The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Monday 3rd April 2006 - Incidental exemption - hospitals

The City of London Corporation, which provides local government services for the 'square mile', has shown that it is possible to interpret the new Licensing Act liberally where live music is concerned.

On 24 March, Barts Hospital issued a press release about a new series of music concerts on the wards of Barts, and other participating hospitals:

The concerts were set up by a charity called Vital Arts: 'bringing musicians, story tellers and performers into the hospital to work on wards, in waiting rooms and other public areas to raise patient spirits and boost staff morale.'

The performances are public for the purposes of the Licensing Act, and they have been widely advertised. But the City of London licensing department today confirmed that, as far as they are concerned, these concerts qualify for the 'incidental music' exemption.

Last Friday (31.03.06), one of their licensing officers advised me: ' there is a strong argument for the music being incidental to the provision of clinical treatment, or infact that the music is actually part of that treatment. The City does not consider that the licensing of these ' performances' would serve any useful purpose, nor indeed would such licensing be within the spirit in which the legislation was enacted.' 

This afternoon (Mon 03.04.06), Andrew Whittington, Assistant Chief Trading Standards Officer for the Corporation, said: 'I would reiterate his advice that the City of London, at this stage, does not consider that the music activity outlined in the link to Barts and the London NHS Trust website to be such as to require a licence under the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003. I can see no problem in you publishing this as the current view of this authority but as in all legal issues I would advise you of the following caveats:-

I hope the above clarifies the position but if you come across any different view by other licensing authorities I would be grateful if you could let me know.'

Notwithstanding the caveat about this position applying only to the City of London, this position could prove useful to musicians elsewhere if they find their local authority adopting a less generous interpretation of 'incidental music' exemption (Licensing Act 2003, Sch.1, para 7).

Link to the City of London website:

Hamish Birchall