The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #55964   Message #872684
Posted By: The Shambles
23-Jan-03 - 05:45 AM
Thread Name: PELs Government v MU & lawyers
Subject: RE: PELs Government v MU & lawyers
Some good support in The Times leader today 21 Jan 2003 At last we appear to be getting through. Please circulate this influential opinion, which will make people sit up and take notice all over the world.........

Howells of anguish
The Culture Minister is mistaken about music in pubs

When the Culture Minister Kim Howells visited last year's Turner Prize exhibition he was confronted with rubbish masquerading as the product of deep thinking. To his credit, Mr Howells derided the petit dejeuners a chien served up by Nicholas Serota as "cold, mechanised, conceptual bullshit".

It is, therefore, a great shame that Mr Howells is now pandering to a closed elite who hold the public in almost as much contempt as the preening peacocks of BritArt — new Labour's nannying tendency. How else can we interpret the minister's desire to push ahead with legislation which would curtail the ability of licensed premises to provide the type of entertainment they have offered for more than a century?

Since the days of Queen Victoria, pubs have been able to provide live music, without having to jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops, as long as the number of musicians performing is less than three. Now that rule is to be changed by the Licensing Bill which Mr Howells has introduced. The Bill is supposed to be a liberalising measure. So it might be expected that a Government which supports the arts and hopes to foster a cafe society would relax old rules and promote live performance.

Mr Howells, however, is insisting that the current anomaly be removed by making the regulations more restrictive. He wants to make it a criminal offence for even one musician to pick up a penny whistle in a pub, unless they have gone to the trouble of acquiring an entertainment licence. A single folk singer with a badly tuned guitar is thus treated as a noisesome threat on a par with the Monsters of Rock festival, requiring bureaucratic approval before he or she can hum a few bars in the local.

Mr Howells argues that amplification can allow a single musician with an electric guitar to put on a rowdier show than a string quartet and so he is only acting equitably. But his is the equity of the wet blanket. And an illogical wet blanket at that. For the Licensing Bill will not restrict the ability of pubs to show television, amplified by powerful speakers, which could produce a great deal more noise than any pair of balladeers.

Excessive noise from pubs and clubs can blight the lives of those who live near by. But most complaints have nothing to do with live music and everything to do with those who are dead drunk. If Mr Howells ploughs ahead with his plans then he will be bracketed with every puritan who has tried to bind the human spirit with fetters made of red tape. He will be up there with Cromwell, the banner of theatres, and Patricia Hewitt, the nannying crusader against idiosyncracy. Surely he cannot want to sing from their song sheet?