Petition launched after council force musician to move out for “practising at home”
An online petition has been launched after a professional musician was forced to leave her London home due to noise complaints for practising her instrument.
Fiona Fey — a member of classical choir Mediaeval Baebes — received a letter from the Lewisham Council following a string of complaints from one of her neighbours.
The form in question was a noise abatement notice, which prohibited her from playing any instruments in her home. It also threatened that the council could force entry into her property, confiscate her instruments and issue a fine of up to £5,000 if she was heard practising.
According to the BBC, the notice came despite her reaching a compromise with her neighbour, where Fey agreed to “stop playing almost all of [her] instruments other than a guitar and a low whistle that is the same volume as a vacuum cleaner”.
She also recalled contacting the council to question whether she was breaking any laws by practising her instruments at home — to which she was reportedly told: “You sound guilty to me or you wouldn’t be calling”.
Following the notice being served, Fey decided to move out of her flat and told the BBC: “This has had taken a huge emotional toll and placed an enormous financial strain on me. I was made to feel self-conscious and anxious every time I played my music.”
“I had almost finished recording an album but now I can’t use my recording equipment as it is in a storage unit,” she continued. “I am currently living with friends and I don’t know how I will find a new place to live as there’s nowhere I can afford.”
In response to her story, Fey launched a petition online, which seeks to “protect the rights of musicians to practise”. At the time of writing, the petition has already received a huge wave of support, and has over 68,000 signatures.
“Statutory nuisance was meant to deal with matters such as people living next door to dog kennels, car racing tracks and night clubs – not domestic music playing,” she writes in the description.
“This night is Hallwe’en Janet
When fairy folk moun ride…”
– Tam Lin, Mirabilis#halloween #fairyqueen #october pic.twitter.com/Lejq3Fd7eC
— Mediaeval Baebes (@mediaevalbaebes) October 31, 2017
“Can the law around music practise be made clearer so this doesn’t continue to happen?” She continued: “I am a musician, it is my job to practise.”
As per the BBC, a spokesperson for Lewisham Council justified the decision made the serve Fey with the notice. “We have been aware of noise issues at a residence since November 2022 involving loud music, playing of instruments and singing, resulting in numerous complaints,” they said. “The tenant refused to agree to a good neighbour agreement or rehearsal times to prevent further concerns.”
They added: “Lewisham Homes instructed a professional witness who attended the complainant’s home in February 2023 [and] the report confirmed that the music from the residence was audible within the complainant’s home and was at an unreasonable level.”
In other news, last month a petition was launched online to save London’s O2 Academy Brixton, following speculation that the venue may close for good.
The future of the space was thrown into speculation after an Asake gig last December, when visitors forced their way into the show — leading to overcrowding and the gig being cancelled halfway through.