Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Online petition - Save The Freebutt

Save The Freebutt: Update 25/06

The management of The Freebutt would like to announce that following discussions with Environmental Health, there will be an assessment of the situation next week. At this time, the limiter will be reset and a full acoustic survey will be carried out. We are pleased to say that the complainant is willing to allow the independent acoustic specialists ’24 Acoustics’ access to their property for this. Once this assessment has been carried out, we will be able to relay a full & comprehensive update on the future of the venue.

17th June 2010 - NEW UPDATE ON THE 'SAVE THE FREEBUTT' CAMPAIGN. Please scroll to the bottom of the page, past the press release to read it. Thanks for the support.

15th June 2010


Internationally renowned and locally loved music venue and cultural hub, The Freebutt, is under threat of closure for apparent “audio nuisance”.

The owners have instigated a campaign to save the Brighton institution and save the South Coast from loosing one of it's main musical attractions, after Brighton and Hove City Council warned that they could enforce a current noise abatement order on the venue any day now; ending the hope of ever putting on any live music in the venue again.

Despite constant attempts to fix the problems and come to an agreement on how to move forward, owners now appear to have reached a dead end with council officials, after asking for some reasonable time to sort out the alleged sound issues which they had previously been told to do nothing about. This could lead not only to the closing of a historic venue but the loss of 15 creative jobs in the city and a dent in tourism figures after what owners believe to be a series of Environmental Health Department blunders.

When the music venue was taken over in 2009 by four young Brighton entrepreneurs, they were aware of the historic problems with sound bleed that the venue had previously suffered but were also very aware of the vast amount of sound proofing work that the previous tenants had undertaken. Prior to take over they had contacted the Environment Health Department of Brighton and Hove Council (herein referred to as EHO) who informed them that not only did The Freebutt have no currently outstanding noise abatement notices, it had also not suffered from any sound complaints for over 6 months.

In good faith their first key job as new owners was to re-instigate the volume limiter (which is a device that will cut off mains electricity to the plugs on the stage should the volume sustain above the maximum set level for 15 seconds) at a self imposed yet council agreed level of 105dBA. Unfortunately in February 2010, even
though nothing had changed to either the volume limiter or the physical construction of the building, the Freebutt were served a noise abatement notice upon them requesting them to cease causing a public audio nuisance by 10th May 2010.

Upon advice from EHO and their recommended audio consultant they undertook works within the first seven days of their notice period in attempts to eradicate the sound frequencies bleeding out into the complainant’s home. Upon completion of these works the Freebutt requested that EHO make a further site visit to the complainant’s during operating hours to establish if the volume of music being performed in the Freebutt was still causing a problem. Unfortunately at no point during this process would the complainants personally allow Freebutt managers access to their home, even under the supervision of EHO.

Despite constant chasing of EHO to visit the complainant's home and assess the works that had been carried out, it took them until 29th April 2010 to arrange a site visit, during that time EHO directly recommended that the Freebutt do not waste money on any further works as they had received no further complaints for a number of weeks, it was even said that the case may be dropped altogether.

When EHO did finally visit the complainants on 29th April 2010 it was decided that there was still a continuing problem of sound bleed from The Freebutt into the complainants home. Yet again the owners were told to cease causing an audio nuisance before 10th May 2010, which was by that point just 10 days away. By now, EHO and the complainants had sat on this case for over two months yet the Freebutt had just ten days to solve a problem which they still knew practically nothing about or how to fix.

Incorrectly believing that the sound issue was caused by a fault within the Freebutt volume limiter, EHO then incorrectly reduced the venue's set level to 105dBL (approximately 95dBA), effectively shutting all business down due to it's completely inappropriate and unworkably low volume for live music in a venue of the Freebutt's size. Fortunately this problem was resolved the following Monday, with the limiter returned to the jointly agreed level of 105dBA. EHO requested that the Freebutt remove a number of electrical sockets that could in theory bypass the volume limiter, these were isolated and removed within four working days of their request.

During the following week the owners discussed further with EHO and their contracted audio consultant on how the Freebutt could move forward to resolve this continued problem. The first step to be undertaken by the Freebutt management was to self impose a further limit of 1dBA upon the volume limiter, making the audio levels in the Freebutt quieter than they have been for a number of years, if not ever. Unfortunately EHO’s recommended audio consultant did not feel that he himself had enough audio expertise to provide any form of educated analysis of the frequencies bleeding through or where exactly in the building the Freebutt would require further sound proofing. In fact EHO informed the Freebutt owners that not only was the noise bleed still a problem but that it was worse than ever before.

The Freebutt made the decision to contact the audio specialist company ‘24 Acoustics’ on 11th May 2010 who recently and successfully tackled the audio bleed problems and sound proofing of the Boileroom venue in Guildford. Their audio expertise does not come cheap by any means but the Freebutt agreed with EHO that the Freebutt would hire them as to provide a much more detailed analysis of the problem and would undertake
any work that they recommended to rectify this issue once and for all.

The Freebutt forwarded a proposal to EHO as the owners believe that to truly solve this problem the Freebutt need to finally establish where exactly in the buildings structure the sound was bleeding from and at what frequencies. Unfortunately EHO do not have the technical expertise to provide this crucial information, the only
audio analysis received to date is a series of noise diaries from the complainants which simply say "sound heard: drums" as well as an EHO provided single set of dBA levels recorded on one single night which no members of the Freebutt management or third party impartial audio specialists were allowed to attend the recording of.

EHO contacted the complainants to arrange a time which they would be available to allow access for ‘24 Acoustics’ to establish the sound bleed on their side, the Freebutt accepted a long time ago that the complainants will not allow the Freebutt management access to their property but hoped that they would allow inside impartial audio specialists who would have been chaperoned at all times by council officials.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and the complainants refused access to not only ‘24 Acoustics’ but also anybody at all that wasn’t a council official. This obviously very quickly rendered any possibility the Freebutt may have had of sound proofing the building completely redundant. However, EHO still demand that the sound bleed problem be eradicated, with their next step being to reduce the volume limiter to a level that their untrained ears deem appropriate and thus undoubtedly crippling and shutting the independent business all together.

From day one, the Freebutt have worked openly in conjunction with EHO to try and locate and remove any and all sound bleed issues, unfortunately due to a lack of support from both the complainants and EHO, the Freebutt have no remaining avenues to pursue in sound proofing the building. If EHO do reduce the venue's volume limiter by even just 1 or 2 more dBA the Freebutt will be unable to function as a live music venue as nearly all amplified instruments as well as un-amplified drums will ‘trip’ the limiter, thus cutting the performance. The business would obviously have to close, causing the unemployment of 15 people, all but 2 of whom are under the age of 30.

The four managers of the Freebutt are key pillars Brighton's music scene and local community, two having spoken at an open discussion on Noise Abatement issues at this year’s Great Escape music festival and conference and regularly attending local resident meetings to discuss ways that the Freebutt can help improve the local community. The Freebutt are also in discussion with local residents to have ‘open days’ where the local children can learn new skills such as how to play an instrument and the basic workings of how a music venue works. The Freebutt certainly does more for Brighton than just pay its rates.

Co-owner Tom Denney said, “The Freebutt is without a doubt a Brighton institution, having played host to some of the most important local, national and international acts of the past two decades. The Freebutt puts on upwards of 800 local musicians every year, giving them the opportunity to perform for an increasingly growing local community of music lovers, as well as putting on international touring artists and bringing in tourism trade from places as far away as Israel.”

Co-owner John Fisher said, “Our venue is a key part of the fabric of the Brighton creative community, not only does it provide a creative outlet for Brighton’s local musicians but has also served as a learning space putting for drum classes, art exhibitions, live performance art, and even University lectures.”

Co-owner Andy Rossiter said, “We are in no way saying that the Freebutt is a perfectly sound proofed building but as section 7.1 of the Brighton and Hove licensing policy 2008 states, not only should the council recognise the need to encourage live music, dancing and theatre for the wider cultural benefits of the community generally it should also be aware of the need to avoid measures which deter live music, dancing
and theatre – such as imposing indirect costs out of proportion to the income of the licence holder and to the risks presented. Only necessary, proportionate and reasonable licensing conditions should impose any restrictions on such events.”

Co-owner Alex Murray said, “What we want is the opportunity for not only a reasonable period of time in which to carry out any necessary work but also the cooperation of both EHO and the complainants in helping establish where exactly the sound bleed problem is originating from. Without some educated analysis of the frequencies bleeding and the structure of both buildings there is absolutely no way that we will ever be able to eradicate this sound issue and will thus force the closure of a historic Brighton music venue and loss of a huge number of music industry jobs.”


* The Freebutt is currently under threat of closure by the Environment Health Department of Brighton and Hove Council for causing a public audio nuisance, due to complaints by just one local resident.

* the Environment Health Department of Brighton and Hove Council served a noise abatement notice upon the Freebutt in February 2010, expiring on 10th May 2010.

* During the term of the noise abatement order the Environment Health Department of Brighton and Hove Council recommended that the Freebutt undertake no further work to tackle the audio problem as the case may soon be dropped.

* Declaring that the audio levels from the Freebutt were still an issue on 29th April 2010 the Environment Health Department of Brighton and Hove Council demanded that the Freebutt either sound proof the building adequately or cease live music at it's current volume within the remaining 10 days of their noise abatement notice.

* The Freebutt acknowledge that there may well be an issue of sound bleed from it's premises but has been refused access for either themselves or impartial audio specialists under the supervision of council officials to have access to the complainants property to establish the problem areas and frequencies

* Without access to the complainants property their is absolutely no way that the Freebutt have any hope of understanding the problem at hand or finding a resolution.

* Reducing the Freebutt volume limiter is not the answer, any reduction in volume will deem live music in the Freebutt completely unachievable, forcing the closure of this historic musical hub as well as the loss of 15 local jobs.

Online petition - Save The Freebutt

Andy Rossiter - andy@thefreebutt.com
Alex Murray - alex@thefreebutt.com

Save The Freebutt Facebook Group

17th June 2010

Hi guys,
Thank you for the support that you've already shown for the Save The Freebutt campaign. Here's a quick update from the first 24 hours.

Within the first 24 hours of our petition going live we have managed to get over 2400 signatures, that's over 1.5% of the entire population of Brighton who are opposed to the unjust treatment of the Freebutt by the Environmental Health Department of the Brighton & Hove City Council and the single complainant.

It has been brought to our attention via the freedom of information act that in the 12 months since we took over the Freebutt there has only been one officially logged noise complaint against the venue, that's over a 400% reduction in complaints logged to Environmental Health since we took over on 24th June 2009. Between 2004 and 24th June 2009 there was an average of 4.6 complaints per year.

Both of Brighton's key independent record shops 'Resident Music' and 'Rounder Records' are now stocking physical petitions for people to sign.

Early supporters to have come onboard in the past 24 hours include:

National Radio DJs:
Steve Lamacq (BBC 6 Music) / Huw Stephens (BBC Radio 1) / Lauren Lavern (BBC 6 Music) / Rob Da Bank (BBC Radio 1) / John Kennedy (XFM)

Kaiser Chiefs / Foals / Blood Red Shoes / The Pipettes / Dan Le Sac / Caribou / Esben & The Witch / Chris T-T / Chesney Hawkes

Record Labels:
Witchita / Bella Union / FatCat Records / Big Scary Monsters / City Slang / Sub Pop / Memphis Industries / Holy Roar / K Records

National Press:
NME.com / Pitchfork.com / CMU Daily

National Promoters:
SXSW / Eat Your Own Ears

Local Brighton Institutions:
Resident Music (record shop) / Rounder Records (record shop) / The Source Magazine / XYZ Magazine / The Komedia (venue) / The Brighton Centre (venue) / Concorde 2 (venue) / The Duke of Yorks (cinema) / Melting Vinyl (promotions) / Lout Promotions / The Great Escape (music festival)

Thanks for your support, please get in touch if you can help in anyway at all. We're also available for interviews on the subject should you wish to run an article/news piece on our plight.

Thank you,
Andy Rossiter - andy@thefreebutt.com
Alex Murray - alex@thefreebutt.com
Tom Denney - tom@thefreebutt.com
John Fischer - john@thefreebutt.com