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Stormzy at Wireless festival 2018
Stormzy at Wireless 2018Photography Mohamed Abdulle /

Genres like grime are stifled by institutional racism, says report by MPs

A new report into the UK live music sector highlights how black British music is being hurt by local councils and authorities

Genres like grime and UK hip hop are being stifled by “institutionalised” racism, according to a report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee. The Guardian and BBC News highlight the comments, made Roundhouse head of music Jane Beese, in an extensive report into the UK live music sector.

The report by the DCMS, which is made up 11 MPs from the Conservatives, Labour, and the SNP, found there was a lack of support from local councils for black British styles of music, with evidence that venues were cancelling gigs over “unfounded” concerns around licensing and safety.

Although the notorious ‘form 696’, which gave the Metropolitan police power to pre-emptively close down events in London based on the ethnic make-up of the expected audience, has since been scrapped, racism is still a problem in UK music. “It could be a venue that has been pressured to cancel the event by the police,” BBC Radio 1xtra’s DJ Target told the committee. “The small venue that is already struggling cannot afford to risk it so then they end up saying, ‘OK. We do not do those types of nights any more.’”

MC ShaoDow discussed the challenges of trying to perform in London: “I was booked for a performance in a club and called them ahead of time to say, ‘I am on my way,’ and they said, ‘Oh, by the way, we were just listening to your music. You make hip hop.’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘Oh, we cannot do that here, we will lose our licence.’” The committee has called for the government to develop guidance for licensing authorities, police forces, and music venues to prevent these artists from being unfairly targeted.

The report also looked at the impact that Brexit will have on the UK live music sector. Their findings are… well, they’re not good. Besides employment opportunities being under threat, with more than half of musicians surveyed by the Incorporated Society of Musicians saying that at least 50 per cent of their income is made in the EU, organisations like the Southbank Centre highlighted the complexity of visa arrangements, and how that could hamper their ability to book talent at short notice. The committee recommended the introduction and EU-wide touring visa; they also urged the government to avoid a situation that would result in the reintroduction of carnets for touring equipment.

Elsewhere, the report described the rapid closure of live venues around the UK as “happening on a scale unprecedented in other cultural sectors”, which is cool, and added that “the UK’s position at the forefront of the music industry could be at risk because the next generation of musicians will be denied spaces to hone their craft”, which is also cool. It suggested that “without access to an appropriate education, high-quality facilities or reliable income streams, people from a diverse range of backgrounds will struggle to build viable careers in the industry”. The report asked the government to review changes to business rates on the live sector, apply relief schemes to protect venues and independent festivals, and offer tax relief that’s currently given to orchestra performances to other forms of music.

Check out the full report for yourself here.