The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Thursday 12th April 2007 - Licensing petition at no.2


The licensing/live music petition is now no.2 on the Number 10 petition website with over 66,600 signatures:  (petition for signing)  (list of top petitions)

There is a good chance the petition will reach no.1 in the list of over 7,000 by 1st May.

50 MPs have signed Early Day Motion 1069 which expresses concern at the impact of the Licensing Act on small-scale performances:

This includes 6 Labour MPs. Has your MP signed? You can write to them using this website:

The Live Music Forum is due to meet on 16 April at the Musicians' Union headquarters in London. The intention appears to be to agree the final report to ministers on the impact of the Act and ways it might be improved. However, the report is not likely to be published until after 3rd May due to the rules that apply to the publication of government policy documents during local elections.

Neither the recent MORI 'small venues' study, nor the MU 'State of the Nation' survey support the 'broadly neutral' claims made by DCMS and licensing minister Shaun Woodward. To establish any licensing link with a rise or fall in venues, the MU has once again mired itself in 'follow-up' interviews with sample sizes that are far too small to yield statistically robust results. Moreover, classical performers are significantly over-represented in their sample (about 12% of membership, but 30% of the sample of 2,085).

Almost exactly a year ago, Feargal Sharkey, LMF chair, suggested that the final LMF report to ministers would be radical: 'I have told James this in the past [James Purnell - former licensing minister], er it's purely a personal ambition of mine and I have explained it to the Forum members: if government accept all of our recommendations I will be slightly disappointed coz it might be an indication that we weren't thinking radically enough.' [Radio 1 live music debate, Monday 24 April 2006] 

Last month, a leaked LMF sub-group report by John Smith, Musicians Union general secretary, hinted that an exemption for small-scale performance might be on the cards. This is hardly radical, however.  It was exactly what was proposed when the Act was being debated in 2002/3. The exemption was backed by the Arts Council and the music industry, but the government rejected it on the grounds that the police believed all live music led to crime and disorder:

'Live music always acts as a magnet in whatever community it is being played. It brings people from outside that community and having no connection locally behave in a way that is inappropriate, criminal and disorderly.' [letter to Tessa Jowell by Chris Fox, then president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, 2nd July 2003]

Hamish Birchall