The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Wednesday 21st October 2009 - Sharkey to attend Licensing Act demo

Feargal Sharkey, CEO of UK Music, is to attend tomorrow's Licensing Act demonstration outside Parliament organised by Equity and the Musicians Union.

Sharkey has already criticised the government for failing to implement small gig exemptions within the Act recommended earlier this year by the all party Culture, Media and Sport Committee, and backed by performers unions.

On 14 July he said: "After six years of legislation, eight consultations, two Government research projects, two national review processes and a Parliamentary Select Committee report, all of which have highlighted the harmful impact these regulations are having on the British music industry, Government's only reaction is yet another review":

In the changeover to the new entertainment licensing regime in 2005, about 40% of bars and restaurants lost any automatic entitlement to live music. However, all such premises were given automatic permission to play recorded music, which includes hosting a DJ. Under the old regime 100% of these venues could have had one or two musicians (known as the 'two in a bar rule'). Also, for the first time, the legislation extended licensing control to private concerts raising money for good causes, no matter how small the event, and created the potential criminal offence of providing unlicensed 'entertainment facilities'. This means that a piano in a bar, or even a school, could lead to a criminal prosecution if the piano is intended for use in a licensable entertainment without authorisation. The maximum penalty is a £20,000 fine and six months in prison. Big screen sport, or anything broadcast is exempt. The government is resisting exemptions for live music mainly on the grounds that there might be noise complaints, despite the fact that other legislation already deals with this.

Equity members are being advised to assemble for the demonstration at the statue of Churchill from 11am:

Supportive MPs are also expected to attend, as well as the press including the BBC.

At approximately 11.45am speakers will address the demonstration, including Stephen Spence, Equity assistant general secretary, John Smith, MU general secretary, MPs Don Foster (Lib Dem shadow culture secretary), John Whittingdale (Conservative, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee), and Peter Luff. Lib Dem peer Tim Clement-Jones will also speak. He is the author of a private members live music bill which, if implemented, would meet most of the Culture Committee's recommendations.

The demonstration coincides with a Parliamentary debate, tabled by John Whittingdale, on the government's response to the Culture Committee's report. This will be held in the Westminster Hall at 2.30pm.

The Committee's Report on the 2003 Licensing Act can be accessed here:

The DCMS response can be accessed here:

Culture Committee homepage:


Hamish Birchall