Halifax local group starting up

Kenneth Close is starting up a local group based in Halifax (in Yorkshire, not Canada NB.)  Members living in or anywhere near Halifax who are interested can contact him at kc@close22.orangehome.co.uk   (Membership of the group is of course free to Pipedowners.)

As the amazing progress of the Quiet Edinburgh & Glasgow group in recent years shows, local groups can make a real impact. They allow members to meet (even if only electronically), discuss local issues and take local action – something Pipedown UK itself cannot do.  By meeting and talking to other Pipedowners living nearby, members realise they are not lone voices but make up a large section of the general population maddened by piped music. Mutual encouragement and support is far more feasible at local, rather than national, level.


 Yorkshire Pipedowners: join Kenneth Close and start rolling back piped music in Yorks! 

Write to Steve Rowe, CEO Designate of M&S, to protest at M&S’s music.

Marc Bolland, the CEO of Marks and Spencer who has ignored all complaints about the installation of music in the stores, is resigning. His successor Steve Rowe will have many options to consider when turning round the still troubled chain. Among these phasing out the piped music introduced over the last 15 years should rank high on his list. Write – courteously and calmly –  to suggest this to him now, while he is still open to new ideas, perhaps sending him a copy of the Fact Sheet, downloadable from the site. (Members are also welcome to a free pdf of Whose Choice is it Anyway?,  the first part of which looks at the problems of piped music in the workplace.)  Don’t forget to mention the problem of presbycusis that makes it hard for older people especially to hear conversation over background music. See the earlier post Why music really does get louder as you get older.

The replies Pipedowners have had from M&S so far are non-committal but not dismissive, suggesting that they have not yet made up their minds at M&S headquarters.

Email steve.rowe@marks-and-spencer.comHis   The postal address is: Marks & Spencer Group plc, Waterside House, 35 North Wharf Road, LONDON W2 1NW  

Pipedown USA?

Pipedown UK frequently gets despairing requests from people in the USA asking if there is an American chapter (sister group) of Pipedown in the US. There currently is not but there could be and should be!  Pipedown in Britain was founded by ordinary individuals enraged by the  unwanted spread of piped music, not by an act of God (or Parliament).  The same happened in Germany, where Pipedown Deutschland  is now the second largest national Pipedown.  The problem of inescapable canned music is at least as bad in America as in Britain or Germany.

Charles Wetherbee, the renowned violinist, is considering co-founding Pipedown USA. If you too hate piped music, contact him  charles.wetherbee@colorado.edu

Pipedown UK is very happy to give advice and encouragement to sister groups but cannot fight battles in countries thousands of miles away where problems may be quite different. (The situation in Spain, where Comer sin Ruida, or Dining without Noise, has been recently founded, differs from that in Britain, for example.)

Quieter shopping malls: the Birmingham Experiment

The Bullring in Birmingham, home to one of Britain’s largest shopping malls, has been experimenting with quieter music. For years pounding pop music has filled almost every corner and shoppers, of all ages and tastes, have had to tolerate it or leave. Now an experiment by Hammerson, which runs several shopping malls across Britain and is thinking of phasing out music because of its effect on shoppers, has shown that replacing clamourous loud music with softer ambient music – not blended ‘muzak’ but a sound closer to the sea – influences shoppers positively. They move less rapidly and seem to spend more. The results are still tentative but suggest that less noise equals more sales, at least initially. Pipedowners might prefer no background music at all but this sea music is better than, say, canned Vivaldi and certainly an improvement. But it would be interesting to see the effects of no music at all. Julian Treasure, chairman of the Sound Agency, is involved in the experiment.

see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35154100

Waterstones goes (mostly) muzac-free – but needs to be encouraged to remain so.

Thanks in part to pressure from Pipedowners and in part to the preferences of James Daunt its head, the booksellers Waterstones is now muzac-free in 205 of its 287 branches. James Daunt wants each Waterstones branch to decide its own policies, so he only encourages managers to drop the music, he does not demand. However, there has been the odd – very odd – negative reaction to the new Quiet Shopping policy. Some shoppers have reportedly complained about the lack of canned music in their shops, normally when the branch in question is in a shopping mall already filled with music. To encourage Waterstones to persist with their quiet policy, congratulate the staff in each quiet branch and hand over a blue card saying  ‘Thank you for not having music.’ (Available free to members for an SAE.) Better still, write to James Daunt himself to congratulate him at james.daunt@waterstones.com

Spanish Quiet Eating Group started

Intrusive background piped music is a problem plaguing diners around the world, so the founding of  a similar group in Spain is welcome news.  Svante Borjesson has started a Madrid-based group, Comer Sin Ruido (eating without noise) at   http://www.comersinruido.org/   He is concerned with all types of noise – a problem aggravated by the ‘hard surfaces’ favoured by too many designers at present, which echo or amplify background noises. He includes unwanted background music among the things that can wreck enjoyment of a meal. The site has a list of about 20 quiet restaurants around Spain, some with Michelin stars.

Anyone looking for, or knowing of, a quiet place to eat in Spain can contact  him at svante.borjesson@oiresclave.org

Acoustic marmite in the British Museum? No thanks! say visitors – and The Times

The ‘Celtic music’ piped around the Celts: Art and Identity exhibition in the British Museum has been annoying visitors. One found the music ‘excruciating'; another advised people to take earplugs. Luke Turner, editor of The Quietus, an online magazine about music, said the music detracted from an otherwise enjoyable experience. ‘[It] felt like a real cliché of what you’d imagine Celtic music to be… like a “Celtic Moods” CD.’  The Times  devoted a leader (16 October) to  it, saying that ‘if people want music in museums let them plug it into their own ears.’  This is the first time a major national newspaper has discussed background music in a leader.

Dr Julia Farley, the exhibition’s curator, said she wanted to destroy any air of reverent silence, but she admitted the ‘Celtic music’ was a ‘bit of a marmite thing‘ i.e. you love it or loathe it. Unwittingly, she has revealed the misconception underlying most unwanted piped music. For while no one is ever actually forced to eat marmite in a restaurant (or anywhere else), far too often we are are forced to listen to music we hate. The final effects – irritation and alienation – are the exact opposite  of what the proponents of background music generally claim.

Action on Hearing Loss starts survey on noise in pubs, cafés, restaurants

Action on Hearing Loss (aka the RNID)  is starting a survey on what people really feel about noise of all sorts – especially piped music – in pubs, cafés and restaurants. This is the first time they have addressed the issue so directly and is partly thanks to efforts by Pipedowners, in Scotland and in England.

Do take part! It requires only a couple of minutes to fill the form in and you can remain anonymous if you wish  www.surveymonkey.com/r/restaurantscafespubs

John Humphrys explodes at non-stop television in hospital!

John Humphrys has become the latest – and most famous and perhaps most furious – person to be maddened by inescapable television blaring away in hospitals. While waiting for an Outpatients’ appointment, he said, ‘a nurse arrived, a bouncy lady who stood for a moment gazing at us and announced: “You look as if you need cheering up!” So she turned on the television, cranked up the volume and marched off again…. A torrent of brain dead game shows assaulted us, making  it impossible to concentrate on anything or even just sit there and think. So I got up and switched it off, slightly nervous that I’d upset the others. Quite the opposite. No one said anything but a few gave me a small nod of approval.’

All of which serves to reinforce the need for legislation to ban piped music and television in hospitals (those who want either can listen through headphones.) So do write to you MP about this (see earlier posting). Do not be put off by replies from MPs or ministers that such matters are the responsibility of the local NHS Trust, not suitable for parliamentary legislation. This is a cop-out by a government still indifferent to the problems of piped music, indeed of noise in general. Parliaments (in Westminster or Holyrood) legislate on almost any aspect of life when they want to.  


Background music can endanger surgical operations

It is well known that some surgeons play music (which will be of their choice but not possibly of rest of their team) during operations. Now a study suggests this may affect the skills of their surgical teams. Using an analysis of video footage from 20 operations, a report in the Journal of Advanced Nursing of 5 August 2015 of a UK study shows ‘that some operating theatre teams are negatively affected by background music during surgery. Communication within the theatre team can be impaired when music is playing… requests from a surgeon to a nurse for instruments or supplies were often repeated and there was qualitative evidence of frustration or tension within some teams.’ Conversely,  new reports suggest that patients to whom music is played before and after operations may feel less pain and recover better. The vital point here, easily overlooked, is that patients may well find music of their own choice and taste soothing. But music they do not like or want will have the opposite effect. As musical tastes are more varied than they have ever been, freedom to choose the type of music (if any) they listen to is the issue. At present, that freedom is far too often lacking in hospitals.