Jools Holland wins battle over late night music from wedding venue neighbour

Chris Dyer
Jools Holland and Christabel McEwen married at Cooling Castle  - Getty Images

As one of Britain’s best loved pianists, he has excelled at loud punk, rock, blues and jazz. And, every New Year he revels in keeping music fans awake well past midnight with a host of famous musicians blaring out their hits on his Hootenanny show.

But, as a champion of live music Jools Holland has found it difficult to be entertained at his own Kent home. For a decade he has been locked in a dispute with Cooling Castle Barn, a wedding venue next to his manor house near Rochester.

In a diary he has listed the “noisy hububs” from wedding bands, string quartets and karaoke sessions that have kept him and his wife awake. He has even catalogued how he has found a solitary high-heeled shoe hurled over his garden wall, adding that it remains “unclaimed”.

Now he is celebrating after Medway Council imposed stricter regulations over late night live music at the barn. The irony is that Mr Holland, who also leads his own big-band, moved into the area in 2002 and chose the venue to marry his wife Christabel in 2005.

The 60-year-old musician had complained to Medway Council which asked him to keep a diary of the noise for three months last year. He was embroiled in talks with the owners ever since the business began to expand in 2007.

Cooling Castle hosts weddings at its barn  Credit: Gareth Fuller /PA

His diary reveals that he was particularly horrified by karaoke versions of songs including Tom Jones’s Delilah, Marvin Gayes’ How Sweet it is to be Loved by You, and Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, during which Mr Holland noted that “patron noise levels increased”.

The musician called for a ban on percussion and brass instruments being used for live unamplified music and restrictions on deliveries. He added that conditions imposed as part of the venue’s licence were “ineffective” and asked for it to be closed four days every week.

At a council licensing meeting last week councillors ruled that barn bosses must introduce a noise management policy and set up a screened smoking area which is closed an hour before closing time and where drinks are prohibited.

Access to the garden must be closed by 10.30pm on Friday and Saturday nights, instead of its current 11pm, and 10pm for the rest of the week.

Credit:  Jane Barlow/PA

Live music is still allowed until 11pm but up to 1am in December from Wednesday to Saturday.

Bosses at the 14th century barn, which employs 80 staff and has held weddings for nearly 20 years, insists little has changed.

Rebecca Collins, the general manager, said the new restrictions were not a victory for Mr Holland, whom she accused of being "so sensitive that any noise is too much noise".

"Common sense has prevailed and we are extremely happy with the outcome of the hearing,” she said, adding that hundreds of people depend on them for their livelihoods.

"Essentially, all that has changed is that Cooling Castle Barn has agreed to a noise management plan with Medway Council and the garden area needs to be closed 60 minutes earlier on week days and 30 minutes earlier on Fridays and Saturdays."

Employees, neighbours, wedding businesses and toastmasters wrote to the council to support the venue. One neighbour wrote a letter claiming Mr Holland had "no interest in the village" and was not "approachable", another claimed he had "vendetta".

James Johnson, who has worked at the venue for 18 years, said it was "ironic" Mr Holland "champions live music" but was calling for a ban.