forum. The forum organised a French Market last week in Mill Hill Broadway. This was a massive success. The timing, with the Paris attack was a sad coincidence, but the people of Mill Hill turned out in numbers to show solidarity.

I passionately believe that the Green Belt is one of the best pieces of legislation ever passed. There are ever more calls for these rules to be relaxed. As there are ever greater housing pressures in London, these calls will grow. If we listen to these voices the very thing which makes London special will be lost. The Green belt is the lungs of London. We already see appalling air quality. Research shows that thousands of people die due to poor air quality in London, however there is no consideration to this fact in planning applications. I chose to raise my children in Mill Hill because I believe that they had the best of everything, just as I had. They have the great transport links for the hustle and bustle of London if they want it, but they also have the peace and tranquility of the green belt. I believe this is something worth fighting for.

Friday, 20 November 2015

#SaveLondonMusic Friday Update - Support from GLA rep Darren Johnson

This is going to be a new regular feature on the Barnet Eye. Every Friday I'll give you an update on the #SaveLondonMusic Campaign. This is a campaign I passionately believe in. For those of you who don't know my background, I run a large music studio in North West London, I play guitar in  band called the False Dots, I'm a member of the organising committee of the Mill Hill Music Festival and I founded the Save London Music campign in February 2015. The campaign is working to make the case to protect London music venues and studios Specifically we want to see the following

1. Special protection for important London music venues from redevelopment. This should take two forms. The first should grant important venues the same protection as listed buildings. The second is that where large infrastructure projects destroy venues (such as the Astoria), the venue should be resited elsewhere in equivalent or better premises at zero cost to the operator.

2. Established venues should be protected from noise and disruption complaints from neighbours. Soundproofing etc should not be the responsibility of the venue, where the venue is an established music site.

3. As creative industries are a key component in the UK economy, tax breaks, planning assistance and grants should be made avaialble to any company or individual investing in infrastrure to support creative industries.  This should be done with a view to ensuring the UK maintains its leading position as the centre of world music.

From a music perspective the following should be available.
    * Generous Capital allowances for investment in venues and studios
    * Free or discounted planning costs for studios,  music venues and other music related companies
        (such as instrument manufacturers etc).
    * Rates holidays for start up businesses involved in the music and creative sector. A six month
       period of zero rates and a six month period of 50% rates would give businesses a great
       opportunity to get off the ground and generate employment
     * Offer grants to creative industries to assist with the costs etc of starting a creative business,
        specifically for assistance with the cost of consultants for noise control and other issues which
        are specific to the music industry.
    * Enact legislation to ensure that major new developments include an element of light industrial
       space suitable for creative industries and studio space at low rent.
    * Offer mentoring and assistance to young people wishing to set up SME's focussing on the
       creative sector.

Yesterday I went to the GLA to see Darren Johnson, who is one of the Green GLA reps and who has been a leading light in the campaign to get the Mayor to recognise the importance of music venues in the London music scene and the important role it plays in the UK economy. We discussed the issues raised above and Darren was totally in agreement on the issues I raised. We both agreed that this is not a party political issue and I was reassurred to hear that the Mayor is also on board with this. Darren gave me some useful contacts for other people running various campaigns and has agreed to help with ensuring that the issues are recognised and moved forward within the GLA and the Mayors office. I explained to Darren that this campaign is very much one which seeks to influence people and build consensus, rather than a man the barricades style campaign.

It is important to note that it is not just teenagers in rock bands that these issues affect. There is virtually no aspect of your daily life that isn't touched by music. Every commercial on TV has music, every program you watch has music. Every radio station has music and jingles. Every West End show has music. When we are married and at our funeral we have music. At our parties we have music. When we relax we have music. All of this is made by creative musicians. Every one of them has spent years learning their craft, generally at  great expense. In our studios we see dozens of musicians every day coming in to fine hone their trade.  It is a passion and requires dedication.  We shouldn't just be seeking to defend the ever shrinking number of venues and studios, we should be encouraging the sector to grow. I am a great believer in local venues and local studios. As I explained to Darren, whilst the big venues are significant, the small puds, occasional venues such as  schools and church halls are equally important. This is where the talent starts and hones its trade. We need these venues to thrive. This year we had the most successful ever Mill Hill Music Festival in June. It is clear that there was a huge audience for all sorts of music, from the Reggae of Joe Angel to the Opera of Opera Up Close. I'd like to see every district in London have such a festival.

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The Chandos Arms win the best newcomer award
Good music can turn around a failing pub. One such example is the excellent work done by Emily at The Chandos Arms, very good friends of this blog. They won the "Best Newcomer" category in the Pub awards ceremony yesterday. Eighteen months ago the pub was on its last legs. Emily has completely turned it around. I've worked with her to stage gigs, including some incredible shows by Madness Sax player Lee Thompson.

They have another concert by Lee coming up on the 12th December, Don't miss it.

Finally, as it's Friday,  I thought I'd share one of my favourite pieces of music with you, as performed by one of my favourite artists. You may wonder why I am choosing an American artist with no strong London ties to finish this particular blog? Because Joni Mitchell inspired me and I really hope she isnpires you to write some great music.  As this series progresses I will highlight some of my favourite music in this slot. This song is one of the most haunting and beautiful pieces of music ever written. People often think of Joni as the cheeky hippy chick of Big Yellow Taxi. This is an altogether darker song. I hope you enjoy it.

The Friday Joke - Arnie Shwarzenegger spotted in Burnt Oak

I saw Arnie Schwarzenegger in Poundland in Burnt Oak yesterday. He was stocking up on his Xmas presents, I said "Hi Arnie, you looking forward to Christmas". He said "No I hate all of that false sentimentality". So I said "So you hate all religious holidays?" He said "No, not all, have to love Easter"
Groan! Argghhhhh!!!!!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A night at Wembley to be proud of

Wembley Way last night
If ISIS and the French terrorists were seeking to divide us, I have to say that on the basis of my own eyes last night, they failed miserably. I wasn't planning to go to the England vs France friendly. I hadn''t bought tickets, but yesterday afternoon, I felt I really should. I felt it was the right thing to do, to show solidarity with our French brothers and sisters. My Neice/Goddaughter lives in Paris with her husband and four daughters. I messaged her on Saturday morning and asked how the family was? "Safe but scared" was the answer. No one should feel scared in their own home. So yesterday afternnon, I changed my mind and thought I really should go. I bought tickets for myself and my son online and at 7.30pm, we found ourselves making our way into Wembley Stadium.

We go to most England matches and many other games. This had a completely different atmosphere. For one thing there was no segregation. It was noticable just how many families and young children were there. We made our way up and I bought a cheeky beer. French and English fans mixed freely. I took some photos for groups of French fans. We had some freindly banter. It was an extraordinary atmosphere.

Then we had the National Anthems. First up was God Save The Queen, passionately belted out. Next up the Marseilles. This was belted out with equal gusto. At many England games, the fans have in the past shamefully boo'd the anthems of opponents. Not this time. The experience was extremely moving. I said to my son that we were priveliged to be there, but added I hoped he'd never see another night like it. For me, it was the worth the entrance fee just to soak up the atmosphere.

During the game there were Mexican waves, passionate singing, but none of the usual obscenities we expect to hear at matches. Given that England and France are traditional rivals and this is very much a local derby, it is an extraordinary testimony to the people of our nations that we could put all of that aside and make such a memorable night. The football was almost incidental. It was a good match. I suspect that the French players were somewhat overcome by the occasion as England were sharper and played the better football, crowned by a glorious goal by Dele Alle. But that didn't matter. As we left I exchanged words with a French fan. He said that for him it was a night he'd never forget. He was somewhat overcome.

Whatever ISIS hoped to achieve, they will fail. That can be the only conclusion from the scenes I saw at Wembley. Tragedies bring people together. I never thought I'd see and England vs France game at Wembley played with such a sense of love and friendship. I hope that something of that atmosphere persists and carrys football forward. It can and it should be a game to bring people together. Last night showed that it is possible for it to realise that aspiration.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

My response as a musician to the Paris attack

Readers of this blog primarily know me as a blogger. I've written a blog for eight years now so I suppose this is a natural enough thing. I am proud of my blogging career, however this is not my main interest. I have been a musican all of my adult life. I have written songs, played guitar played in bands, run a music studio, organised gigs and festivals and spent my life loving music. My studios, Mill Hill Music Complex is one of Londons largest studio complexes and we have over 1,000 musicians a week passing through our doors. I have hundreds of friends who are musicians. With my own band, The False Dots, nearly 50 musiicans of all colours and creeds have played beside me. Our line ups have included musicians from Nigeria, Sudan, Portugal, Slovakia, Ireland, New Zealand, Austria, Jamaica and all parts of the UK. Once we play we are as one. Music brings us together. It unites us and brings joy to our lives. There really is nothing in the world like playing in a band that is making great music. One of the greatest things about London is we have brilliant musicians from all over the world. This helps us to raise our game and keeps the London music scene at the forefront of world music. It also makes London the most tolerant city in the world and the one most comfortable with its cultural diversity.

I believe these factors are not unconnected with the attack on the concert hall in Paris. I believe that hate filled, evil people see music as the enemy.The attack on The Eagles of Death Metal gig in Paris was an attack on musicians, music lovers and human beings everywhere. Any one of us could have been playing, watching, working at the venue or simply walking past.

We must stand up and be counted and say we will not be scared, intimidated or change our lifestyle. As a community musicians and music lovers were at the heart of this assault. We will fight back, but we will do it with guitars, drums, keyboards, lyrics and music.

These killlers will soon be erased and forgotten but great music will last forever.
That is why it is so important that we ensure we have music venues and studios. Music brings people together.