There’s a war on culture, and Bohemians 4 Soho are on the front line, says Alan McGee. We spoke to the Creation Records founder about how the group of protesters currently occupying London’s defunct 12 Bar Club are helping to stop a problem that affects us all…
We’re facing a war on culture, fuelled by consumerism. The 12 Bar Club in Soho closed down at the beginning of the year because contractors are redeveloping the area. I’d been to see loads and loads of singer-songwriters at the 12 Bar, and I saw a really early Libertines gig there in ’99. They were very different from the band that came out in 2002. More like Chas & Dave. The question is, where will people go to discover new music when all the small venues are gone? If our option is The X Factor, I’ll take the cyanide pill instead.
London can’t afford to lose any more venues. The city is home to 8 million people and it’s the centre of a lot of things. You need venues to meet the demand. But because of the unsure economic status of the world at the moment, a lot of people are parking their money in London thinking it’s the safest place. The house prices have gone through the roof, and it’s making things harder for people who are trying to do something that’s not solely focused on making a profit. The problem is happening elsewhere too – we’re seeing music venues closing nationwide. They’re trying to close down culture, to make us workhorses.
Frank Turner, playing the occupied 12 Bar Club earlier this week
But last week, the former 12 Bar Club was occupied by a group of kids who think what’s happening is a social cleansing issue, like what happened in New York in the 1990s under Mayor Giuliani. They can see it happening in London too and they’re trying to stop it, so they’re working together under the name Bohemians 4 Soho.
The protestors in the venue are quite politicised – they’ve been trying to get Russell Brand down there. One of the girls is a Facebook friend of mine and she asked me to go down on Monday. I bought a band I’m managing, Alias Kid, because they’d have a revolution tomorrow if they could. I told them, ‘You might get arrested’, and they said ‘You might get arrested’. I said, ‘Yeah, but I’ve got a good lawyer – I’d be out by 9pm!’
Supposedly the police have been cool, because the demonstrators are not breaking the law, they’re not taking the piss. We had a sit and talk with the protesters and the band played a couple of tunes. Everybody was on the same page and we discussed the Greek elections and austerity. They’re very clued up on the law. If there’s such a thing as a professional group taking over a building and occupying it, they’re it. I support their occupation because I’m down with their politics. Five years ago people in Greece were rioting and they’ve now just basically told the EU to go fuck themselves. It just shows you that you never really can predict the future – who’d have thought the Greeks would have risen up?
What the protestors are doing is really honourable, but it’s part of a larger thing. Will they stop the redevelopment? I don’t know. I’m not even sure if direct action is the answer. I don’t know if there’s a right way or a wrong way to go about a problem, I just know you have to deal with the fucking problem.