The Live Music Forum


Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Wedenesday 18th March 2009 - School show scrapped after licence prosecution threat

From the Northampton online Chronicle today, Wed 18 March 2009:

'A Northamptonshire school had to scrap its big musical production after its head was told he could face a £20,000 fine and possible imprisonment if it went ahead. David Howell, the head of Danetre School in Daventry, was warned he would be liable if the We Will Rock You show, based on the music of supergroup Queen, went ahead against the advice of the district's licensing officers.'

More here:
The story was also covered on BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast yesterday, 17 March:
Move the time-slider to 1 hour 55 mins into the programme.

According to the Northampton Chronicle, Ann Carter, chairman of the Daventry District Council's licensing committee, has resigned in protest: "The council was just administering the law and didn't have a choice in the way it dealt with this,' she said. 'We are now getting to the stage where people are having to apply to host cheese and wine evenings in their own homes, because they will be selling alcohol for money. The [Temporary Event Notice] form is five pages long and it is in danger of killing off the age of fundraising'.

Unsurprisingly, the headteacher's understanding of the the Licensing Act 2003, at least as reported, was incomplete. Even if there had been no charge for admission, a school concert open to friends and family is likely to count as public and therefore licensable.

DCMS Licensing Guidance on this point is itself inadequate and somewhat misleading:

'Entertainment at a private event to which the public are not admitted becomes regulated entertainment and therefore licensable, only if it is provided for consideration and with a view to profit. So, for instance, a charge made to people attending a private event to cover the costs of the entertainment, and for no other purpose, would not make the entertainment licensable. The fact that a profit might inadvertently be made would be irrelevant as long as there had not been an intention to make a profit.'
[Guidance Issued under s182 of the Licensing Act 2003, p28, para 3.16]

This implies that the distinction between public and private events is clear-cut. But the wording of the Act is open-ended, and suggests that many events with some form of restricted entry will nonetheless count as public events:

'The first condition [of two main conditions] is that the entertainment is, or entertainment facilities are, provided (a) to any extent for members of the public or a section of the public...'
Licensing Act 2003, Schedule 1, Part 1, para 1(2)(a).

This effectively broadened the meaning of 'public' that had applied under the old licensing regime, and was why, in April 2006, the BBC had temporarily to cancel live audience recordings of Top of the Pops. The local council, Hammersmith & Fulham, insisted that under the new regime even limiting admission to free ticket holders counted as 'public' entertainment. For the first time, an entertainment licence was required for the Top of the Pops studio. See this contemporary report from The Independent:


Hamish Birchall