Save the live music at The Antelope, High Wycombe

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Keep the live music on The Antelope outdoor stage!

Local live music is an important part of the nightlife in any town: it gives opportunities to up and coming bands, it is a creative outlet for young people in the area who attend gigs or partake in gigs, and it brings revenue to the town centre by appealing to customers who otherwise would not visit the town. The Antelope has played a big part in attempting to revive the live music scene that was once famous in High Wycombe. The big outdoor stage is unique to any pub venue, and is a result of a lot of hard work, time, money and creativity. The stage events paid for bands to perform, and provided jobs for local sound engineers, stagehands, photographers, door staff and booking agents. The Antelope Stage has been a much loved asset to the town centre for the many live music fans of High Wycombe, and the loss of the outdoor live music license has saddened and angered many local and non-local people.

Here's a statement from Mark Adkins, the landlord of The Antelope, in reply to the statement released by Wycombe District Council:

"I took over The Antelope in January 2015 and after a bit of a revamp, the pub opened it’s doors to the public, at the end of February. When I took over, the pub was very run down and attracted less than 50 customers even on a Saturday night. I set about reversing it's fortunes as I knew it could be a great pub and an asset to the town again. Firstly, I barred any customers that were not well behaved and after a year or so, the pub had a good enough reputation with the Police that I felt confident in applying for a late license. When I spoke to the Police Licensing Officer, I was told that if I went for a 3am license, the Police resources would be split when O'Neill's closed and that if I went for a 4am license, the resources would be split as Yates closes at that time. I knew that if the closing time was late enough, most customers would have drifted out in small numbers and there would not be an issue with the remaining customers at closing time. I applied for and eventually received a 6am license. I am very pleased to say that the customers have been great and we have not had issues at closing time. I mention this to highlight that as a Pub Landlord, I am always responsible with the decisions I make, and thoughtful of all outcomes of those decisions.

I installed an ID scanner that ensures that anyone who is barred cannot show up months later with a different look, or approach the door when a different door-person is working. We have less problems than any other late-night venue in the town for this reason. We are still the only venue that has this technology in place.

My license allowed me to have live music in the garden as long as it finished by 11pm (which seemed reasonable), so I set about building a stage. It is a large construction - approx. 9m wide, 5m deep and 1.2m high. I built it in sections so that it could be moved if required and it is not attached to the ground and therefore does not need planning permission. If I do something, there are no half-measures; it is built so solidly that a 4x4 could drive on it. After covering the stage with an inflatable cover, erecting the truss and setting up the lights and sound equipment, we then had (in my opinion) the best live music set up in the area. Last year The Antelope was proud to host Toploader, Republica, The Hoosiers and Doctor and the Medics. We also hosted various popular tribute bands and lesser known original bands. We have a policy of giving the support slots to small, up and coming local bands and thus we were able to help promote local talent. As luck would have it, the sound system that I purchased (with no knowledge what-so-ever) gave an excellent and clear sound. The Antelope has become, in a very short time, a music venue that both attracts bands and customers. Indeed, many bands have told us that with the sound quality, size and all the other great aspects of our stage, we are their favourite music venue in the Bucks area.

The stage events not only paid for bands to perform, but also gave employment to photographers, sound engineers, stagehands, door staff, advertising staff and booking agents. Customers & bands would often eat at other businesses prior to a gig and also visit other pubs before and after the gigs, which helped bring revenue into the town. While not the most important thing on a list of reasons to visit or study in the town, it does attract people that would otherwise look to other towns and is a benefit to the town as a whole.

We were informed that the sound was carrying too far, so began working with the council to fix the issue. I designed and installed a sound wall that runs along the church wall which had reduced the sound escaping by about 10 decibels (Db). I also purchased sound limiting crossovers that stop the sound going above the limit that they are set at. We were set a limit of 48Db at a measuring point outside Tiger Taxis on Castle Street. The important point to note here is that the crossovers only work with the sound that goes through the speakers. I asked the sound person from WDC about the fact that drums are generally louder than the 78Db that was set by them at the front of the stage and was told that as they are very quick hits, they would not affect the overall reading, as the 48Db is measured over a 15 minute period and the average is taken.

We were informed that a sound reading was taken during Frogfest that was above the limit but as we had around 450 people in the garden, and there were many other people in the town centre still due to the other stages, this did not set alarm bells ringing, as a crowd of this size is bound to produce a lot of noise.

I have sound level measuring equipment that does not give the average reading but does show the peaks. When I have taken measurements outside Tiger Taxis, the readings are both corrupted by passing traffic (a lot louder than the stage music) and also anyone nearby talking, car radios etc. I was concerned that the peaks from the drums were causing an issue as my research informed me that there is reverb on drums, i.e. the beat is not as short-lived as I was informed by the WDC sound person.

I asked the WDC sound person for help as they have equipment that can give an average reading (and costs about 7K!). I was told that they could not assist me again as they were taking action against the pub. I purchased a drum isolation booth (which cost over £1400.00) but as it had to be made and shipped, it arrived too late for us to test it by the time of the license review hearing, and was not taken into account when mentioned in the hearing.

I have never ignored the sound levels and due to the information given by WDC, I thought that the pub was within the limits. The sound limit was added to my license as a voluntary change and I was told it was achievable. I do not believe that WDC (or their employees) seriously think that live music does not generally include a drummer. I know that if I ask you, there may be a clever-clogs that can name some bands that don't use drums but I personally struggle with it. An employee from the council actually suggested that we only have bands without drums!

As far as I am concerned the fact that the sound levels were not addressed before is due to the incorrect advice given by the WDC officer. I could have purchased a sound booth for the drums much sooner had I known it was an issue. I intend to appeal the decision of the license review hearing, and I was not going to 'go public' with this, but the WDC statement cannot go unanswered. Interestingly, although I have requested a copy of the minutes of the hearing, I have been told that I need to find them for myself on the WDC website. After spending hours looking without success, I even sent a request in to their website techs. No response as of yet. If there is anyone out there that has managed to find the key to unlock that secret level, please let me know the code.

I apologise to any residents nearby that have been affected by the live music at The Antelope, but I do hope that they take into account the fact that we only have live music on weekends during the warmer months and not all year round, and that they recognise it is only ever in the evening, and always finishes before 11pm. I’ve personally noticed that the town centre is always noisy during and even after this time on weekends due to the presence of pubs and bars in the area. There have even been instances in the past where The Antelope was accused of causing a sound disturbance with the stage, but we were able to prove with CCTV that the stage wasn’t actually in use at the time of the disturbance. This highlights to me that the town centre is naturally noisy enough on a weekend to receive complaints, even without our stage in use."