City Weekend

Can’t stop the music: why Hong Kong indie music venue Hidden Agenda is on the hunt for a new home

The live house will host a Facebook discussion with fans to discuss its future amid eviction woes over its industrial premises

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 September, 2016, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 October, 2017, 9:21pm

Iconic indie music showcase Hidden Agenda is on the hunt for an alternative venue after being forced to move out of its current home due to licensing issues.

The live house, which had been running for seven years, is set to hold its last concert at the Winful Industrial Estate in Kwun Tong on October 14.

But its organisers are already scouting for new potential venues for the popular live house, which had provided a significant platform for local bands.

They plan to stage a Facebook live discussion on Monday at 8pm to ask fans for their thoughts on the future of Hidden Agenda.

The organisers were warned they cannot continue to use their current venue for anything other than storage or industrial purposes, because it breaches the terms of the landlord’s lease.

Kakei Ng, Hidden Agenda’s media spokeswoman, said the Lands Department had issued the landlord with a final warning to make them leave the premises.

“We have been looking for some venues and we want to ask everyone what they think about it,” she said.

“We want to know if we can continue or not. A lot of people have been disappointed. It is a shame that is it closing down.”

Hidden Agenda, voted the best music venue in Hong Kong by Time Out magazine in 2010, had primarily been known for showcasing rock and metal bands, but had also hosted reggae, hip-hop, electro, folk, jazz and punk acts.

It has staged about 60 shows every year since it opened, with performances from the likes of Beijing rockers Queen Sea Big Shark, British hardcore punk group Gallows and American rock band Caspian.

Ng said Hidden Agenda was providing a unique musical experience that was particularly valuable to Hongkongers.

“No other venue will stage regular shows like us,” she said. “Sometimes we will invite famous people to perform. It is a very special place for people to understand the music scene in Hong Kong. There are no other places in Hong Kong that are doing indie music in this way. We are helping people in the industry – it is a stepping stone for them.”

The club was previously forced to re-locate for similar issues over commercial licensing.

Many of Hong Kong’s industrial estates, formerly manufacturing hubs, have been used by local artists for various cultural enterprises.

After the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, many units were abandoned, and landlords became more willing to rent them out cheaply to creative tenants.

As part of the ongoing legal battle to retain their premises, Hidden Agenda’s supporters have argued that music is also a type of industry, therefore their use of the building fits in with its original purpose.

But this fell on deaf ears at the Lands Department, which maintains that Hidden Agenda is breaking the law by using the building for entertainment purposes.

The government’s 2009-2010 proposal to revitalise old industrial buildings in the city also meant artists faced rising rents as steps were taken to renovate the city’s abandoned warehouses into new businesses.

Writing on Facebook last week, Hidden Agenda’s founder Hui Chung-wo, said he could not get an entertainment licence, adding that all other landlords in his area faced the same restrictions over hosting commercial events.

“I have reached an agreement with the landlord to return the venue to him in October,” he said. “I believe in fate; I’ll see you again in the future to bring more good music to everyone! Thank you all.”

The post was shared more than 700 times and received more than 2,000 likes.

A spokeswoman for the Lands Department confirmed it had issued a warning to the landlord for breaching the terms of the lease.

For more information visit Hidden Agenda’s Facebook page.