Legendary north London music venue The Garage has been given a major boost in the fight for its future as Islington Council’s draft Local Plan has included live music on the Highbury Corner site for the first time, providing strong protection which will help to ensure its continued operation.
With more than 40 per cent of grassroots venues closing in the capital over the past decade and with plans revealed last year by Transport for London (TFL) to redevelop the site to improve the nearby tube station, The Garage was facing an uncertain future.
Islington Council’s decision is another positive step in lifting the threat to The Garage. The London Mayor’s office has given its support to the venue and TFL has now committed to the retention of live music on the site in its redevelopment plan.
An Islington Council spokesperson said: “We’ve listened carefully to all views, and the draft Local Plan – which will guide development for the next 15 years – proposes strong protection for a music venue to continue operation on the Garage site. Islington Council wants to support local small music venues through its planning and licensing policies.
Located almost directly opposite Highbury and Islington Tube Station, The Garage sits within an area designated for redevelopment and is further threatened by rising business rates and a short rolling lease.
Last year DHP Family launched a campaign to safeguard The Garage and has recently submitted an application for the venue to be granted ‘Asset of Community Value’ (ACV) status. If the application is accepted by Islington Council then ACV status will prevent future developers from disposing of the premises without giving the community six months to put together a bid to buy the site.
Since DHP Family stepped in as the new owner three years ago, The Garage has been fully restored to its former glory with a state-of-the-art soundsystem and a refurbished bar area. The 600 capacity venue has recently hosted Jack White, Alt J and Harry Styles as well as emerging talent such as Goat Girl, Fontaines D.C and The Orielles.
DHP Family’s owner and Managing Director George Akins is a patron of the Music Venue Trust, the charity which works to protect, secure and improve grassroots music venues across the country:
“For small, independently owned venues, it is becoming extremely difficult to survive in London. Business rate increases, rent increases and redevelopment plans are all hitting grassroots venues and although the support of the Council, TFL and the Mayor’s office is very important and significant there is still plenty of work to do. We all need to pull together to try and save as many of these venues as possible before it’s too late.
“The UK is one of the world’s great sources of forward thinking music but we are in great danger of throwing away that heritage. Small venues showcasing grassroots, contemporary music are a breeding ground for many of the bands that will become the superstars and stadium fillers of tomorrow.”
Opened in 1993, The Garage quickly established itself as the capital’s finest indie and rock venue. Performing there has become a rite of passage for many bands and it has played host to a roll call of talent including Oasis, Pulp, Slowdive, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Fall, Blur and many others.
The Garage’s programmer Matthew Cook said: “This is great news for music lovers across the capital and beyond. It will help keep a vibrant musical culture in Islington and means we can continue to put on gigs by some of the most innovative, influential and exciting bands around.”