The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Friday 24th Ocrober 2008 - LGA culture spokesman - live music 'a public order problem'

Uncorrected minutes of the first oral evidence session of the Culture Committee Licensing Act inquiry, Tuesday 14 October, are now available:

The minutes are prefaced with the caveat that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record, and that the transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

After exploring the impact on crime and disorder, Committee chairman John Whittingdale asked local authority representatives for their view on live music. First to reply was Councillor Chris White, chair of the Board of Culture, Tourism and Sport, at the Local Government Association:

'Live music is, like anything else which is an attraction in licensed premises, potentially a public order problem,' he began. 'If you start from that point of view, then it becomes clear what you must do...'

He then talked about a live music pub that had caused 'an enormous problem', and misleadingly implied that controls such as the addition of doormen, closed doors etc were an innovation of the new licensing legislation:

'... there were huge complaints from local residents before the legislation came in, because it was a live music venue, it had a back room especially for it, and all the tribute bands that you could imagine were there and are there. Since there has been better co­-operation between that landlord and the licensing authority, the doormen are there, they are enforcing that people do not drink outside after 11 o?clock, they are making sure the doors are closed, and that means that we have a great live music venue ? and another one down the road. I think that is the normal attitude of local authorities. Clearly there have been arguments ? and we are aware of the report as well ? but I would not want you to think there is a general problem in local authorities not approving of live music.'

In fact, all the controls he mentions were available and regularly used under the old public entertainment licensing regime. In any case, separate noise legislation has already been used to considerable effect by London councils, ranging from the closure of West End theatre productions (Camden, Umoja, 2002) to banning a busker (Westminster City Council v Prian Bruno McDonald, 28 October 2002, Neutral Citation Number: [2003] EWHC 2698 (Admin)).

Despite his position, Councillor White apparently said nothing about any benefit of live music.

Patrick Crowley, licensing manager for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea managed slightly better: 'In relation to live music, I have canvassed the London licensing managers and the percentage of live music applications that have been refused over London is absolutely minimal. There is not any sort of feeling in London?s local government that live music is not a good thing.'

Later in the evidence session, the police were asked for their view about a hypothetical exemption for gigs up to 200 capacity.

In his response Chief Inspector Adrian Studd of the Association of Chief Police Officers said:

' ... If we were to allow music to go down that same road and be completely unregulated for 200 people, potentially there are those issues there. Whilst on the surface your pub band or whatever is not a problem, it does leave it open to abuse and if there are no safeguards there that causes concern.'

But of course such events taking place in pubs or bars are not unregulated. They are already subject to exactly the same regulations that the government is satisfied are sufficient to regulate football supporters watching a big screen match in a bar.


Hamish Birchall