We've been a bit quiet about the development threat that the studio has been facing since last year - now we can have a chat about it.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, the initial Facebook post is here.
So, after a few months of stress and uncertainty, we have a decision from Derby City Council on the building of a block of flats a few meters from our door. For now, it's good news. You can read the refusal document here.
Safe to say, this was a bit of a nightmare for us. Plans had to be put on hold, new backup plans had to be put in place and we had to learn quite a bit about how all this development stuff works in order to coordinate an appropriate response. I want to be clear that I don't believe that the land next to our studio is best kept as a dusty car park and I don't want to oppose redevelopment in the area, it's just I don't want it to end my business either. So we were quite careful about not wanting to whip up some kind of online mob, we just needed our concerns of those of our clients to be heard and hopefully open a dialogue with the developers and the council.
With that in mind, I want to kick this off by saying thank you! Thanks to everyone who signed up and registered their concerns on the ePlanning site. HUGE thanks to all our previous clients who had some experience of this stuff and reached out with advice and in the case of Tom from Mountain Schmountain, actual relevant paragraphs of legislation with annotated notes to help us make sense of where we stood. Also thanks to Derby City Council for visiting us, hearing us out and keeping us posted as everything progressed.
The concern that still remains is that this refusal was not based on the impact upon our business. It may have played some small part, but certainly isn't mentioned in the refusal notice explicitly. The developers may well appeal the decision, submit changed plans or just sell the land to someone else who will seek to do the same. With the amount of inner city development taking place at the moment (almost entirely offices and flats), we don't see this as a problem that has gone away for good.
We've been here for over 10 years. The building has been a studio for much longer. I recorded my first band's demo here when I was 15. It would be a huge financial and emotional expense for us to have to move, and a shame for Derby to lose another facility that helps the creative community to... y'know, create.
This whole experience has made me think about the problems our industry (and others) have, moving into the next decade where our cities will be changing quite drastically to deal with developments in industries and the societies built around them. The issue can be condensed into one sentence.
"People need to control the air around them"
Sound is just the way air moves around us, through us and through our environments. It's difficult stuff and relatively expensive to control, to stop it transmitting, to stop it reflecting, to change its direction. All of which we have to do in our studio spaces to make them sound good whilst not negatively impacting the environment around us.
People in their homes and workplaces all need to do the same, although most of them aren't playing drumkits or running loud amplifiers so it's much easier and cheaper to control those environments. Humans are also generally pretty good at tuning out the outside world and we hardly notice if a large lorry drives past or a car alarm goes off. We don't have that luxury in a sound sensitive workspace.
So the problem we face is that we all need more suitable spaces to work, and it's not just us. Music teachers who need places where they can teach a beginner to play (badly at first) on the piano without it annoying next door, film editors who need to hear their sound mix in the same quiet environments as the cinemas which they will play in or podcasters who need to put out a clear message without background noises distracting from the dialog.
So, in a way, this is a plea to developers. To city councils, to anyone who is instrumental in redeveloping our cities. You already espouse the value of the creative and digital industries in this area of the country and the reliance on them as we move forward into uncertain times of automation, climate change and all the other factors that will affect the spaces people live, work and play in. Why not consider creating working spaces that tackle sound and respond to the diverse needs of the businesses and art spaces that can thrive in them? There are conversations to be had, let's start having them before we lose all of the venues, musical establishments, and spaces where creation can be limitless.