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London riots impact UK creative sectors

As politicians on all sides begin to dissect the whys and wherefores of the most severe UK riots for a generation, the British creative and cultural industries have also had cause to reflect on the damage done.

As politicians on all sides begin to dissect the whys and wherefores of the most severe UK riots for a generation, the British creative and cultural industries have also had cause to reflect on the damage done, writes David Davies.

The rioting that took London and other large cities – notably Manchester, Liverpool and Nottingham – by storm earlier this week astonished nearly all observers with its scale and ferocity. At the time of writing, police are maintaining a presence of 16,000 on the streets of the UK capital, while the authorities are processing more than 1,000 arrests in London alone.

Inevitably, analysis of the possible economic and social factors informing the riots is already underway, with the UK Government being encouraged to review long-planned cuts to police numbers.

But while the debate rolls on in the UK Parliament, the business community has also been counting the cost to shops, retail outlets and factories. A warehouse owned by Sony DADC that was set on fire during the riots was one of the highest-profile casualties – and one that could bring catastrophic consequences for the independent label scene.

Located in Enfield, north of London, the warehouse handled Blu-ray, DVD and CD blank media distribution, and was one of Sony’s principal European stock-holding facilities. Used as a hub site by music distributor PIAS, the warehouse held releases from nearly 200 independent labels, including iconic names such as Warp, XL, Rough Trade and Domino. Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire, but some companies lost nearly all their stock, so disruption to future release schedules is inevitable.

In a statement, Warp – home to artists including Autechre, Aphex Twin and Brian Eno – confirmed the scale of the impact on its business: “All of Warp’s UK stock appears to have been lost in the fire. The Sony DADC warehouse also acted as our international hub and so this has affected our ability to supply our overseas partners.”

While imminent Warp releases are generally unaffected, the label readily admits the challenge of replacing its back catalogue from the last two decades years: “We will replace as much of this as we can by creating new stock and replenishing where possible with stock from outside the UK. Unfortunately, some releases may never be available physically again. We will be closely supporting PIAS in their efforts to get the independent music community up and running as quickly as they can.”

Beggars estimates that it lost around 750,000 CDs in the fire, while Sony has confirmed that more than 1.5 million CDs are being remade in the UK and Austria. The implications for independent UK film could be even worse, with some estimates suggesting that up to 30 million DVDs perished in the blaze. UK distributors like Dogwoof, Metrodome and Artificial Eye were among those affected, while the British Film Institute lost more than 120,000 DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

In a heartening display of support that reflects the spirit of the on-the-ground ‘riotcleanup’ movement that quickly took hold on Twitter, music industry organisations and artists have rallied to try and help the labels affected by the fire. Music-lovers are being encouraged to lend their support to the LabelLove campaign, or to simply purchase an MP3 or album from one of the labels listed at the end of this article. Meanwhile, the Association of Independent Music and PIAS have established a fund of £250,000 to assist labels through the crisis period.

PIAS and Sony DADC have already tapped new storage and distribution partners, with stock being brought in from Brussels and elsewhere to help address the losses.

At the time of writing, two 17-year-olds and an 18-year-old had been arrested in connection with the fire. Two of those detained remain in custody.

The live scene has also been left to the count the cost of this month’s events. Lewisham’s Dirty South Bar suffered severe damage at the hands of looters on the night of 8 August. One of South London’s most celebrated live venues, Dirty South has played host to acts including Babyshambles and The Specials.

Numerous London theatres – including The Union in Southwark, The King’s Head in Islington, The Albany in Deptford, Battersea Arts Centre and Greenwich Playhouse – closed their doors at the height of the troubles. Filming of one of the BBC’s most successful dramas of recent years, Sherlock, was also suspended due to the riots.

But many events did still go ahead as planned, including PSNE sister title Music Week’s Breakout sessions at Proud Galleries in Camden. Almost 650 people turned out to see eight up-and-coming acts, including new Sony/RCA signing Loick Essien and the Steve Lamacq-championed Lucy Rose. The next Music Week Breakout is set for 14 September; more details here.

With the general economic malaise and the online piracy issue continuing to affect the UK creative and cultural sectors in a multitude of ways, the timing of these events could hardly have been worse. While cross-industry support may help many companies affected to survive the immediate crisis, the long-term ramifications are impossible to determine with any degree of certainty.

Image credit: Mark Durham

The label list in full:
[PIAS] Recordings, [PIAS] Recordings Belgium, 4AD, A Camp, Absynthe Minded, Accidental, AEI Music, Air Recordings, ALC Music, Alsatian, Ambush Reality, Ancient & Modern, Angular Recording Corporation, Arcady Records, Ark Recordings, Asthmatic Kitty Records, Atlantic Jaxx Recordings, Bad Magic, Balling The Jack, Banquet Records, Battered Ornaments Records, Beggars Banquet, Best Before, Big Brother, Big Dada, Bird Records, blackmaps, Bloody Chamber, Blowout Music, Blue Chopsticks, Border Community, Borstal Beats, Boysnoize Records, BPM, Brainfeeder, Brassland, Bright Star Recordings, Brille, Broken Sound Music, Bronzerat, Brothers and Sisters, Brownswood Recordings, Buzzin’ Fly, Cache Cache, Cadenza Records, Celluloid Records, Chalkmark / IE, Chemikal Underground Records, Cocoon, Control Tower, Counter Records, Dance To The Radio, Dead Oceans, Deceptive, Defenders Ent UK, DESOLAT, Dessous, Different, Dirtee Stank, Divine Comedy Records, Domino Records, Double Six Records, Drag City, Dreambrother, Drive Thru Records, Drowned In Sound, Dummy Records, Duophonic, Eat Sleep Records, Fabric Worldwide, Fake Diamonds, FantasyTrashcan, Fatcat Records, Fence, Feraltone, Finders Keepers Records, Flock Music, Flying Circus, Freerange Records, Friends Vs Records, Full Pupp, Full Time Hobby, Gang Of Four Recordings, Geographic, Ghost Ship, Glaze Recordings, Groenland Records, G-Unit, Hardly Art, Hassle Records, Helpless, Hem Hem Records, HFN Music, Immune, Independiente, Infant, Infectious, Jagjaguwar, Kartel, Kitchenware, Kitsune, KMS Records / Fabric, Laughing Stock, Lex Records, Lipservice, Little Sister Recordings, LO-MAX Records, Loose Music, Lovepump United, Low Life Records, Lucky Number Music, Lucky Seven Records, Mantra, Matador, Memphis Industries, Merok, Metric Music International, Metroline Limited, Model Citizen, Moikai, Motion Audio, MyMajorLabel Ltd, Nation, Ninja Tune, No Quarter, NovaMute, Nusic Sounds, One Four Seven Records Ltd, One Little Indian, Organs, Outcaste, OVNI, P.I.L., Peartree Records, PeMa, People In The Sky, People Tree, Pirates Blend Records Inc, Planet Function, Play It Again Sam, Playlouder, Poker Flat, Polyvinyl Records, Poseidon Records, Post Present, Pschent, Raw Canvas, Red Cord Records, REK’D, Rekids, Rekords Rekords, Renaissance, Reveal Records, Riverman Records, Rock Action Records, Roots Records, Rough Trade Records, Rubyworks, Sea Note, Search And Destroy, Secretly Canadian, Setanta, Shape, SideOneDummy Records, Silva Screen, Slam Dunk Records, Smekkleysa, Soma, Sonic Cathedral, Soul Jazz Records, South Paw, Southern Fried Records, Stereo Bang Media, Stolen Recordings, Stranger Records, Streamline, Sub Pop, Suicide Squeeze, Sunday Best, Thrill Jockey, Tirk, Too Pure, Torque Records, Touch & Go Records, Transmission Recordings, Tri Tone, Trouble Records, True Panther, Try Harder, Turnstile, Twisted Nerve Recordings, Universal Sound, Victory Records, Wagram, Wall Of Sound, WARP, Watergate, We Love You, Wiiija, Willkommen Records Ltd, Wonderfulsound, XL, Xtra Mile Recordings, Yaala Yaala, Young Turks.