The Live Music Forum


Thursday 1st December 2005 - Transcript Of Culture Show 24th November

See below for a transcript of the BBC2 Culture Show piece about licensing, broadcast last week, Thursday 24 November 2005.

The government declined to put anyone forward for interview, and only made a statement - sulking perhaps about the BBC's other entertainment licensing coverage (the Today programme) which has consistently provided evidence that ministers' 'easier and cheaper' licensing claims were misleading.

The bar which lost its live music as a result of the new regime featured in the Culture Show piece was also featured in the last BBC Radio 4 Today licensing piece, Friday 11 November 2005: La Brocca in West Hampstead.

In addition to live music, the Culture Show covered circuses, street performance and Punch & Judy. All face extra cost and red tape as a result of the new regime; some may go out of business altogether.

You could say that, as far as recreation is concerned, the new Licensing Act represents the triumph of the jobsworths.

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NB: I haven't indicated every change of backdrop or soundtrack.

Transcript of BBC2 Culture Show - Thursday 24 November 2005, 7pm

'Why changing the drinking laws might call time on Mr Punch'

PRESENTER: Now, today the government's new and controversial licensing laws came into force in England and Wales. Most of the attention has been on late night drinking, but it's also going to affect many forms of entertainment like music, circuses and even Punch and Judy shows. And it's feared that some of the more fringe forms of performance may even go out of business. Zena Saro-Wiwa reports on a cultural tradition that may be the unintended victim in the battle against binge drinking.

ZENA SARO-WIWA [voiceover: shots of drinkers in bars]: For many, the controversial words licensing law brings up one image: drinking round the clock. But while this law hopes to tackle binge drinking it's also about to threaten the livelihood of some British entertainers.

CAROL GANDLEY 'circus proprietor': It's a disaster for circus and other touring arts.

Z S-W: Travelling circuses, large street art events, grassroots live music and even Punch and Judy are facing extra bureaucracy and confusion as a result of the new licensing regime.

JOHN STYLE 'Punch & Judy Professor': We're not superstars you know, we don't get footballers' wages. We've gotta go round with a hat after the show, and to have all this on top of it. He's a British tradition. He should be looked after and preserved.

Z S-W: Many feel that important traditions in our entertainment culture are under threat.

ARTHUR SMITH 'comedian': [shots from Punch & Judy pub, Covent Garden, and piazza performers] People are just so used to sort of the internet, or the mobile phone, or the video game. They forget that there are sort of human beings who are live and in your face, you can sort of smell and their hearts are beating. And, and in a way this legislation is a slap in the face for that kind of entertainment.

[cut to shots of circus performance]

Z S-W: So how is this live, 'in your face' performance being put at risk. Well, in each case new procedures are being introduced. Until today circuses never even needed a licence. But now all this is set to change. There's around 25 to 30 touring circuses in the UK and they'll have to apply for a licence for every site they visit. That could mean 40 to a 100 applications a year. [shots of horse riding display] This horse circus is the very first to have applied for the new licence. In total it cost them over £1,000 and it took them two days to make the application and it's hard to see how small circuses will manage.

CAROL GANDLEY 'circus proprietor': An owner of a small circus is very much involved in the running of the show. There's not going to be the time to spend two days week facilitating a licence application.

Z S-W: [cut to shots of clown form-filling and getting bound up in red tape by glamorous assistant] Circuses had been assured they would be excluded from the new licensing regime. But they weren't. The Arts Council believes the extra costs involved could drive all but a few touring circuses out of business.

CAROL GANDLEY: They're going to move out of tented environments. They're going to be pushed into commercial venues with negative impact on the experimental, artistic side.

Z S-W: The government declined our invitation to be interviewed on this matter of bureaucratic red tape, but they told us that the new licensing won't destroy Britain's circus tradition. They recommended that circuses use sites licensed by councils. But the circus owners we spoke to aren't convinced that all councils will want to licence their land. [cut to street performance] Large street art events which are enjoyed by millions of people each year can also expect problems. The cost of putting on a festival under the new licensing law has now shot up. Many of the free festivals will struggle to find the thousands of pounds now required.

JULIAN RUDD 'Independent street arts network': To give you an indication, the London Mela, which I produce, we'd be looking at something in the region of £24,000 to £36,000. That's the equivalent of half of our progamming budget for all the artistic activity that happens.

Z S-W [cut to shots of stilt-walkers on South Bank getting bound up in red tape]: Here, the government told us there's nothing to stop councils subsidising street artists' events. But there's no guarantee that all councils will want to do this. And if they don't some festivals won't survive.

ARTHUR SMITH: Something that's a bit small scale and quirky, this is the very stuff of life. They don't require that you've done a PhD on Goethe or watch the Culture Show every week. You know, they, they're sort of available you know just for the man, woman, girl, boy in the street.

[Cut to night time shot of bar - jazz piano plays]

Z S-W: Live grassroots music in small, informal venues like bars and restaurants could also be under threat. In fact tonight is the last time jazz duos will play at this bar which has been hosting live music for the past 10 years. Until today small venues across the country like this one used the so-called 'two in a bar rule' which meant two musicians could play without the bar needing a licence.

DAVID LOCKE 'bar owner': Under the new Licensing Act the 'two in a bar rule' disappears and you have to have a music licence. And when I applied to Camden for my new premises licence, they evaluated the place and decided that it was unsuitable for live music. And it would be too expensive to fight it so, you know, it just becomes prohibitive.

Z S-W: But it's these kinds of small-scale venues which offer new talent a place to play. One of them, Gwilym Simcock, winner of a BBC Jazz Award, started out here.

GWILYM SIMCOCK 'jazz musician': In London there are probably only sort of 5 or 6 dedicated jazz clubs, which when you think there's, there's probably up to a 100, maybe more, jazz musicians trying to earn a trade, we all need these kind of peripheral venues to play, whether meet other people and discuss ideas. And if that's to be taken away that's incredibly sad for us all really.

Z S-W: The government argues they are committed to supporting live music and they've created the Live Music Forum which, they say, will ensure this scene thrives. But for this bar, the music has died.

DAVID LOCKE: I shall miss it, and a lot of our regulars er will miss it, so it's just a real shame.

[cut to Punch & Judy on the South Bank]

MR PUNCH: You won't laugh when he kisses me will you everyone! Ready...

Z S-W: And even the good old British tradition of street and beach-front Punch and Judy has been dragged into new licensing regime. Instead of Punch and Judy having a bash at each other they're gonna have to start having a bash at these forms. Because in order for them to perform in public places they're going to need to apply and pay for a licence. In the past the authorities have been sympathetic to outdoor Punch and Judy, allowing it to be performed without a licence, but from today these booths will be treated the same as the National Theatre - except Punch and Judy will need to apply for a licence every time they move.

JOHN STYLES [with Mr Punch, Houses of Parliament in background across the river]: He would actually have to place a notice on the site where he was going to perform which means that on the beach he would probably have to stick a flag in the sand...

MR PUNCH: I don't understand it, do you? Oh no.

JOHN STYLES: He also had to pay £100 for the first licence...

MR PUNCH: Well then sign on the bottom... no not my bottom.

JOHN STYLES: £100 for the advertisement in the newspaper...

MR PUNCH: That's the way to do it... hee hee hee

JOHN STYLES: And that was before he'd even got his licence.

[shot of Punch and Judy booth being wrapped in red tape]

Z S-W: Extra expense, extra time, extra regulation. Is this what the government really wanted? Well they say not. They want to see all these cultural events flourish. But will today actually be the day we sacrifice the fragile world of live, spontaneous performance in favour of booze culture. We'll find out. Either way, these performers won't be going down quietly.

JOHN STYLES: Mr Punch has been in this country for over 300 years. He's a tradition and he's not gonna be regulated out of existence. Even Oliver Cromwell, he banned all theatre, but he did at least leave the puppet shows.

[closing shot: Punch and Judy booth bound in red tape, Houses of Parliament in background across river]

PRESENTER: Zena Saro-Wiwa, and our website has more information about that and all of tonight's reports.


by Hamish Birchall