ORGAN: Alt-Folk song maker and ornate Chamber Pop musician Fiona Fey, she of Something Sleeps and Mediaeval Baebes, has been told by Lewisham Council, the London Borough of Culture in 2022, that she can’t play music…

This really is something to kick up a storm about, “The Suits at Lewisham Council declared that Fiona Fey is not allowed to practice her instruments in her own home or face a fine of £5000 and have all her musical gear taken away from her.” I mean, Fiona Fey, it isn’t like she’s in a black metal band or something. “Incisive Alt-Folk songs and ornate Chamber Pop that brings a witty charm and a critical gaze…” is what we’re talking about here, sound liek she’d made a wonderful neighbour.

As Andy Ferris said yesterday via his YouTube channel “After a noise complaint from a neighbour, Fiona’s low whistle, piano and guitar playing was deemed too loud. Fey decided to move out of her flat after she was issued with a noise abatement notice that prohibits her from playing any instruments. This is NOT right and we cannot stand by”

There is a petition, I’m not a big fan of Petitions, personally I’d get everyone to go play outside Lewisham Council – there is a petition though – “Protect the Right to Play Musical Instruments”, I mena, what next, my next door neightbour is always shaking his cans of paint! Can I get the council to ban him from painting? Can we not reasonably be creative in ourt own spaces? it really does sounnd like Fiona was not really being a problem to anyone

Fiona says…

‘Environmental Health officers (EHO) across the country have come to misinterpret the law on statutory nuisance. 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.’

Can the law around music practice  be made clearer so this doesn’t continue to happen? 

Last week I was served a noise abatement notice by Lewisham Council that forbids me to play any musical instrument in my home at any time.

I am a musician, it is my job to practise.

If I do Lewisham Council can force entry, confiscate all my instruments and fine me £5000.

The hours I was practising were usually between 11 and 3 – not early morning or late at night, the instruments I was practising regularly were guitar, singing and low whistle (70-80db – the volume of a conversation, or a vacuum cleaner)

Lewisham have just issued a statement in which they say this was a ‘last resort’ because I refused to engage or compromise. 

However, I recorded these interviews which show that this is absolutely untrue and highlights the worrying amount of power afforded to local councils.


Fiona goes on to say “The Lewisham Environmental Health Officers (EHO)s stated that volume and time of day is irrelevant, any music noise that can be heard by someone else can be classified as a nuisance.

(Lewisham also did not take into account the fact that the neighbours on the other side said the noise levels were absolutely not a problem and that the complaining neighbour {a music teacher, not a shift worker} had admitted that if she closed her door, she couldn’t hear me)

The EHOs told me TV and radio are ‘living noise’ but that the playing of an instrument is not.  

Why isn’t the playing of musical instruments considered living noise?

It is not only people who make their living from music, it is so important to protect this as simply a form of enjoyment, self expression and relaxation and it should not need any further justification.

In 2017 DJ Roscoe said of a similar case  (Kensington and Chelsea vs the Carrabinos) 
“Play is absolutely an entitlement unless its extent makes it a nuisance. That does not seem to me to be the approach taken by RBKC. Their approach is that any noise interference is nuisance and thus all must be prohibited. That is not the correct approach so I find the terms of the notice were not reasonable bearing in mind the nature of the activity.”

In other words, instrument playing is a normal household activity and neighbours have no right to expect absolute peace and quiet.’’
A noise abatement can be appealed but costs money, takes a long time, ‘nuisance’ is difficult to disprove (especially without access to the complaining neighbours property to measure sound levels) and meanwhile (for however long the process takes should you choose to fight it) you cannot practise.

I chose to move out rather than risk wasting time and money trying to fight it, but I should never have been put in that situation. My things are in storage and I’m sofa surfing.

The law around noise nuisance is very vague, gives EHO’s woolly guidelines and the ability to act on their prejudices and abuse their power.

My flat was carpeted with sound proof doors and a thick concrete floor separating me from the downstairs neighbours but the EHO told me to ‘think more carefully about where you live in future…..’

As if Londoners ( especially musicians) have an abundance of affordable home opportunities. 
(I asked him where he thought I should live, he had no suggestions but simply repeated his original statement in a slower voice)

Over the past few years the music industry has got so much harder.  Now governing bodies show that, not only are they doing little to help, they are actively penalising musicians who are trying to make a living.

This is particularly shocking from Lewisham- after being the London Borough of Culture 2022 

Situations of this nature should have an official definition – decibels, time of day etc

They should not be left up to the opinion of whichever EHO officer is investigating.  

So Fiona had to move, I rather hope some Drum ‘n bass playing DJ or a hardcore punk rock drummer moved in to her old place next, I really hope Lewisham (borough of culture for 2022!) are going to get hammered over this, that all her costs including the massive expense that moving is, is paid for by the council, here’s some of Fiona’s music, play it loud now…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s