The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Friday 28th July 2006 - Trowbridge bans majorettes - Notting Hill Carnival street dancers exempt

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) has decided that the street dancers, or 'masqueraders', accompanying the Notting Hill Carnival floats will qualify for the Licensing Act's morris dancing exemption. The wording allows for 'any dancing of a similar nature'.

Had RBKC not adopted this interpretation, carnival organisers would have faced entertainment licence fees of up to £64,000. Extra fees apply where attendance exceeds 5,000. There is no exemption for 'incidental dancing'.  As it is, for the first time the carnival's 30-40 'static sound systems' will require premises licences or Temporary Events Notices. Fees for these are not expected to exceed £2,000.

If RBKC has adopted a liberal reading of the morris exemption, other local authorities are taking a different view. According to this report in the online Wiltshire Times, Trowbridge has already banned majorettes (unless licensed), and Warminster looks set to follow:

'Major upset for troupe'
By Morwenna Blake
Friday 21st July 2006

MAJORETTE troupes which have been a part of the carnival celebrations in west Wiltshire for decades are to be forced out due to red tape.

Children will be bitterly disappointed, as Trowbridge Carnival Committee has already banned majorettes and Warminster looks likely to follow suit.

Gwenda Noakes, leader of the Trowbridge Majorettes, said: "We have been going to the carnival for 30 years. We do it for the children and we are just so upset for them. It is our local town and we just thought Trowbridge Carnival was for the people of Trowbridge. Trying to explain to a five-year-old why this has happened will not be easy. It is hard to understand ourselves."

The majorette troupe is one of three in the town and has 30 children taking part, aged from five to 14. They and other groups from around the county take part in a series of carnival processions each year. Potentially hundreds of youngsters could face a bitter disappointment.

The ban has been put into place because of the demands of the 2003 Licensing Act, which comes into force this year. The act means those on foot in the procession must number no more than half the number of floats, or organisers could face a hefty licence fee.

Trowbridge Carnival committee chairman Steve Nash said: "The way it works is the majorettes are dancers and dancing is a licensable activity. West Wiltshire District Council has said to us as long as the number of people walking is less than 50 per cent of the number of floats that take part in the carnival then it is not a licensable activity. We have taken this step because obviously the majorettes are a large number of people on foot."

Sandra Major, chairman of Warminster Carnival Committee, said a final decision had not been made but majorettes may well be prevented from taking part in their town's carnival. "Everyone expects a few majorettes to be in the procession but it is going to cost us a lot of money if we do have them," she said.

A spokesman for West Wiltshire District Council confirmed carnivals do not need licensing under the act if the ratio of the number of people on foot to the number of floats is less than 50 per cent, but said it is up to individual committees how they meet the requirements.

She said: "Trowbridge has banned majorettes, that is their policy. How they choose to work out who can take part is up to them, they could do it on a first-come first-served basis."

The licensing fee payable varies according to the number of people attending, or estimated likely to attend, an event, ranging from £100 to tens of thousands. Trowbridge carnival can attract about 10,000 people. The fee for 5,000 to 9,999 people is £1,100, but for 10,000 to 14,999 it would be £2,000.


Hamish Birchall