Drum band kicked out of community hall over neighbour's noise complaints
A Brazilian drum band that regularly plays at street parties and the Wellington Sevens has been ejected from its rehearsal rooms for being too noisy.
Wellington Batucada have rehearsed at Thistle Hall in upper Cuba St for 15 years, but noise complaints from a couple living in a neighbouring apartment have forced Wellington City Council to permanently eject them.
Sunday afternoon was the percussion band's swansong in the historic council-owned building that has housed their weekly practices since 2001. Their ejection has prompted concerns about growing clashes between the capital's arts scene and its inner-city residents.
"One of the things that makes Wellington great is its community, arts and music, and Cuba St is where this all happens," Batucada member Alison Green said on Sunday.
"This is the start of a slippery slope now that [the neighbour] has been able to start a precedent of getting us ejected."
The dispute was sparked after a couple bought their apartment a few months after the 1907 hall was closed in March 2014 for earthquake strengthening.
Its users, including the drumming band, were based elsewhere until the hall reopened in January 2015.
However, Batucada's noisy return was a shock to the new owners, who were unaware the band practised there every Sunday afternoon, council spokesman Richard MacLean said.
The council employed an acoustic engineer to investigate the couple's noise complaints because of conflict from its dual role as the building's owner and the community's noise regulator. The engineer's report revealed earthquake strengthening measures had worsened the transfer of noise.
"Our acoustic engineer described the noise as extremely intrusive and unacceptable in the apartment. Thistle Hall is totally an unsuitable venue for such a loud group," MacLean said.
However, band members questioned why one neighbour could cause their ousting when the couple bought a property beside a community hall that publicly listed its users, including Batucada's two-hour Sunday practices.
"It's like moving next door to an airport and then complaining about the noise," Green said.
The band's musical director, Darryn Sigley, who helped to start the group in 2001, said it had about 100 members from all walks of life who were keen to perform traditional samba music, emulating the sound of Brazil's carnival parades.
A typical practice session had about 45 drummers and 20 dancers: "We are loud."
However, they had tried to reduce noise since the complaints started about a year ago, including keeping windows closed and playing more quietly, but that failed to appease the neighbours or the council.
Sigley described the council's attitude as being "We want to be the coolest little capital, but we don't want this. We like it, but we're not going to allow it."
The apartment's previous owner had been a member of the band's committee and had not complained about noise.
Sigley hoped the council or community would find them an alternative venue that could cope with their noise level, offered storage for music instruments, and was close to the inner city.
The complainants declined to comment on Sunday.