“Change is good and necessary, but sometimes the motivation behind it is highly questionable”: Roxanne de Bastion, singer/songwriter and arts community advocate introduces her new song ‘Wasteland‘, with a cry championing the revival of music cities and creative hubs. The single is taken from her Seeing You EP, which is out on Hidden Trail Records now and available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.
In 2013, parts of the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining stretch of Berlin Wall, was torn down in order to gain access to new luxury apartments and hotels, despite heavy protest. This act of questionable urban development, combined with the artistic and historic cultural demolition, tugged at the heartstrings of the Berlin-born singer/songwriter, inspiring her to write about Berlin’s ever-changing landscape and the city’s challenge to deal with its most unique history and cultural identity.
The question remains: how important is music and art in general when it comes to city planning; can a single song, a single artist’s voice, help to refocus our priorities?
Since the East Side Gallery incident in 2013, the term ‘gentrification’ has crept into mainstream language across Europe, and indeed key cultural hubs across the world. In Sydney, Australia, the governments’ ‘Lock Out Laws’ have put a stranglehold on the city’s cultural identity. In the United Kingdom alone, swathes of creatives are slowly but consistently being forced out of London, and societies’ poorest members are being displaced across the country due to a shortage of affordable and social housing. Rallying behind the creative and cultural ramifications of this, the Music Venue Trust reports in 2015 that out of the 430 music venues trading in London between 2007 and 2015, only 245 are still trading (‘The slow death of music venues’ The Guardian). Funding for new music and art in general appears low on the list of priorities and fading. Meanwhile, there seems to be no shortage of urban space for new luxury real estates and ‘buy-to-rent’ investment opportunities. There seems to be no middle ground to be met, between the creative and infrastructure sectors in sight – when there is a golden opportunity to be had instead.
In his 2015 TEDxBerkleeValencia talk, CEO of Sound Diplomacy Shain Shapiro argues that a healthy arts scene is good news for tourism, urban development opportunities, and the economy in general: “music generates new revenue without increasing taxes. It creates new wealth, without depreciating wealth” (‘Music Makes Cities Better’ – TEDxBerkleeValencia, 2015). In a similar vein, the collaborative white paper between the IFPI and Music Canada, ‘The Mastering of a Music City’ (released June 2015), identifies examples in 22 cities from all continents, with Graham Henderson, President and CEO of Music Canada stating: “A vibrant music sector delivers an extensive array of social, cultural and economic benefits to its community; from job creation and retention to city identity and music tourism, to social cohesion, music can play an essential role.”
‘My older sister and me, taking down the Berlin wall in 1990’
In her new single, ‘Wasteland’, de Bastion calls out the powers that be, guiding this urban renewal, with her chorus: “On the graveyard, they’re building hotels / fluffing up the pillows so no one can tell / you’re lying where I once took my final stride / face down in the mud heading for the other side / it’s only Wasteland to them now”
‘Wasteland’ is a poignant piece of social commentary that goes beyond her town of birth and points a sharp finger at the issues of gentrification. Is this a modern protest song? Perhaps, but it is delivered with a voice as clear as crystal and a sweet melody in stark contrast to its’ message. It is a call to arms; a cry to rally the creative troops and sway the urban developmental arms of local governments, putting the artistic and cultural identities of these cities back into focus. de Bastion believes that If we don’t start placing music and art at the heart of our city planning, we run the great risk of losing the characteristics that make cities such as London and Berlin so desirable, so vibrant, so unique and full of life in the first place. Art cannot thrive in a land of privatized corporate pavements lined with chain coffee shops, with the same high street shops we see in every other city; all the newly built, luxury apartments and hotels will soon be empty if there are no artists and entrepreneurs to breathe life into these spaces. Neglecting to fund grassroots business in the arts is poisoning the very seed that we need to nurture, the very foundation on which we are building these lifeless monuments to the sky.
‘Seeing You’ April Tour Dates
In promotion of her EP, and presenting the ideas expressed in the think-piece above, Roxanne de Bastion is going on a UK headline tour in April. See her in these grassroots music venues across:
5th – LEEDS – Oporto
7th – MANCHESTER – Gullivers
8th – LIVERPOOL – View Two
10th – SHEFFIELD – Greystones
11th – LONDON – Green Note – SOLD OUT
13th – BRIGHTON – Latest Music Bar
14th – MILTON KEYNES – The Stables
17th – CARDIFF – The Moon Club