Petition pressures City of Edinburgh Council to review clause affecting live music scene

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Live music venues in Edinburgh, Scotland are awaiting a review later this year on the 2005 licensing policy, which places limitations on the volume of amplified music in the city. Investigating into how the policy is affecting the Edinburgh music scene, a group of Wikinews writers interviewed venue owners, academics, the City of Edinburgh Council, and local band The Mean Reds to get different perspectives on the issue.

Since the clause was introduced by the government of the city of Edinburgh, licensed venues have been prohibited from allowing music to be amplified to the extent it is audible to nearby residential properties. This has affected the live music scene, with several venues discontinuing regular events such as open mic nights, and hosting bands and artists.

Currently, the licensing policy allows licensing standards officers to order a venue to cease live music on any particular night, based on a single noise complaint from the public. The volume is not electronically measured to determine if it breaches a decibel volume level. Over roughly the past year there have been 56 separate noise complaints made against 18 venues throughout the city.

A petition to amend the clause has garnered over 3,000 signatures, including the support of bar owners, musicians, and members of the general public.

On November 17, 2014, the government’s Culture and Sport Committee hosted an open forum meeting at Usher Hall. Musicians, venue owners and industry professionals were encouraged to provide their thoughts on how the council could improve live music in the city. Ways to promote live music as a key cultural aspect of Edinburgh were discussed and it was suggested that it could be beneficial to try and replicate the management system of live music of other global cities renowned for their live music scenes. However, the suggestion which prevailed above all others was simply to review the existing licensing policy.

Councillor (Cllr) Norma Austin-Hart, Vice Convenor of the Culture and Sport Committee, is responsible for the working group Music is Audible. The group is comprised of local music professionals, and councillors and officials from Edinburgh Council. A document circulated to the Music is Audible group stated the council aims “to achieve a balance between protecting residents and supporting venues”.

Following standard procedure, when a complaint is made, a Licensing Standards Officer (LSO) is dispatched to investigate the venue and evaluate the level of noise. If deemed to be too loud, the LSO asks the venue to lower the noise level. According to a document provided by the City of Edinburgh Council, “not one single business has lost its license or been closed down because of a breach to the noise condition in Edinburgh.”

In the Scotland Licensing Policy (2005), Clause 6.2 states, “where the operating plan indicates that music is to be played in a premises, the board will consider the imposition of a condition requiring amplified music from those premises to be inaudible in residential property.” According to Cllr Austin-Hart, the high volume of tenement housing in the city centre makes it difficult for music to be inaudible.

During the Edinburgh Festival Fringe during the summer, venues are given temporary licences that allow them to operate for the duration of the festival and under the condition that “all amplified music and vocals are controlled to the satisfaction of the Director of Services for Communities”, as stated in a document from the council. During the festival, there is an 11 p.m. noise restriction on amplified music, and noise may be measured by Environmental Health staff using sophisticated equipment. Noise is restricted to 65dB(A) from the facades of residential properties; however, complaints from residents still occur. In the document from the council, they note these conditions and limitations for temporary venues would not necessarily be appropriate for permanent licensed premises.

In a phone interview, Cllr Austin-Hart expressed her concern about the unsettlement in Edinburgh regarding live music. She referenced the closure of the well-known Picture House, a venue that has provided entertainment for over half a century, and the community’s opposition to commercial public bar chain Wetherspoon buying the venue. “[It] is a well-known pub that does not play any form of music”, Cllr Austin-Hart said. “[T]hey feel as if it is another blow to Edinburgh’s live music”. “[We] cannot stop Wetherspoon’s from buying this venue; we have no control over this.”

The venue has operated under different names, including the Caley Palais which hosted bands such as Queen and AC/DC. The Picture House opened in 2008.

One of the venues which has been significantly affected by the licensing laws is the Phoenix Bar, on Broughton Street. The bar’s owner, Sam Roberts, was induced to cease live music gigs in March, following a number of noise complaints against the venue. As a result, Ms Roberts was inspired to start the aforementioned petition to have Clause 6.2 of the licensing policy reviewed, in an effort to remove the ‘inaudibility’ statement that is affecting venues and the music scene.

“I think we not only encourage it, but actively support the Edinburgh music scene,” Ms Roberts says of the Phoenix Bar and other venues, “the problem is that it is a dying scene.”

When Ms Roberts purchased the venue in 2013, she continued the existing 30-year legacy established by the previous owners of hosting live acts. Representative of Edinburgh’s colourful music scene, a diverse range of genres have been hosted at the venue. Ms Roberts described the atmosphere when live music acts perform at her venue as “electric”. “The whole community comes together singing, dancing and having a party. Letting their hair down and forgetting their troubles. People go home happy after a brilliant night out. All the staff usually join in; the pub comes alive”. However licensing restrictions have seen a majority of the acts shut down due to noise complaints. “We have put on jazz, blues, rock, rockabilly, folk, celtic and pop live acts and have had to close everything down.” “Residents in Edinburgh unfortunately know that the Council policy gives them all the rights in the world, and the pubs and clubs none”, Ms Roberts clarified.

Discussing how inaudibility has affected venues and musicians alike, Ms Roberts stated many pubs have lost profit through the absence of gigs, and trying to soundproof their venue. “It has put many musicians out of work and it has had an enormous effect on earnings in the pub. […] Many clubs and bars have been forced to invest in thousands of pounds worth of soundproofing equipment which has nearly bankrupted them, only to find that even the tiniest bit of noise can still force a closure. It is a ridiculously one-sided situation.” Ms Roberts feels inaudibility is an unfair clause for venues. “I think it very clearly favours residents in Edinburgh and not business. […] Nothing is being done to support local business, and closing down all the live music venues in Edinburgh has hurt financially in so many ways. Not only do you lose money, you lose new faces, you lose the respect of the local musicians, and you begin to lose all hope in a ‘fair go’.”

With the petition holding a considerable number of signatures, Ms Roberts states she is still sceptical of any change occurring. “Over three thousand people have signed the petition and still the council is not moving. They have taken action on petitions with far fewer signatures.” Ms Roberts also added, “Right now I don’t think Edinburgh has much hope of positive change”.

Ms Roberts seems to have lost all hope for positive change in relation to Edinburgh’s music scene, and argues Glasgow is now the regional choice for live music and venues. “[E]veryone in the business knows they have to go to Glasgow for a decent scene. Glasgow City Council get behind their city.”

Ms Martina Cannon, member of local band The Mean Reds, said a regular ‘Open Mic Night’ she hosted at The Parlour on Duke Street has ceased after a number of complaints were made against the venue. “It was a shame because it had built up some momentum over the months it had been running”. She described financial loss to the venue from cancelling the event, as well as loss to her as organiser of the event.

Sneaky Pete’s music bar and club, owned by Nick Stewart, is described on its website as “open and busy every night”.”Many clubs could be defined as bars that host music, but we really are a music venue that serves drinks”, Mr Stewart says. He sees the live music scene as essential for maintaining nightlife in Edinburgh not only because of the economic benefit but more importantly because of the cultural significance. “Music is one of the important things in life. […] it’s emotionally and intellectually engaging, and it adds to the quality of life that people lead.”

Sneaky Pete’s has not been immune to the inaudibility clause. The business has spent about 20,000 pounds on multiple soundproofing fixes designed to quell complaints from neighboring residents. “The business suffered a great deal in between losing the option to do gigs for fear of complaints, and finishing the soundproofing. As I mentioned, we are a music business that serves drinks, not a bar that also has music, so when we lose shows, we lose a great deal of trade”, said Mr Stewart.

He believes there is a better way to go about handling complaints and fixing public nuisances. “The local mandatory condition requiring ‘amplified music and vocals’ to be ‘inaudible’ should be struck from all licenses. The requirement presupposes that nuisance is caused by music venues, when this may not reasonably be said to be the case. […] Nuisance is not defined in the Licensing Act nor is it defined in the Public Health Act (Scotland) 2008. However, The Consultation on Guidance to accompany the Statutory Nuisance Provisions of the Public Health etc (Scotland) Act 2008 states that ‘There are eight key issues to consider when evaluating whether a nuisance exists[…]'”.

The eight key factors are impact, locality, time, frequency, duration, convention, importance, and avoidability. Stewart believes it is these factors that should be taken into consideration by LSOs responding to complaints instead of the sole factor of “audibility”.He believes multiple steps should be taken before considering revocation of licenses. Firstly, LSOs should determine whether a venue is a nuisance based on the eight factors. Then, the venue should have the opportunity to comply by using methods such as changing the nature of their live performances (e.g. from hard rock to acoustic rock), changing their hours of operation, or soundproofing. If the venue still fails to comply, then a board can review their license with the goal of finding more ways to bring them into compliance as opposed to revoking their license.

Nick Stewart has discussed his proposal at length with Music is Audible and said he means to present his proposal to the City of Edinburgh Council.

Dr Adam Behr, a music academic and research associate at the University of Edinburgh who has conducted research on the cultural value of live music, says live music significantly contributes to the economic performance of cities. He said studies have shown revenue creation and the provision of employment are significant factors which come about as a result of live music. A 2014 report by UK Music showed the economic value generated by live music in the UK in 2013 was £789 million and provided the equivalent of 21,600 full time jobs.

As the music industry is international by nature, Behr says this complicates the way revenue is allocated, “For instance, if an American artist plays a venue owned by a British company at a gig which is promoted by a company that is part British owned but majority owned by, say, Live Nation (a major international entertainment company) — then the flow of revenues might not be as straightforward as it seems [at] first.”

Despite these complexities, Behr highlighted the broader advantages, “There are, of course, ancillary benefits, especially for big gigs […] Obviously other local businesses like bars, restaurants and carparks benefit from increased trade”, he added.

Behr criticised the idea of making music inaudible and called it “unrealistic”. He said it could limit what kind of music can be played at venues and could force vendors to spend a large amount of money on equipment that enables them to meet noise cancelling requirements. He also mentioned the consequences this has for grassroots music venues as more ‘established’ venues within the city would be the only ones able to afford these changes.

Alongside the inaudibility dispute has been the number of sites that have been closing for the past number of years. According to Dr Behr, this has brought attention to the issue of retaining live music venues in the city and has caused the council to re-evaluate its music strategy and overall cultural policy.

This month, Dr Behr said he is to work on a live music census for Edinburgh’s Council which aims to find out what types of music is played, where, and what exactly it brings to the city. This is in an effort to get the Edinburgh city council to see any opportunities it has with live music and the importance of grassroots venues. The census is similar to one conducted in Victoria, Australia in 2012 on the extent of live music in the state and its economic benefit.

As for the solution to the inaudibility clause, Behr says the initial step is dialogue, and this has already begun. “Having forum discussion, though, is a start — and an improvement”, he said. “There won’t be an overnight solution, but work is ongoing to try to find one that can stick in the long term.”

Beverley Whitrick, Strategic Director of Music Venue Trust, said she is unable to comment on her work with the City of Edinburgh Council or on potential changes to the inaudibility clause in the Licensing Policy. However, she says, “I have been asked to assess the situation and make recommendations in September”.

According to The Scotsman, the Council is working toward helping Edinburgh’s cultural and entertainment scene. Deputy Council Leader Sandy Howat said views of the entertainment industry needs to change and the Council will no longer consider the scene as a “sideline”.

Senior members of the Council, The Scotsman reported, aim to review the planning of the city to make culture more of a priority. Howat said, “If you’re trying to harness a living community and are creating facilities for people living, working and playing then culture should form part of that.”

The review of the inaudibility clause in the Licensing Policy is set to be reviewed near the end of 2016 but the concept of bringing it forward to this year is still under discussion.

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On the campaign trail, March 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The following is the fifth in a monthly series chronicling the U.S. 2012 presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after a brief mention of some of the month’s biggest stories.

In this month’s edition on the campaign trail, a politician from outside the fifty states receives significant mention as a potential Republican Party vice presidential nominee, Wikinews gets the reaction of three Democratic Party candidates after the party strips delegates from two of their fellow challengers, and a minor third party removes its presidential nominee for fraud.

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World’s first double arm transplant undertaken in Munich

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A 54-year-old German farmer who lost both arms in a farming accident six years ago has become the first patient to receive a complete double arm transplant. The patient, whose name has not been released, underwent the operation at the Klinikum rechts der Isar, part of the Technical University of Munich (Technische Universität München), last week; he is said to be recovering well.

The operation lasted 15 hours and was performed by a team of 40 specialists in Plastic Surgery, Hand Surgery, Orthopedics and Anesthesiology, under the direction of the head of the Plastics and Hand Surgery department, Prof. Hans-Günther Machens, Dr. Christoph Höhnke (Head of Transplants, Senior Physician; Plastics and Hand Surgery) and Prof. Edgar Biemer, the former Chief of Plastic Surgery at the Clinic.

In a press statement released by the clinic, it was revealed that the patient had been thoroughly physically checked and had psychological counselling prior to the surgery to ensure he was mentally stable enough to cope with the procedure. Since completion of the surgery, the patient has been on immuno-suppressant drugs to prevent rejection of the new limbs.

Following the surgery, the press release from the clinic’s press manager, Dr. Tanja Schmidhofer, included the following statement:

The flow of blood was [re-]started in intervals of 20 minutes because the anaesthetists had to make sure that the patient would not suffer from the blood flowing back from the transplanted parts. No significant swelling was seen, nor indeed any ischemia (lack of blood flow to the tissues). This is a testament to the surgeons who established a fully functioning blood flow…the main nerves, the Musculocutaneus, Radial and Ulnar nerves were all attached and sewn together, and finally an external fixator was applied, with pins in the lower and upper arms, avoiding the risk of pressure points and sores. The operation was successfully completed after 15 hours.

Without the immuno-suppressant drugs given to the patient, the risk of there being a Graft-versus-Host Reaction or GvHR, would have been significant due to the upper arm containing a large amount of bone marrow, consisting of ICC’s or Immuno-Competent Cells, which would have triggered a near total rejection of the new limbs. A GvHR is a condition which results in the cells from the transplant attacking the immune system of the body.

Indications from the clinic suggest that the double attachment went well, although it could be up to 2 full years before the patient is able to move the arms.

The donor arms came from an unnamed teenager, who is believed to have died in a car accident.

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2008 Google Developer Day starts from Yokohama, Japan

Thursday, June 12, 2008

2008 The 2nd-annual Google Developer Day started its tournament in Pasifico Yokohama, Japan as its first stage. According to Google, this programmer-based event is similar to Google I/O, the largest programming event which is only available in USA and held earlier on May 28 & 29 in San Francisco, California.

Takuya Oikawa, Software Engineer of Google Japan, analyzed the future trend on programming and redefined the “3C”. “There are three key features to drive on the next generation programming, that is, ‘Client’ [user-oriented], ‘Connectivity’, and ‘Cloud Computing‘,” stated Oikawa.

Fumitoshi Ukai, the Software Engineer of Google Japan, has pointed out the importance of Google App Engine, and performed a SWOT analysis using the Sichuan earthquake as an example, and said: “The failure or success of Cloud Computing will be determined by three critical factors – ability of offline computing, language support, and quotas of databases.”

After the Japan Stage, 2008 Google Developer Day will be held in China, Taiwan, Australia, Mexico, and Brazil during the month of June. The Europe Tour of Google Developer Day will kick off from London, England on September 16.

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Maker Faire 2009 wraps up in San Mateo, California

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The fourth annual Maker Faire took place this past weekend at the San Mateo Fairground in San Mateo, California located in the United States. The first Maker Faire, which took place in 2006, had approximately 20,000 people in attendance. This year, more than 80,000 people were expected to attend; quadruple the attendance of just four years prior. On Saturday night, it was reported that attendance was up considerably over last year’s event.

Maker Faire, the self-declared “World’s Largest DIY Festival”, offers a forum where hundreds of makers and crafters alike man booths where they display their work. In the main halls alone, there were hundreds of booths. Outside the expo halls, the surrounding area was also filled with many interesting projects, some of which were mobile. In addition to all of the projects on display, there were a number of on-stage presentations. The biggest presentation of the weekend was given by Adam Savage who spoke on the topic of his “Colossal Failures”. During his talk, the Fiesta Hall was filled to capacity.

The theme for this year’s fair was “Remake: America” after President Obama‘s call to “begin again the work of remaking America”. In addition, “going green”, alternative fuel vehicles, crafting, steampunk and sciences for the young, were common themes found throughout the fair.

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Deaths on South African roads at 1215 for December 2005

Thursday, January 5, 2006

According to the South African government’s Department of Transport, the number of fatalities on the country’s roads during December 2005 was 1,215. This is compared with 1,234 the previous year, where the total number of deaths in traffic accidents was 10,530.

Department of Transport spokeswoman, Collen Msibi, stated that 512 of the fatalities were pedestrians, 414 passengers, and 289 drivers. 2005 saw the number of vehicles on South Africa’s roads rise by nearly half a million to just under eight million with 779,000 new drivers adding to the dangers on the country’s roads.

“To deal with this high level of unsafety, traffic authorities will increase the number of patrol vehicles on the road, law enforcement officers and unmarked vehicles to do more spot checks and roadblocks,” Msibi said.

“Our analysis has revealed that most accidents are preceded by offences such as ignoring road signs, driving drunk, speeding, vehicles cutting in front of others, driving defective vehicles and fatigue.”

The road toll in South Africa is similar to that of South Korea, Mexico, Japan and Thailand. However, except for South Korea these countries have significantly larger populations.

The worst country in the world for deaths in road traffic accidents, is currently accepted to be China. Figures released for 2002 reveal that 250,007 people were killed in that year.

The South African government has acknowledged the problem since 2001. At that time they launched their “Arrive Alive” campaign, targeting vehicle condition, driver fitness, speeding and drunk driving.

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Icelandic Internet bank suspends UK accounts

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Icelandic internet bank, Icesave, has suspended all 300,000 of its UK customer accounts, leaving account holders in the United Kingdom unable to withdraw or deposit any funds. A message on its website posted this morning states:

“We are not currently processing any deposits or any withdrawal requests through our Icesave internet accounts. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause our customers. We hope to provide you with more information shortly.”

The internet bank, owned by the Icelandic bank, Landsbanki (Landsbankinn), which was recently nationalised in an attempt to rescue it, has been hit by the global financial crisis. Reports from the United Kingdom suggest that the traders and city are preparing for the parent company to be declared insolvent, leaving customers to recover their monies through a financial compensation scheme being backed by the Icelandic Government. The plan will cover the first € 20,887 (Approx £16,300 / $28,720), the remainder of the customers funds being recovered through the UK’s own financial compensation system.

Following the decision to nationalise Landsbanki, the Icelandic Prime Minister, Geir Haarde, who introduced and signed the emergency legislation into law, stated:

“What we are doing here is saving a banking system – saving the domestic banking system – and making sure that it can function properly. And I think, also, through our declaration on domestic deposits in these banks and saving institutions, we have been able to avoid a run on the banks here, and therefore prevent it.”

In describing and explaining its actions in nationalising the bank, the Icelandic Financial Supervisory Authority issued this brief statement:

“Based on new legislation, the Icelandic Financial Supervisory Authority (IFSA) proceeds to take control of Landsbanki to ensure continued commercial bank operations in Iceland. Domestic deposits are fully guaranteed, as declared by the government. Landsbanki’s domestic branches, call centres, cash machines and internet operations will be open for business as usual.”

In response to the deepening world financial situation, the Dutch government has this afternoon increased its savers protection from €38,000 to €80,000 effective immediately, to help secure the financial status of its savers within Holland. Icesave also has a Dutch branch, icesave.nl – their website was unreachable at the time of this article.

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Canada’s Don Valley West (Ward 25) city council candidates speak

Friday, November 3, 2006

On November 13, Torontonians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward’s councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto’s ridings is Don Valley West (Ward 25). Three candidates responded to Wikinews’ requests for an interview. This ward’s candidates include John Blair, Robertson Boyle, Tony Dickins, Cliff Jenkins (incumbent), and Peter Kapsalis.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.

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IBM and Cisco in attempt to create a universal platform for communications software development

Friday, March 9, 2007

IBM and Cisco have announced the development of a new platform, based on Eclipse and OSGi (Open Services Gateway initiative), which should unite all communication and collaboration software developers under a single platform.

Before the UC2 (Unified Communication and Collaboration) the unified communication has suffered because of a lack of a platform to be used by all software developers, rather than a series of them and, moreover, provided by different vendors. According to Adam Gartenberg from IBM Lotus Software Group this was the main cause for this partial stagnation.

However, the UC2 is meant to ease the work of software developers. Gartenberg stated that this platform is very flexible and will certainly draw much attention form programmers. They will be able to create different plug-ins and small applications to remotely control other, major application.

The companies have also unveiled a series of their other joint projects. These project will be based on a set of application programming interface from Lotus (SameTime) and Cisco.

The add-ons planned are integration of a series of additional functions and features into the SameTime software from Lotus. Thus, in a few months, the SameTime users will benefit from such functions as click-to-call and voicemail. This will enable easier instant messaging inside the Cisco’s Unified IP phones’ system.

The fact that the platform will be based on Eclipse will make the numerous developers create many communications services, mainly for remote users to benefit from a series of new functions of ERP and CRM applications.

Nortel Networks – a partner of Microsoft since last year and Cisco’s rival in the area – didn’t have much success in the communication services field.

As for Microsoft, the experts are waiting for the reaction of the Bill Gates’ company on the ideas and offers made by IBM and Cisco for enterprise communications and collaboration solutions.

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Haitian earthquake: in pictures

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti was hit by a heavy earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 on Tuesday, killing an unknown number of people, and destroying up to ten percent of buildings in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

No official death toll has been released as of yet, although the United Nations says that up to fifty thousand people may potentially have been killed. An estimated 300,000 more were left without homes.

In a special photo report, Wikinews looks at the extensive damage caused by the disaster.


To find more information about a certain image or to enlarge it, click it. For an in-depth textual report on the same subject, please see Haiti relief efforts: in depth.

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