With almost all shops, pubs, restaurants and other public place now shut due to the corona virus, it seems redundant and inappropriate to continue to campaign. When public life returns to normal, Pipedown will resume campaigning. In the meantime, members who need more cards, stickers or advice are welcome to contact Pipedown HQ. Keep well!
A new study shows that 80% of people have cut short their visit to a pub, café or restaurant because of noise, while 75% say they would eat out more often if places were quieter. The new survey comes from Action on Hearing Loss (formerly the RNID). In 2016 AHL urged restaurants to turn the music down – and the lighting levels up – to create a better environment for people with hearing problems, who make up some 15% of the population. About 30% of the population is unusually sensitive to background noise without necessarily having hearing problems. As a result of this survey, Mumbli, a company that ranks venues on their acoustic quality, is to launch a campaign to develop ‘Michelin star style’ system to rate the ‘sound aura’ of venues across the UK. The new system combines acoustics, reverberation time and other data to mark London’s venues. So far they have measured noise in about 300 places, mostly around Shoreditch in east London. They aim to measure another 1,000 places in London and the UK in 2020.
The survey reinforces the point that piped music, a major contributor to noise in pubs etc, repels rather than attracts customers. Hence the success of Wetherspoons and Sam Smiths pubs, both of which shun piped music.
(This entry, which was posted before the closure of all pubs, restaurants etc on 20th March, may lack relevance now. But when pubs along with everything else finally reopen – hasten the day – it will be as pertinent as ever.)
Peter Jones in Sloane Square in London, which is one of the flagships of the beleaguered John Lewis chain (and a fine example of early Modernism), has been playing piped music across its ground floor. It is part of the chain that includes WAITROSE and has until now been completely free of piped music. Although I have been told that there are no plans at present to extend the music to Waitrose branches, and that even in Peter Jones they are playing it only for special events, it is a worrying precedent. Best to write in preemptively now to Tony Wheeler, Head of Peter Jones Tony.Wheeler@johnlewis.co.uk or to the newly appointed chairman of JL itself Dame Sharon White firstname.lastname@example.org making the normal objections. John Lewis seems open to persuasion. (See the above entry about people who leave venues because of the noise).
PS John Lewis is closing all its department stores – though not its Waitrose branches – for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. When this ends, they will presumably reopen – free of any muzac with luck!
Julia Jones, who calls herself ‘Dr Rock’, is making extravagant but unsupported claims that ‘highlight the power of music in aiding physical and mental health, particularly for those with dementia.’ What this really means is trying to get non-stop rock music blasted day and night through health centres, hospitals and similar places. She asserts that ‘as a society we have totally forgotten the power of music’ and that as a result we are all miserable. Unquestionably music can be a very useful therapeutic tool when properly used i.e. when it is tailored to each person’s very individual needs and tastes. Pumping hospital wards – or offices – with inescapable music chosen by another person is a totally different matter. Far from being a panacea, as Jones claims, it would for many people be hell on earth and set back most patients’ recovery. It also harms productivity in the workplace even when the music appeals to some people.
Jones has a new book to promote, The Music Diet. Like many diet books, it is based on very flimsy and partial research. Taking it seriously could seriously damage your own and other people’s health. Beware!
Greg Scott, who lives in New York City, has developed a new app that can be used on smart phones to let people search with great precision for quiet bars, restaurants etc when in a strange city. Places are colour coded according to their tranquillity: red is for noisiest cacophony, green for soul-restoring peace. It also allows people to add their own suggestions to the data base. The app works properly only via iPhones at present -– they have effective sound meters while Androids do not – although anyone can use any type of computer to search for quiet places. A site’s location is shown on a useful small map but no other details are given as yet. Most current listings are in the USA – inevitably, as most contributors to date are American – but Greg Scott has plans to extend the data base to cover London properly, then other major British cities and on to Madrid, Paris and other European cities. This new app has immense potential, for through it restaurateurs etc around the world will at last see how their places are really being rated by customers. Look at http://soundprint.co
Philip Hill, Manager of Tesco Scotland, has agreed ‘that it would be good to hold a couple of quiet times in our stores during the festive period’. The good news is that this isn’t a single hour first thing in the morning, which is all that most supermarkets have offered until now, but a whole morning from 9am – 12pm. The two quiet mornings will be Wednesday, 4th December, and Wednesday, 11th December. All Tesco stores in Scotland should be participating, including the Tesco Express stores which recently started playing music and were what sparked off Quiet Scotland’s original complaint. Clothing outlets within Tesco stores will also be included, but not coffee outlets, such as Costa. (Apparently, these need more negotiations).
This is real progress. When Quiet Scotland first started writing to supermarkets, they were either ignored us or sent a standard letter suggesting that no one else ever complained. The same response is often received across the whole UK, of course. Stores very rarely turn off their Christmas music, certainly not for a whole morning at a time. (See the previous post Christmas Cacophony Again!)
Quiet Scotland inspires us all. Wherever you live in the UK, do write to the Chief Executive, Dave Lewis. His email is email@example.com His postal address is Tesco House, Shire Park, Kestrel Way, Welwyn Garden City, UK, AL7 1GA
Autism Hour took place on 5 October. This is the third year it has been held and more shops have been participating each time. Although a few supermarkets now provide one ‘quiet hour’ each week, Autism Hour involves hundreds of stores and shopping malls that don’t currently participate. Their involvement also includes staff being given training on the needs of autistic customers.This year there is even a letter template on their website so that you can write to your local shops, asking them to participate. Purple Tuesday (12 Nov) which focusses on changing the customer experience for disabled people, is on it’s second year. Participating organisations will make public commitments (a minimum of one new activity or initiative) to ensure sustainable changes are made. For organisations, this will result in the opening up of products and services to the disability market. One of these activities is formalising quiet hours. Last, but not least, the British Tinnitus Association has launched a Safe around sound campaign.
Pipedown strongly supports these initiatives. Let’s encourage far more shops to go muzac-free.
k-free for far longer.
The BBC is testing ways of letting viewers tune out background noises, including music which is often so loud that it is foreground music. This should make dialogue easier to follow and allow the sounds of nature on wild life documentaries to be heard. A trial version on the BBC website adds a slider button as well as the overall volume control. Moving the slider to the left reduces background noises of all sorts. The project is aimed chiefly at the 11 million Britons with hearing loss but will make dialogue much more comprehensible for everybody. It will also reduce, if not eliminate, superfluous and very irritating music.
The technology, which is said to be very labour intensive, is still experimental but it could become available on Iplayer and even on broadcast television as the BBC develops a ‘personalised system of broadcasting called object-based media’.
Last year, 2018, the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) issued new guidelines for noise across Europe. its key conclusions are that current government policies and targets are inadequate and out of date and that new targets need to be set. The W.H.O. recommends tough new limits on aircraft noise both at day and at night. Affected communities should be consulted about changes in flight paths and the construction of additional runways. The adverse effects of noise on health, with sleep deprivation leading to lack of concentration, especially among children, and to accidents at people work and while driving, are well established. New evidence has emerged to show that night time noise can cause cardiovascular disease, particularly for those living under flight paths. Even while a person is asleep noise can cause the release of stress hormones, damaging blood vessels, including the coronary arteries. Three quarters of the population in Britain live in areas where night-time safe noise levels are exceeded. So noise really is a major health hazard, even for those not fully aware of it.
Nigella Lawson, the famous super-chef, says that the thump of loud music now found in some of the most fashionable (and expensive) restaurants leaves her ‘unable to taste her food’. She says she is ‘allergic to all noise including music in shops and restaurants… It is utterly draining. And it drowns out the taste of food. I’ve always presumed that these decisions are made by people who feel uncomfortable without noise.’ Many other chefs agree with her. Paul Askew, Chef Patron of the Art School in Liverpool, said that ‘great food needs to be tasted in a softer, more gentle environment’ and that he tries in his restaurants to ‘create an oasis of calm and a sanctuary of restoration for the soul.’ Oisin Rogers, who runs The Guinea Grill in Mayfair, thinks that bad music can ruin one’s appetite. ‘Canned music is often an irritant, an annoyance. It might please some folk but never all. And it is irritating. Nigella is perfectly correct. It is impossible to enjoy food while irritated.’ Although not all chefs accept this argument, a poll in The Daily Telegraph of 8th June found that 55% of respondents agreed that restaurants should stop playing music.