The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Friday 29th April 2011 - March in lockstep for the Royal Wedding

'... This is fantastic for the branding of Britain... this is our Beijing moment. This is having thousands of people marching in precise step, in absolute lockstep, in a way that is so impressive when you look at it, it's so difficult to do, we do it brilliantly, and do you really think that a billion people are going to be tuning into Britain for the marriage of a president's grand-daughter?'
Historian Dr Andrew Roberts speaking in support of the royal wedding, BBC Radio 4 Today, Thursday 28 April 2011, approx 8.58am: [from 3'50"]
One wonders whether Dr Roberts is similarly moved by the precision marching of the Red Army in Red Square, or the Nazis in Nuremburg.
The lockstep is also a dance move, but dancing in pubs and bars in England has been illegal unless licensed since the 1750s.
In 2002, Westminster council successfully prosecuted Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries (W&DB), owner of the high street chain Pitcher & Piano because licensing officers witnessed the 'rhythmic moving' of customers to music in two of its sites, Trafalgar Square and Soho. Neither venue was licensed for dancing. W&DB was fined 5,000 and ordered to pay 1,600 costs in addition to its own legal fees:
Despite its billing as 'a licensing regime for the 21st century' by former culture secretary Tessa Jowell, the Licensing Act 2003 actually extended the criminalisation of unlicensed music and dancing, catching private charity fund-raising dances and concerts for the first time.  Somewhere between 50% and 80% of bars, hotels and restaurants remain unlicensed for dancing.
But marching is surely 'rhythmic moving', so will there be mass public arrests today?  Unlikely.
If licensing officers were looking forward to a bit of action, the Prime Minister no less has fired a shot across their bows:
'The Department for Culture, Media and Sport can see no reason why venues should require a separate permission to simply allow customers to sing or dance as they celebrate the Royal Wedding.  I am sure that, in interpreting and enforcing licensing laws, local authorities will agree with the Prime Minister that unnecessary regulation should not get in the way of the celebrations.  Premises which are already authorised to provide entertainment facilities will, of course, be able to do so during the extended hours under the Order.'
[Written answer, not yet published online, from Baroness Rawlings to a question from Lord Clement-Jones HL8487]

Hamish Birchall