The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Wednesday 27th April 2010 - Council bends licensing rules for Labour's Elvis

Alastair Campbell prosecuted for organising an unlicensed gig?

The prospect is no doubt enticing to many, but it has receded now that Corby Borough Council (CBC) has bent licensing rules for Labour's Elvis stunt last Saturday, 24 April.

The lunchtime performance by Brighton-based Elvis impersonator Mark Wright took place at Lodge Park Technology College, Corby. It came as a show-biz style finale to Gordon Brown's big NHS speech and was widely reported in the national media. See BBC tv news:

But according to the council, the venue's premises licence only allowed entertainment between 6pm and midnight. It seems no-one had checked with the council beforehand about the intended lunch-time gig.

Campbell trailed Mr Wright's appearance on Twitter. At the event, former culture secretary Andy Burnham told the assembled Labour faithful that a tweet by Campbell was broadcast on Radio 5 live saying that 'somebody bigger than Gary Barlow would be here today.'

Tv coverage shows 'Elvis' taking centre stage, singing initially to a seated audience. He is well amplified.

Campbell wrote on his blog the following day: "... many thanks to Mark Wright AKA Elvis for putting a bit of life into the campaign coverage yesterday. 'Best pictures of the campaign so far,' said ITV's reporter, so we'll live with that especially as they got GB [Gordon Brown] to the top of the news talking about the future of the NHS." [use the search facility on the page for 'elvis']

Questioned yesterday about licensing arrangements, CBC officers asked local Labour MP Phil Hope for more information. The initial defence was that this was a private, not-for-profit event, and therefore exempt. However, that was quickly dropped - possibly because of Campbell's Tweets, and because the event was open to the press. Under the Act, entertainment may be licensable if it is 'to any extent for members of the public or for a section of the public' (LA2003, Sch. 1 para 1(2)(a)).

Today CBC decided that Elvis was not licensable because he was exempt as 'incidental music'.

This may be a common sense position, but in adopting it CBC has bent, if not broken the law. Under the Act, the exemption is disapplied if facilities are provided to enable people to be entertained by music-making, including amplification and a stage (see Licensing Act 2003, Sch. 1 para 3, and para 7(b)).

The government is aware of this problem. Only a couple of months ago DCMS ran a public consultation conceding this was an 'unintended' effect of the Act, and proposing to amend the Act accordingly: [see para 1.6]

It was this consultation which prompted LACORS to call for instruments to be illegal unless licensed, including brass, drums and bagpipes.

More links:

Lodge Park principal's blog:

Elvis was the finale of the event - Northampton Chronicle

"Mr Brown told the rally in Corby, Northamptonshire: 'I am just the warm-up speaker, I am going to be introducing Britain's Elvis Presley.'"

The space in which event was held was on open view to the public - see the opening seconds of this video footage:


Hamish Birchall