Managing noise in a developing city
As the revitalisation of downtown Kingston takes form with development and activity being fed by serial artwalks, popular restaurant and confectionery franchises, and even the recent soft opening of Port Royal Pier, the Kingston and St Andrew municipality is positioned to become a bustling city. As more development is expected to happen along Kingston Harbour and its surrounding communities, there comes an issue of sound management – more commonly referred to these days as ‘noise abatement’.
During the Business of Entertainment Symposium recently, organised by the Reggae Month Secretariat, a collection of entertainment industry executives and practitioners listened to presentations by their international counterparts, who offered some food for thought. Between Joseph Hendrickson, a creative entrepreneur from Columbus, Ohio, and the Night Mayor of Groningen, Netherlands, Merlijn Poolman, the presentations demonstrated how new technologies or legislative battles can manage sound, or abate noise – while still nourishing economic and cultural growth.
Hendrickson showed off the Lamp Amp, a fresh patent product designed to connect to light posts, and be a ready amplifier for musical performers. Those performers are able to book their time on the Lamp Amp, which will activate for that specific period. With volume limits in place according to a particular city’s standards, sidewalks become venues, and artistes catch their practice and make some money.
One of Poolman’s sound management suggestions stems from the Agents of Change principle, a law recently passed in the United Kingdom to safeguard live music venues. Under that law, any new development planned for a site next to a noisemaking premises needs to mitigate any potential risk to the existing premises, before receiving planning permission.
The night mayor offered more detail. After noting a 40 per cent decline in grassroots venues caused by gentrification, “legislators thought of a solution. What if we give isolation costs, so that the person who comes last pays for it? If I have a nice London music venue and a Dubai investor comes in to build fancy apartments over it, by the Agents of Change law (embattled over four years, supported by global entertainment icons like Paul McCartney), the person who comes in last has to pay the isolation costs,” Poolman said.
The agent-of-change principle also defends existing residential developments. A music venue opening in a quiet neighbourhood would need to demonstrate soundproofing and other requirements to get permission.
The mayor revealed that similar legislation exists in Berlin, Germany, then explained why such actions are invigorating.
“When you start as an artiste, to become good, you practise in grassroots venues until you graduate to bigger ones. That was pretty nice, that local governments saw these clubs are bringing more than just a bit of money from the beer, they’re bringing culture.”