Tin Pan Alley killed by greed!
Henry Scott-Irvine, one of the founders of the Save Denmark Street/Save Tin Pan Alley Campaign, now admits ‘we didn’t stand a chance…’
11 August, 2017 — By Henry Scott-Irvine
Henry Scott-Irvine. PHOTO: GERARD MCNAMARA
IN the heart of London’s West End, just off Charing Cross Road, resides a short street called Denmark Street known affectionately as Tin Pan Alley after its American counterpart, famous for being Britain’s “music street”.
It’s being redeveloped. The developers are Consolidated the landlord and freeholder. They have said they want to “keep the music” and preserve the heritage, but they continue to preside over leaseholder terminations. So the place is now a shadow of its former self. Only the music instrument shops remain. Above them every floor has been emptied of music business on the north side.
The Save Denmark Street Campaign has been running since 2014 in an attempt to achieve protections for this once vibrant hub. Some deals were struck. There was hope.
We organised a petition, appeared on TV networks, held awareness events, met councillors, talked with MPs in parliament, chatted to the planners, held committee meetings with the music industry and last year achieved Listed Building Consents to Grade II star via an Act Of Parliament for two Georgian properties at 6 and 7 through Historic England and English Heritage.
Recently a GLA adviser to both the former and current Mayor contacted us telling us to offer a more “positive view” on what’s currently happening, as the public was constantly asking “when do the music shops close”? Answer? “Usually about 7pm.”
In truth we told the GLA “we” didn’t shut down any music shops or the music-based businesses, above, behind or below Denmark Street.
“We’ didn’t demolish four-fifths of the retail space on the north side of the street; block St Giles High Street to create a shabby thoroughfare, or demolish three whole streets. All we did was draw the public’s attention to this seven-year process, which began in earnest in 2013 with an alleged conclusion in 2020 when Crossrail 1 opens.
Visitors to the area can see this for themselves and have drawn their own conclusions.
In August 2017 a few cold facts: music shops have closed; music venues have been demolished; above-the-shops music folk have gone. Denmark Place and Andrew Borde Street are wholly demolished, while the frontispiece of St Giles High Street remains, but with bits falling down.
Gone: What was once Denmark Place. PHOTO: COLIN O’BRIEN
We’ve campaigned to halt the decline and have constantly encouraged people to visit the street to buy musical instruments and support the shops. We’ve been ignored by the so-called opportunistic “trusts” and “task forces” and in some cases been maligned for daring to complain.
The Mayor’s Office response is somewhat typical of “official” reactions to our efforts.
What comes next? Answer: luxury flats, a bijou hotel, more restaurants, a vast mall and an underground conference venue and a new music venue with a capacity of 280. Six vicinity music venues down; one back!
So this international music-lover’s destination, now solely served by the remaining music shops, needs your support.
Worryingly, the leases from the developer remain short-term, meaning almost every shop faces uncertainty.
We love this great street. So do the 34,500 folk who signed our petition, alongside the thousands who regularly follow our social media pages.
But the developers have got their way. The music has been purged. After a century of being there the music agents, recording studios, rehearsal rooms, luthiers, guitar repairers, amp repairers and publishers have all but gone, while six music venues have been demolished.
There is some tokenistic social housing allocated in the skyscrapers at the end of Denmark Street where Renzo Piano’s towers shut out most of the sunlight 24/7. A wind tunnel now howls down the street with shops shrouded in darkness.
A giant shopping mall will soon occupy a large amount of the space around Tottenham Court Road’s station. Nouveau heritage for the next generation, a paean to consumerism in times of financial crisis with The St Giles Circus and Denmark Street area serving as the piggy bank for the super-rich… a Carnabyfied Times Square with artisan creativity killed off.
Bye-bye Bohemia. Farewell music and arts. Hail pop-up shops. Bring on “The Outernet” mall’s vast advertising screens from a forthcoming dystopian Blade Runner nightmare.
Our campaign tried its best. We didn’t stand a chance. We lost.
And London lost its music zone, while the world lost the chance to visit cultural history on every level and in every nook and cranny. Money won and politicians obliged. Sad. But there’s a Blue Plaque above 9 with a Walk of Fame in the works. RIP.
• Henry Scott-Irvine is a founder of the Save Denmark Street/Save Tin Pan Alley Campaign. He asks for your own views of this “tragedy” on twitter @savetinpanalley
And see Gavin Heaver’s video on what’s coming at www.facebook.com/gav.heaver/ videos/1080362002045237/