The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Thursday 4th May 2006 - Sultan's elephant eludes licensing

Another example of inconsistency in the regulation of entertainment under the new Licensing Act:

A giant wooden elephant, which at over 40 tons weighs more than Nelson's column, begins a four-day trip through the streets of Westminster this morning (Thursday 4th May, 2006). The 'Sultan's Elephant Theatre Show' promises 'an enchanting world of larger than life puppets and quirky theatre':

'A performance of a play' is one of the descriptions of entertainment in the Act (Sch.1, para 2(1)(a)). On the face of it, the 'quirky theatre' of the Sultan's Elephant procession would appear to be licensable entertainment. After all, t he Act further defines the performance of a play as 'a performance of any dramatic piece, whether involving improvisation or not, - (a) which is given wholly or in part by one or more persons actually present and performing, and (b) in which the whole or a major proportion of what is done by the person or persons performing, whether by way of speech, singing or action, involves the playing of a role.' (Sch.1, para 14(1)).

So, one actor standing in the street reciting Shakespeare (or indeed story-telling in a pub) is a potential criminal offence unless his or her pitch is licensed for 'the performance of a play'.

By contrast , the Sultan's Elephant procession - a somewhat greater risk on safety and nuisance grounds (some might argue) - has escaped licensing by Westminster City Council on the basis that the entertainment is on moving floats, which fall within the exemption for entertainment on 'vehicles in motion' (Licensing Act 2003, Schedule 1, para 12).

Hamish Birchall