There is a threat on one of London’s most vibrant and historic streets, a threat that will eradicate decades of music history from our city and further remove future generations from an essential link to our music past.
Denmark Street, also know as Tin Pan Alley since the late 1950s, has been a mecca for musicians ever since rock’n’roll moved to London. But now, due to development plans surrounding the Cross Rail Interchange and the increase in commercial interest in the local area, there is a rise in property values and these “skyrocketing rents are making it unaffordable for small local businesses [to stay] and are dissolving the community and its legendary musical culture.” [RoundBoyPictures “The Demise of Denmark Street”]
What will take the place of the music history that has been around for last 70 years? More corporate chains such as Starbucks and Pret A Manger (as if there aren’t enough already, clogging up London’s streets), more over priced housing for the elite to be at the heart of the city with excellent transport links, that’s what. However, by adding homogenous chain stores and removing historic individuality, what will people travel into town to see? Commercial property? Why will tourists want to visit the heart of London if they destroy iconic sites like Denmark Street, a gem in British popular music culture?
For a musician, this street was a haven; you could do everything as Alex Jackson, from an independent film company called Round Boy Pictures who are making a documentary on “The Demise of Denmark Street” (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Demise-Of-Denmark-Street/658932924190243) said. “You could join a band, buy instruments, get them repaired, record, play live” and furthermore you could discuss new and old music face to face all day long with other like-minded people – the opportunities for young, aspiring and professional “museos” were endless. This street heard the early recordings of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, this street was the first place that Elton John worked, it was where the Sex Pistols lived; it’s drenched in British pop culture; yet all of that is on the verge of being demolished.
Having already shut down the Astoria and 12 Bar Blues, two venues which have hosted some of the best live showcases in London from Adele, to Jeff Buckley, to the Libertines to many more, developers want to renovate the rest of the street.
Denmark Street is about real life musicians and music lovers. It’s something tangible, away from social media threads, an important piece of London’s history. How many music streets solely dedicated to music are there in London? How many memories will be swept away under the concrete? What message is this sending out to young aspiring musicians, music journalists, up-and-coming managers and songwriters? Where else can you go and play 15 different guitars or try out 10 different pianos, just to make sure you’ve found the one to suit you best? Will we be forced to buy our instruments on the Internet, putting them at risk of being damaged in transit or having to spend time and money sending them back because they not the right fit for us, purely because we haven’t played them first? Choosing an instrument is a very personal affair, and one that shouldn’t be compromised to make way for something that will not improve or remember the culture of the city we live in.
Jobs will be put at risk in an already struggling employment crisis and for many musicians working in music shop is a way to work flexible hours in order to make a living whilst following their musical dream.
As one fan said on social media, “I’m sure the Pret A Manger they replace [12 Bar Blues] with will bring an equal amount fo character, heritage and sense of community.”
How many of you have been to Denmark Street? What are you views on it? Tweet @songacademyUK and let us know what you think about its current demise. And if you haven’t been then make sure you go along before it’s gone, take some photos (don’t forget to tweet/instagram them to us) and perhaps jot down a few ideas for a protest song while you’re there entitled “Denmark Street”: send your songs to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to get featured on our website.