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UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline

JClapp 27 Oct 09 - 12:43 PM
Will Fly 27 Oct 09 - 12:50 PM
Will Fly 27 Oct 09 - 12:51 PM
VirginiaTam 27 Oct 09 - 01:39 PM
Tig 27 Oct 09 - 01:55 PM
John MacKenzie 27 Oct 09 - 02:24 PM
Allan C. 27 Oct 09 - 02:32 PM
BobKnight 27 Oct 09 - 02:39 PM
Vic Smith 27 Oct 09 - 03:27 PM
John MacKenzie 27 Oct 09 - 03:51 PM
The Villan 27 Oct 09 - 04:28 PM
Richard Bridge 27 Oct 09 - 05:07 PM
The Villan 27 Oct 09 - 05:08 PM
Phil Edwards 27 Oct 09 - 05:34 PM
Richard Bridge 27 Oct 09 - 07:03 PM
Richard Atkins 27 Oct 09 - 11:07 PM
The Villan 28 Oct 09 - 11:11 AM
Mavis Enderby 28 Oct 09 - 01:58 PM
Mavis Enderby 28 Oct 09 - 02:36 PM
The Villan 28 Oct 09 - 03:00 PM
The Sandman 28 Oct 09 - 03:00 PM
stallion 28 Oct 09 - 03:24 PM
wrotham-arms-jen 28 Oct 09 - 04:54 PM
JClapp 28 Oct 09 - 05:23 PM
JClapp 28 Oct 09 - 05:38 PM
GUEST,PeterC 28 Oct 09 - 06:00 PM
Tootler 28 Oct 09 - 06:12 PM
Gervase 28 Oct 09 - 06:19 PM
Rafflesbear 28 Oct 09 - 07:02 PM
Nick 28 Oct 09 - 08:44 PM
Phil Edwards 29 Oct 09 - 07:43 AM
Nick 29 Oct 09 - 09:54 AM
folktheatre 29 Oct 09 - 10:01 AM
Acorn4 29 Oct 09 - 12:55 PM
Phil Edwards 29 Oct 09 - 04:04 PM
Old Vermin 29 Oct 09 - 05:25 PM
Artful Codger 30 Oct 09 - 03:18 AM
GUEST 30 Oct 09 - 05:31 AM
Acorn4 30 Oct 09 - 05:35 AM
GUEST 30 Oct 09 - 05:58 AM
folktheatre 30 Oct 09 - 11:12 AM
wrotham-arms-jen 02 Nov 09 - 10:47 AM
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Subject: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: JClapp
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 12:43 PM

I'm a PhD student and mediocre guitarist from the States, and my doctoral dissertation is on contemporary folk activity in the US and UK. I'm currently in England doing research, and have taken notice of two interesting developments: firstly, the effects of the 2003 Licensing Act on folk and small-scale music in general; and secondly, the increase in closures of pubs, where much club and session activity obviously takes place.

While I've been talking to a number of people involved with these two issues, including a couple of folkies, I've yet to get a great deal of 'folk-centric' perspective. Thus I'm putting up this post in the hopes of hearing from any folk devotees who have dealt with any effects or difficulties caused by the Licensing Act and/or the struggles of some pubs to stay open and remain profitable.

If a club/session that you organize or attend has in any way been affected by licensing (whether since the 2003 Act or before), or if you've had any issues holding your local club/session in a pub, I'd really like to hear about your particular experience, as it would aid me greatly in assessing exactly how these two developments are affecting folk activity. It need not be an extended and lengthy story--I'm interested in absolutely any situations relating to these two topics.

You can contact me via private message or e-mail me at jclapp@sas.upenn.edu. I'm currently staying in Brighton, so if you're in the SE or London area, I could come and talk with you in person; otherwise we could chat by phone.

Thanks,

Justin Clapp
University of Pennsylvania


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 12:50 PM

Hi Justin - good to see you (we met recently at the Royal Oak in Lewes - the fellow Larrivée owner).

One of the things I've noticed in travelling around bits of the country over the last few months is that the pub closures appear to be spread unevenly over the country, and that the spread of folk activity is similarly very different. Whether these two circles overlap in a convenient Venn diagram, I couldn't say. In my own area of Sussex, folk-ish activity is very active, with opportunities to listen and play every night of the week within a reasonable driving distance. Not so in other parts of the country.

You might want to try and attempt a regional "map" of these things, though it may be a difficult task in the time available. I'm sure other 'Catters could help you here.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 12:51 PM

PS: Your guitar playing was very creditable - I particularly enjoyed the Irish piece you played...


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: VirginiaTam
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 01:39 PM

Hi Justin

US citizen here, living and folking in Essex and Kent UK, since 2007. Will has given some good advice about regional investigations.

I would also say, that more than the Licensing Act has had effect on pubs and the decline of folk clubs etc.

You can google or search Mudcat and find a number of threads that directly and indirectly provide insight to both problems.

Pubs being taken over by breweries that refuse to pay the PRS (Performing Rights Society) fees so no live music can take place in them.
Pubs, turning themselves into cheap drinks clubs to attract the young patrons.
The aging folk musician population, dying, retiring etc. with a very few young folk following on.
The tendency of young folk musicians to not join clubs, but to only attend festivals or attempt large attendance gigs.

All of it contributes. I know you need to focus your dissertation, but you should be aware of all the issues.

Good luck in your endeavors.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Tig
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 01:55 PM

One thing which I started noticing a long while back in the early 80's which has got worse is the 'getting going' time.

When pubs closed at 10.30pm (yes, there was such a time!) the clubs started promptly at 8.00pm (or even 7.45pm) as we were expected to be out by 11pm.

Then they finished serving at 11pm. Result was the people attending didn't turn up until later, so the club started later ...... if your last bus was 11pm (as many were) you missed most of the second half guest spot.... so you didn't bother turning out at all. You can't chance drink driving!

Now quite a few clubs advertise they don't start until 9pm - which cuts out young parents as it gets too late on a weekday for babysitters.

I definately agree that the smoking ban, PRS fees, more open plan pubs/closing pubs HAS affected folk/music clubs but maybe a bit of consideration about timings might encourage a few more of us back.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 02:24 PM

Don't forget the ridiculous price of beer in many pubs. A pint of beer now costs more than my first week's wages :(

JM


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Allan C.
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 02:32 PM

I suspect there would be many who might find it difficult to suss out whether the smoking ban has had more, equal, or less effect than the Licensing Act upon club attendance/patronage. They seem to have hit at almost the same time, making that task, (your task,) all the more problematic. My advice would be to narrow your topic even more to something more quantifiable. Perhaps an assessment of current attitudes regarding traditional music, contrasting different age groups or something, might work better. For instance: Does the diminishing availability of the live performance of traditional folk music affect the musical preferences of 18 to 24 year-olds?


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: BobKnight
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 02:39 PM

Another factor to be taken into consideration is that the big supermarkets like ASDA, and Tesco are selling drink so cheaply that many people are now drinking at home, and only going out later, if at all.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Vic Smith
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 03:27 PM

Justin Clapp said:-
"I'm a PhD student and mediocre guitarist from the States,"


My God, Justin. If you are mediocre where does that leave the rest of us?

You are also a very thorough and stimulating person to be interviewed by. Someone else who has been interviewed by you on your current trip was on the phone to me earlier today said, "That Justin, he asks all the right questions, doesn't he?" Well, yes he does.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 03:51 PM

Well Bob, there is the other side of that coin, and that is.
Why do the brewco's that own pubs make their prices so high?
Could it be, because they insist that their managers/tenants buy only from them, at a price higher than it can be bought at ASDA and Tesco?
The price of beer in pubs is as artifically high, as the lost leaders on beer in the supermarkets, is artificially low.
JM


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: The Villan
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 04:28 PM

Well Tig, it might please you to know that we at Faldingworth Start at 8pm and finish at 11. :-)

I still say that Village Halls need to become the future. We have our own alcohol Licence now so could if we wanted to, serve beer every day.

The one good thing is that we at least get people who have come to listen to the music.

Maybe you should do something like

Can the Village Halls save the decline of Folk Music in Pubs


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 05:07 PM

Many places are abysmally served by public transport so one cannot get out or back without driving. Thus the drink drive laws damage pubs in general and folk venues (which are I think more associated with alcohol in this country than the USA) too.

Most village halls are neon-lit monstrosities that would only have an atmosphere if you burned them down.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: The Villan
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 05:08 PM

Not all Richard


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 05:34 PM

There was a little back-street pub called the Beech where I used to meet a friend on odd weekday evenings; it was never packed but always reasonably busy.

A few years later - after the smoking ban came in, coinciding with the much greater availability of cheap supermarket booze - I started going back to the Beech for a fortnightly singaround. O tempora, O blimey. On a quiet night for the singaround there are ten of us in the snug; on a good night there are 20+. On a good night for the rest of the pub (two large rooms), there are ten other people in the place; on a bad night there are three or four. I'm not saying the singaround is keeping the Beech open - apart from anything else, I'm not certain the singaround will keep the Beech open - but we're certainly propping up their takings during the week.

I think smaller town pubs (in particular) were hit really hard by the smoking ban (in particular), and some of them have gone into a downward spiral as a result. I'm not convinced the Licensing Act had anything to do with it one way or the other. The other club I go to was given a licence which specifically said we had to be finished by 11.00 and out by 11.30, which was a bit of a shock to the system; it's had less of an effect on the ambience of the club than you might thin,


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 07:03 PM

Which, Villan?


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Richard Atkins
Date: 27 Oct 09 - 11:07 PM

There was a review of this shameful Blair Brown Gouverment Act in Parliament last week.
They set up a review of the Act which concluded small venues of less than 200 should be excluded from licence requirement.
Against there own advice they thought 100 pre the debate.
I dont know what the result was, but it will take months to change their Law mistake on small venues and others will continue to close due to their policys in the meantime


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: The Villan
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 11:11 AM

I was refferring to this <>

From all the feedback we get, ours is certainly not dismal and we have a proper stage and lighting and PA and bar and we pride ourselves on doing the best we can to povide a family/homely atmosphere, where everybody is important.

It can be done,but most people want it on a plate.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 01:58 PM

Though I'm certainly no fan of the 2003 Licensing Act I don't think it has had too much of an effect in either of the two pubs I play in on a semi-regular basis. What's notable about both is they have a good reputation for well kept real ale, and they both make an effort to bring in custom both locally and from further afield, with activities such as quiz nights, art exhibitions, chess tournaments, live gigs etc etc. Neither of them are attempting to be restaurants, although they both serve something akin to traditional pub lunches (and very good too), and both have decent outdoor smoking areas. They don't have large screen TVs and don't show Sky sports! They are reasonably well served by public transport, being in the city. They both have websites* to let you know what's on which is useful if you are a semi-regular visitor, like myself. Basically I think their success comes from focusing on what I'd regard as traditional pub activities, and they do these extremely well.

Village halls can be great too, especially where there are hard working individuals/committees involved in running them (as is the case in Faldingworth). I take Richard's point that village halls can lack atmosphere but the opposite can also be true - one of the best gigs I've ever seen was a Hank Wangford & Reg Meuross "no hall too small" performance at a small village hall, playing to an audience of about 50, with a very small stage lit by standard lamps (really), & tea & home made food during the interval.

Cheers,

Pete.

*on checking the website for one of them I see it's been voted "Best community pub in great Britain for 2009" which says it much better than I could!


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 02:36 PM

oops - should have added: the two pubs are the Tap and Spile and The Dog and Bone in Lincoln. No financial interest on my part!

Pete.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: The Villan
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 03:00 PM

Great pub, is the Dog and Bone.

Thanks for the thumbs up Pete.

Les


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: The Sandman
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 03:00 PM

pub decline.
if they lower the drink driving limit,that will put the kybosh on folk clubs good and proper.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: stallion
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 03:24 PM

mmmmmmmm we take turns to be the nominated driver, and I don't actually need alcohol to enjoy myself however, I do enjoy a nice beer or three. The decline in the pub, I think it doesn't have one cause and it isn't necessarily linked to a decline in folk music. Like someone said earlier a good welcoming atmosphere with good beer seems to be a working recipe for successful pubs. We get a lot of youngsters in the Tap & Spile session in York, mainly because we have two universities in close proximity but they stay and join in cos a) They probably, and in most cases haven't heard anything like it before and b) it's really good fun. For my four pen'orth too many people spend too much time injecting misery into folk music, laugh and enjoy, go with the flow!


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: wrotham-arms-jen
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 04:54 PM

justin,
i ran a pub with acoustic (alot of folk) music 2006-2009. it was a great time, but not easy. my experiences don't tie in with any theory about how the 2003 act made things different, but if you need general info from 'the other side of the bar' i would be happy to help where i can. feel free to pm me if you need my assistance.
jen


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: JClapp
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 05:23 PM

Interesting answers so far, thanks. Most of my project is actually about the other issues some of you have mentioned. I'm looking at how the folk activity that came out of the 'boom' is adapting to modern times--to the growth of the media, to generational change, and so forth. The pub and licensing issues are just things that I've come across since beginning research here earlier this year, and I'm trying to learn more.

I think I need to narrow down what I'm asking a bit. Let's try this:

(1) Has anyone been affected in any way by music licensing?

(2) Has anyone had to move their club/session out of a pub and into another setting (like a village hall)? Or had to deal with any problems playing/listening in a pub?


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: JClapp
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 05:38 PM

Will:
I enjoyed your duets--some of the best folk instrumental playing I've seen since I got here. Great instruments too.

Vic:
Well, me being mediocre means that you and Tina sound far better than mediocre.
And I guess I figure that if I ask a huge amount of questions, some of them might be good!


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: GUEST,PeterC
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 06:00 PM

The act has had some positive effect. Of the five clubs that I attend on a semi-regular basis three were previously forced to be members only, now all can admit customers without any advance notice. Landlords who were correctly advised managed to get themselves licensed for music just in case they wanted to put a band on in the future. Most "problems" that I have seen documented were down to pubs not applying for music when they had the chance to get it automatically on re-licensing. The whole thing isn't perfect by any means but what I have seen has been a lot "less worse" than the previous situation with PELs.

I think that other changes in the industry have had a more profound effect on music.

1. Country pubs tending to convert to restaurants
2. Out of centre and suburban town pubs closing due to a general loss of trade because to cheap supermarket beer and the smoking ban.

Prior to the credit crunch the high value of country locations for residential use encouraged pubcos to sell off parts of their estate as the ROI would go through the floor when based on a recent valuation.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Tootler
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 06:12 PM

Has anyone had to move their club/session out of a pub and into another setting (like a village hall)? Or had to deal with any problems playing/listening in a pub?

Justin,

Contact Paul Arrowsmith. His Mudcat id is banjiman. He has had just that experience.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Gervase
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 06:19 PM

Many pubs have become reluctant to promote musical evenings because there is far more money to be made in providing food. The margins on drink are slender, even on soft drinks, whereas food can be very profitable. Thus a back room or a snug bar that would once have hosted a session is now filled with tables because it generates more income for the licensee.
One also has to accept the fact that not everyone likes folk music. I've known a couple of sessions where the landlord was willing but the regulars objected and the sessions were stopped as a result. With the best will in the world, a musician who has driven 10 miles to get there once a week will drink less than a local who walks to the pub every night.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Rafflesbear
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 07:02 PM

Justin - a great offer from Wrotham-Arms-Jen who has put in as much work to promote folk music in a public setting as anyone (good to hear from you Jen - hope all is well)

you could also try Girl Friday - look for the Folk at the Foresters thread

and when you find out the answer to how to get it all booming again don't forget to publish it here


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Nick
Date: 28 Oct 09 - 08:44 PM

I think I need to narrow down what I'm asking a bit. Let's try this:

(1) Has anyone been affected in any way by music licensing?

(2) Has anyone had to move their club/session out of a pub and into another setting (like a village hall)? Or had to deal with any problems playing/listening in a pub?

*******

1) Yes

2) Yes


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 29 Oct 09 - 07:43 AM

Nick - stop waffling and get to the point!


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Nick
Date: 29 Oct 09 - 09:54 AM

Sorry.

Yes
Yes

I realise the numbers were probably not necessary


If Justin wants anymore info he's welcome to get in touch rather than me write a huge tome. A lot of it is on here already elsewhere as it was in relation to Samuel Smiths.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: folktheatre
Date: 29 Oct 09 - 10:01 AM

Hello J Clapp. I haven't seen any evidence of the music licensing problem hindering any clubs myself but my view is very narrow because I'm 27 and have only been attending folk clubs for the past five years. The only issue with folk clubs seems to me to be just that. They often feel like an actual 'club' where to get by you need to know someone who's already involved in going there. This isn't the case for me though. I turned up to my local and was made to feel welcome. I have played my song arrangements from the beginning and was given great feedback and future support to billed artists.

My other feeling is that confining the music to clubs does sort of make the music feel slightly too precious and lots of relations and friends of mine just find the sort of music on offer - boring and not fun. Not all of it. Just most of it I'm afraid. That's a different discussion though.

Also, see the Band Room near Kirby Moorside in North Yorkshire where they are a village hall type affair and has no smoking but you can take your own drinks. They seem to really thrive in the relaxed atmosphere they have but they mainly book 'Americana' acts. Whatever that means!

Oh and I don't agree with the smoking ban thing. I never went to pubs nearly as much as I do now and I have many friends (smoking and non smoking) who agree. But that's just me. Hope this helps a bit.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Acorn4
Date: 29 Oct 09 - 12:55 PM

There might be some info in this previous thread:-

Death of the British Pub


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 29 Oct 09 - 04:04 PM

Sorry, Nick, I was being ironic - a bit more detail would be very interesting.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Old Vermin
Date: 29 Oct 09 - 05:25 PM

The Royal Oak - I think - the pub at Hooks Way in deepest Sussex north of Chichester had a superb song session or Friday or Saturdays in the mid-70s. Beer from a barrel in the back room. Public bar. Market-gardeners. Cheerfully obscene version of Old MacDonald. Perhaps the first pub song session I ever went to. Last time I saw the pub, the public bar had become a restaurant.

The Fox at Bucks Green, West Sussex. Had a song session on a regular weekend evening c 1975. Documented by Phil Gorton - Google for it - pub still going with an emphasis on its expensive fish menu.

Ram Ciderhouse - Catteshall, Godalming, Surrey - song session from probably the 70s - overtaken and dominated by instrumentalists despite changing to another evening - the instrumentalists joined that too. I found it on my neighbour's recommendation about '94, which got me back into folkie stuff. Ed Rennie popping in warning his Post Office uniform to sing or play melodeon, Phil Atkinson, Keith Calton, Kevin Gorton and many others.

The Ram fell foul of UK bureaucracy. Needed updating for hygiene and sound-proofing, but was a Listed Building - half-timbered with wattle-and-daub so couldn't be knocked about. A solitary neighbour was complaining to the EHO about noise from the amplified rock nights. Chief Exec of local council described it as a 'dinosaur'. She later left under a cloud, but the damage was done. And there was other stuff. Now a very expensive private residence.

The session from there has been round, not necessarily in this order:

Rose and Crown - stayed until Frank and Marilyn retired when that pub became a wine bar and the music moved.
Scratchers - Three Lions - forget what happened there.
The Freeholders, Farncombe - Banjo Bill the host moved out.
Richmond Arms - locals didn't like it so a short stay - but been back fleetingly.
Kings Arms - was postponed because of confusion over licensing, then management changed their mind.
Currently at The Star on a Monday and the Red Lion on a Wednesday. Fingers crossed.


There was a first Sunday session at the Merry Harriers, Hambledon, Surrey - had apparently always happened - pub didn't want to go through the PEL process. So it stopped.

There was a long-running ballad session at the Ram at Firle - saw a piece on the Times website to the effect that the pub had been tarted up and the hippies discouraged, so who knows?


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Artful Codger
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 03:18 AM

Don't forget the ridiculous extensions to copyright terms, which have kept so much old material out of the public domain and given the music corporations the brick bats they wield. To my mind, the revised copyright laws are a bigger threat to folk music than any other bit of legislative lunacy.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 05:31 AM

On a positive note:-

White Horse at Seagrave, Leics

Pub has re-opened after being taken over by a couple from the village.

Folk Night has re-started - room was packed out for the second session last nigh!


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: Acorn4
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 05:35 AM

Sorry, the last post was me. Keep forgetting the cookie when I'm on the laptop.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 05:58 AM

To my mind, the revised copyright laws are a bigger threat to folk music than any other bit of legislative lunacy.

When have copyright laws stopped a person from singing a song to their friends?


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: folktheatre
Date: 30 Oct 09 - 11:12 AM

That's why I started singing folk songs ha ha.


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Subject: RE: UK: Licensing Act and Pub Decline
From: wrotham-arms-jen
Date: 02 Nov 09 - 10:47 AM

Here you go Justin, thought i'd post my thoughts here because it might spark thoughts from other mud-dwellers. Some of this is repeating what others have said. I hope I dont offend anyone with my comments, they are written from my business head and not my music lover head!

1.        The benefit of a major folk event. Broadstairs Folk Week increased The Wrotham Arms profit greatly (Justin - I can give you spefics off-line). The Wrotham Arms is not on the main part of town, so other pubs probably benefit even more from the event.   I believe the event has prevented the closure of pubs in Broadstairs. The augmented takings help the pubs (and other local businesses) to stay open through the leaner months (Jan-Mar). The only pub lost in Broadstairs in the last 5+ years is The Albion Inn (known locally as 'The Little Albion'), which is out of the area of main Folk Week activity.

2.        Why Folk music struggles. I booked acoustic music (including folk). Generally the takings were lower on a folk music night, as compared to blues, pop, light rock. Reasons for this:
a.        Folk audiences tend not to spend too much ? they are thriftier by nature. It's hard to quantify why this is, but one theory I have is that folkies tend to be teachers, social workers, etc rather than bankers, lawyers, and company CEOs. I know this statement is a vast generalisation and will probably get me into trouble!!!
b.        The music is often not as up-beat as other genres and so doesn't encourage beer swilling!
c.        Folk musicians that adapt their music to suit the regulars in the pub (Whisky in the Jar, Down by the Dockyard Wall, Irish Rover, etc) were seen as lowering themselves and sometimes boycotted by the purists. I am not saying either is right or wrong but it is important to keep the regulars happy from a financial perspective.
d.        Some folkies expect the pub to be quiet whilst they are performing. This is true of all music genres, but more so in folk. This could be due to the volume generally being lower in folk music. Also, it is more important to listen to the words (the story) in folk music, not just the melody. Interestingly the most annoying ssshhhhh's came from amateur folk musicians during sessions and were aimed at noisy regulars that frequented the pub every day and were more important in keeping the pub alive!

3.        Pub function rooms. I was somewhat involved with The Isle (of Thanet) Folk Club, which was held at a different pub in Broadstairs. The club was starting to be successful when the pub company owner asked for a room fee. The organisers were already spending some of their own money to balance the books and this fee request caused the club closure.   I could not hold the club at my pub since previous landlords had converted the function room to letting rooms. This is the case with several other pubs in Broadstairs ? where the function room has disappeared for more profitable activities such as a restaurant or letting rooms. Those that do still have function rooms try to make them a profitable entity since the margins are so tight in the industry.

4.        Profit / loss on music nights. My calculation on whether a music night was successful ? it was a success if the takings due to the music were 3 times greater than the cost of the music. For example, if I paid a musician £100 then I should have at least £300 in the till that would not have been there if there was no music. This takes into account the expenses (stock, tax, staff, licenses) from the gross takings. I never made a huge amount of money due to the music, but overall it basically paid for itself and allowed me to give at least one staff member work for the night. The Wrotham Arms was considered a successful music pub ? and I just about broke even on it ? I am not surprised that others aren't able to continue providing live music.

5.        The power of neighbours. I had a neighbour that decided we should not have music in the pub, despite music going on there for 20+ years and he purchased the house in 2006. The council threatened me with a review on the music license. The brewery told me that if this happened we would probably lose. Bear in mind that I was not booking loud bands ? we rarely had drums and bass guitars but the rights of an individual have become so strong that it can disrupt live music venues tremendously.

Some general observations on why pubs are struggling:

1.        The cost of beer. Being tied to Shepherd Neame, I had to buy through the brewery. The price I paid per pint of beer was less than I could buy at Wetherspoons! All products had a massive mark-up. This is normal and is part of the business agreement as a tenant of a brewery or pubco but it really affects people's spending habits when there is a recession. It's as cheap to have a bottle of wine at home than one glass of the same wine in a pub.

2.        Smoking ban. From my experience the smoking ban helped increase takings since we had suitable space outside for smokers and many new regulars started coming to the pub when it was a cleaner atmosphere (particularly women with families). The smoking ban adversely affected pubs without suitable outside space (such as High Street pubs with no back garden).

Justin - I hope that helps and you have my number if you'd like clarifications or have other questions. Someone else that may be able to help (if he has time) is Dr Beau Weber at kentfolk.com who has done a lot of analysis on why live music is dieing in pubs.

Jen


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Mudcat time: 21 February 3:47 PM EST

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