It’s 5:30pm. On a Monday evening. I’d just wandered into Lowlands, primed and ready for an incredible evening of food, beer and exceptional company. But my good mood came crashing down, shattering on the floor in front of me with a mere five words. “We’ve had a noise complaint”, one of the bartenders said as he poured my beer, shaking his head. I looked around, and apart from a handful of scattered patrons viewing the evening news, there was not a soul to be seen. The look on my face must have said it all, as he pointed around the corner. He was referring of course to the to the folk music club, who were huddled together with nothing louder than a few ukuleles and a passion for friendship and music, echoing onto the empty bowling green, barely disturbing the early evening. “You’re kidding me right?” I said out loud before muttering to myself… of course there was.
And you wonder why the live music and entertainment industry in Newcastle is consistently fighting a losing battle?
If a local inner city resident is driven to make a noise complaint, to a local bowlo, targeting a folk club, at 5:30pm on a Monday afternoon, god help anyone who even thinks about plugging a guitar into an amp. Is this really the benchmark? Are we really becoming the town where the desperate pursuit of absolute silence is the only thing we lust after? I’ve thought a lot about the motivation of this particular phone call. The resident in question called Lowlands directly. Perhaps they were turned down by local law enforcement due to the absolute ridiculousness of their grievance, and decided to take the matter into their own hands.
But now that their partying days are over, they apparently and actively choose to spend their time squashing the hopes and dreams…Before I go on, let’s first consider the phrase ‘inner city resident’. Defined as a person who, (just maybe), lives in the middle of a city. To me, coming from someone who fits well within this category, this location comes with a mixture of pros and cons. You’re right in the thick of the action, with everything our town has to offer, a mere stone’s throw away from your front door but…the same activities which provide residents with entertainment, also generate something called sound.
I also got to thinking, exactly what else could, in fact, potentially trigger a noise complaint from this particular resident. Children playing nearby? A couple having a conversation on the way to any number of venues in close proximity? Their neighbour sneezing one morning as the seasons change from spring to summer? Where is the line?
There is a tragic parallel which can be drawn between this particular type of resident and their engagement with the community. The same resident who chooses to make a noise complaint at 5:30pm on a Monday evening, over something they honestly would have been straining to hear from their front doorstep, will also be the first person to recount and boast about the heyday of our town.
I am willing to give this particular resident the benefit of the doubt.They will be the first to say, “back in my day”. They will be the first to tell you about the glory days where the city centre was overflowing with independent live music, chatting about how they packed out this venue or that venue and how they stayed out until 5:30 am just because they could. They will also be the first ones to tell you how, unlike the kids of today, they “really knew how to party”. But now that their partying days are over, they apparently and actively choose to spend their time squashing the hopes and dreams of exactly what our city could be, in a twisted act of bittersweet revenge.
Surely this is not the way of the future for our fair town? To suburbanise the CBD to the point where it ceases to exist entirely? Despite my words, I am willing to give this particular resident the benefit of the doubt. Because surely, the overarching consequences were not in fact their intention. Perhaps it was simply a case of on this particular day, this resident had a zero tolerance policy towards any activity which generates joy for another, and so my anger turns to empathy. I hope any particular internal conflict is resolved, because no man is an island my friend, and the pin drop acoustics you are hoping for, surely cannot be your view for the Newcastle of the future. Let’s build upon your legacy of yesteryear, and let the music play.
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