Uproar over Rhythms of the World sound limit

UPROAR over sound limitation at this year’s Rhythms of the World festival has sparked a campaign to increase the sonic ceiling by 10dB.

The online petition has attracted 452 signatures, at last count, and aims to persuade North Herts District Council to raise the limit from 65dB to 75dB for the Hitchin festival, held between July 9-10.

Adrian Knight launched the protest on Tuesday due to his disappointment with the volume of music at last year’s festival.

“I started the petition as a concerned resident of Hitchin and a fan of Rhythms of the World,” he said.

“I was there last year and the sound levels were so low you couldn’t hear the music if you were more than 20 metres from the stage.

“It’s a real shame for the organisers who have worked so hard and got acts from all over the world.

“I have got about 500 people signed up to it so far so that’s good.

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“The petition’s going to be open until the June 1 and I’m going to present it to the Hitchin Area Committee on June 8.”

The petition has been signed by local musicians, promoters and ward councillor Judi Billing.

She said: “I have signed it because I can be neutral in as many issues as I like, and I do try, but on this one I do feel I need to give Rhythms of the World the upmost they need to make the festival a success.

“I have been working with the festival team to try and persuade the council to change its decision and they’re going to have a meeting some time June.”

RotW organisers support the protest, but are pursuing the matter through official means.

The festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and indie stars The Subways have been confirmed along with artists from all over the world.

A spokesman for the festival said: “It’s not our petition, it’s run by members of the community. We support its move to increase the sound levels of the festival.

“Were going through official channels but we’re supportive of any members of the community who want to add their support.”

The current level of 65db is equivalent to a conversation in a restaurant and measurements are taken by NHDC’s environmental health team who follow national guidelines.

Officers take their measurements one metre from the nearest noise sensitive building, and the authority say they must take residents needs into account.

Cllr Bernard Lovewell, NHDC’s portfolio holder for housing and environmental health, said: “We have to take into account the needs of all our residents, both those who want to enjoy Rhythms of the World as well as those who are not attending but live close to the site.

“The organisers felt that this year we should depart from the national guidance and allow them a higher noise limit than the recommended 65dBA.

“Rhythms of the World have made a formal application to change the permitted noise levels for the 2011 event and this will now be determined by a panel of elected councillors at a hearing.

“I would like to add that we are not in any way trying to cause problems for the festival which, as the petition rightly states, is something of which Hitchin can be proud.”

Due to sound constraints Hitchin-based Brazilian drum group Toque Tambor will not be performing this year despite playing every RotW for the past 10 years.

The band’s leader J P Courtney said the festival is their equivalent of a street carnival and the group’s main gig of the year.

The 31-year-old said: “We found out about six weeks ago but until then the group were on tenterhooks.

“We’ve spent hours on the phone trying to understand where they were coming from.

“It’s devastating for the group because a lot of them are not professional musicians, it’s a very big deal for everyone in the band.

“People were quite upset and a lot of them joined the band because they wanted to get onto the stage.”

To sign the petition log-on to http://www.petitiononline.co.uk/petition/give-rotw-a-sound-limit-of-75db/2803