This from Richard Bridge.
I am trying to get a write-in campaign going.
I set out below first my explanation for folk club audiences and thent he letter that I am suggetsing be written, and finally some contact details.
GOVERNMENT BAN ON FOLK MUSIC THIS IS NOT A JOKE
The Threat The government plans a major change in liquor licences, gaming licences, and public entertainment licences. People assumed it would replace the "2-in-a-bar" rule* (which has been used to close down folk music) with something sensible. But it won't. It will replace it with something far worse. Spin doctors mislead by quoting approving comments that had not realised this.
The new law will make it a crime for even one folk musician to perform in a pub without a local authority entertainment licence. No exemptions at all. The only public singing in a pub that will not need a licence will be "spontaneous" outbursts such as "Happy Birthday to You".
Every pub with a folk club or session will need a local authority licence for public entertainment. The rule will apply to private members clubs like working mens' clubs, and so will probably apply even to private folk clubs (where you have to be a member for 48 hours to get in) held in pubs. The government has refused to meet the EFDSS to discuss an exemption.
The government says that the licences will be very cheap and benefit everyone. Yeah, right! The public entertainment licence will only be a part of the premises (liquor) licence. These will be controlled by local authorities. The pub will have to apply in advance (when it applies for its liquor licence) to the local authority with a full business plan for the entire pub operation including showing how often it intends to have public entertainment and of what kind ( so it will have to specify folk music) and what measures it is taking to prevent a public nuisance and to ensure public safety, and so on. We all know how helpful local authorities are, and how low they are likely to set their licence fees, don't we?
These licences are planned to last for the life of the business running the pub, and changes are planned to need an entirely fresh application.
If your club's pub (or club) does not get a licence permitting public entertainment including folk music your club will be illegal. Now imagine trying to start a new session or club or move your present one to a new pub.
What Can You Do? Write fax or email to your MP, write or email the minister Kim Howells, write or email Ronnie Bridgett the civil servant in charge (addresses and a sample letter on the back). Support the EFDSS. Support the Musicians' Union. Support Modal (a non-mainstream music organisation) DO IT NOW AND KEEP AT IT UNTIL THE GOVERNMENT BACKS OFF
*. The 2-in-a-bar rule says that all premises (licensed for liquor or not) need a licence for all music and dancing – but not for live music with only 2 performers (and a recent case says this means 2 throughout the entire evening, so one now and two later, or two now and one punter joining in the chorus is illegal).
Richard Bridge, Forge House, High Street, Lower Stoke, Rochester, Kent, ME3 9RD email@example.com
I write to point out the damage that the government's plans to reform licensing law will do to folk music and dance. In effect, the present plans will ban all folk music or dance without a licence. This was not expected.
What was expected were sensible rules and exemptions, prepared with more thought than the current "2-in-a-bar" rule, that would not penalise or regulate what did not need regulating. But the government has now made it very clear that ALL "entertainment" in pubs and clubs will need a licence and that it plans NO exemptions, not even for acoustic music (even sessions where players come to take part, rather than to stand out in front and entertain others), or for traditional dance like morris. It just plans (press release 12th April) "to simplify…the licensing regimes".
Licensing is never cheap quick and easy. The whole idea that folk music should need a licence is ridiculous. The "reform" will vandalise an important part of England's cultural heritage, close off the route for amateur folk musicians to become professionals in the music industry of such importance to the UK economy, and reduce the attractiveness of the UK as a venue for tourism.
This philistinism is completely unnecessary. Folk music and dance do not pose noise nuisances or health or public order hazards. Only an extreme control freak could ever have dreamed that they might. The fact that in February the government refused to meet the EFDSS to discuss the problem is almost unbelievable. An exemption of a suitable type is absolutely vital, and I suggest that one for music is easy. All it needs to say is that music provided by (say) up to 100 performers without amplification does not need a licence. Keyboards without external amplifiers or speakers should count as acoustic for this purpose. The general law about excessive noise can deal with extraordinary situations like 76 trombones.
Please confirm that you agree.
Addresses Kim Howells – firstname.lastname@example.org - or The House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Ronnie Bridgett – Ronnie.Bridgett@culture.gsi.gov.uk - DCMS, 2/4 Cockspur St, London SW1Y 5DH
Your MP – www.faxyourmp.com - or [name/constituency], House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
EFDSS - www.efdss.org - Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent's Park Road, London, NW1 7AY
MU - www.musiciansunion.org.uk - 60/62 Clapham Rd London SW9 0JJ FOR HAMISH BIRCHALL
MODAL - www.modal.co.uk - Centre for Popular Music, 6 Paternoster Row, Sheffield S1 2QQ