The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #57243   Message #974961
Posted By: The Shambles
02-Jul-03 - 02:44 AM
Thread Name: EFDSS on the Licensing Bill - PELs.
Subject: RE: EFDSS on the Licensing Bill - PELs.
This from The English Folk Dance and Song Society

The following letter has today been sent to Lord Redesdale and other key members of the House of Lords for Thursday's discussion. Please feel free (nay encouraged) to use the text in your own representations to MPs/Lords/etc.

Best wishes,

Dear Lord Redesdale,

The British Government, and particularly the Department for Culture,
Media and Sport, surely have a duty to protect and encourage our
traditional and folk artforms which are a vital part of our cultural
heritage. However, the Licensing Bill looks likely to undermine this
kind of cultural activity in a number of ways.

Certainly it is true that current legislation is not at all supportive of the folk arts  there have been many recent cases of mummers plays and folk sessions threatened by a combination of one-size-fits-all laws and unsympathetic local authorities. However, the Government's line on the Licensing Bill to date seems to be that because something is wrongly caught by licensing laws at present there is every justification to maintain or even extend licensing legislation.

So far, nobody in the Government or the DCMS has been able to explain
why folk arts require licensing. There is no evidence of crime, disorder or harm to children in connection with folk arts  in fact folk arts tend to encourage the very opposite of all these things.

The folk arts community and most of the music industry cannot understand why it is beyond the skill of this Government to introduce legislation which licenses the things which need licensing and leaves alone the things which do not.

As things stand, this is how the Licensing Bill will affect the folk arts:

1.If regular or advertised, over 10,000 informal folk music sessions and singarounds will need to be licensed.

2.Over 11,000 folk dance and play events each year will require
licensing wherever they take place  not just on private land as is
currently the case outside of London.

3.Around 400 folk music and song clubs will become licensable for the
first time.

4.Anybody organising the above activities will be criminally liable  a significant addition to current laws.

Indeed, it is the fourth point that is particularly worrying. The notion that the organising committee of a team of 6 folk dancers and a musician would be criminals if the team danced in a public park or on a village green which was not licensed for regulated entertainment is quite disturbing, whether or not the local authority is, in practice, likely to press charges for such a minor event.

The facts are simple. The vast majority of folk dance takes place out of doors where there is no greater risk to the public than an informal game of football in the park. In all cases, folk music and song sessions in pubs (advertised or not) pose no greater risks than the normal business of a licensed premises.

The Government urgently needs to take on board these facts and pass a
Licensing Bill which reflects them. The folk arts community are utterly bewildered by suggestions that exemptions for outdoor folk dance would also exempt strip-clubs, or that exemptions for informal music and song sessions would also exempt screenings of porn-films to children. It is surely not impossible to draw legal distinctions between these things.

Please, for the sake of Britain's cultural traditions, do all you can to ensure that the Licensing Bill reflects the following:

Most performances by folk dance teams do not require licensing  An
exemption for community dance where it takes places in the open, is
not accompanied by amplified music, and involves no more than 24 dancers would be a perfectly adequate distinction.

Folk music and song sessions do not need licensing  These activities
pose no greater risk to the public than the normal business of a
licensed premises, especially where they are unamplified. In fact they pose significantly less risk than broadcast entertainment in pubs which is exempt under the new Bill.

Folk music and song sessions should either be made entirely exempt from entertainments licensing, or else permission for such small-scale activities should be included with a standard Premises License.

Local authorities must be allowed to employ common sense  The Licensing Bill should permit local authorities not to require licensing for events which clearly do not pose any health and safety, crime and disorder or public nuisance risks. Local authorities are bound by the law, and if the law leaves them with no flexibility they will have a duty to follow it to the letter.

I thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Gibbens
Development Officer

Telephone: 020 7485 2206