Passing Clouds, London's destination for international music, turned 10 years old this year. To celebrate, it programmed a three-month season of concerts from artists including Lee Scratch Perry, the Orb, Jazzie B, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Tony Allen and the Sun Ra Arkestra, among many others.
In the midst of this season, however, the venue building was illegally trespassed and occupied by Landhold Developments, a property development company. A few hours later, Passing Clouds staff gathered 200 musicians and locals to peacefully retake their premises. They threatened to obtain a high court injunction to stop further incidents, and returned to the lawful use of the building. The celebratory season continued.
The future of Passing Clouds is far from assured, however. The building was secretly transferred to Landhold in 2015. Ahead of the anniversary season, Landhold tried to force Passing Clouds’ director Eleanor Wilson to sign a letter written on her behalf which claimed that Passing Clouds was moving out voluntarily due to its building’s dilapidation. Attempts to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Landhold boss Garry Simpson have been fruitless, despite the club paying rent.
In order to safeguard the venue's future, staff have launched a petition and a crowdfunding campaign. Support has come from organisations that support nightlife and live music, as well as Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Mayor's Office, which has recently launched the Independent Music Venue Rescue Plan. It has also attracted messages of support from musicians and locals. The poet Benjamin Zephaniah has said:
“Passing Clouds is not just another club or music venue. Although it is both of those things, it is also a cultural centre that represents the essence of London’s multiculturalism. It has attracted musicians and creative people from all over the world, and so it’s reputation is also international. Moreover, for the past decade it has employed and trained local people, and added to the local economy of Hackney ... It is simply a unique cultural asset that would be very difficult to replace.”
Marshall Allen of the Sun Ra Arkestra puts it more succinctly: “What does Passing Clouds mean to me? A better world.”