The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Wednesday 15th July 2009 - Music and Madness

Madness takes many forms. One of the most dangerous is the charismatic, plausible and articulate individual in authority whose mania may go unrecognised for years. Trusting and credulous admirers often become participants in the lunacy.

Such is the predicament of this government where live music is concerned. The charismatic, plausible, and articulate individual is probably a government adviser, or senior civil servant. Whoever he or she is, they have argued with conviction and in all seriousness that the public must be protected from musical instruments by the criminal law, irrespective of existing nuisance and safety legislation. The Licensing Act ensures that the mere provision of musical instruments to the public is a potential offence - they don't even have to be played. Incredibly, ministers have listened and nodded in agreement.

Yesterday this position was reaffirmed in the government response to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee's Licensing Act inquiry recommendations:

After taking evidence from the police, local authority representatives, DCMS and musicians, the all party Committee recommended that gigs up to 200 capacity and unamplified performance by one or two performers should be exempt. This was the government response:

'... DCMS has considered exemptions for small venues, but has not been able to reach agreement on exemptions that will deliver an increase in live music whilst still retaining essential protections for local residents.'
['Government Response to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee Report on the Licensing Act 2003 Session 2008-2009', excerpt from p9, response to recommendation 18]

The government goes on to plug 'minor variations' - a process that offers a potential fast-track route to obtaining permission to have musical instruments.

Big screen broadcast entertainment remains exempt.


Hamish Birchall