Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Deregulation - music to the ears!

The government has finally announced proposals to remove regulations from a whole swathe of activities, including live music performances.  You can read the announcement and a link to the consultation paper on the DirectGov website, and in an article in the Morning Advertiser.  This is something I've written about before, most recently in July last year (here if you're interested), and the document echoes my comparison between acoustic music played in a pub and big screen sports ~ I'd like to think my blog is read by ministers, but I doubt it!  The consultation paper describes the current confused situation as:

"You will need a licence if you want to put on an opera but not if you want to organise a stock car race. A folk duo performing in the corner of a village pub needs permission, but the big screen broadcast of an England football match to a packed barn-like city centre pub does not. An athletics meeting needs licensing if it is an indoor event, but not if it’s held outdoors. A free school concert to parents doesn’t need a licence, but would if there is a small charge to raise money for PTA funds or if there are members of the wider public present. A travelling circus generally needs a permit whereas a travelling funfair does not. A carol concert in a Church doesn’t need a licence, but does if it is moved to the Church Hall."

The proposal is that music events will require no licences with audiences up to 5,000.  This is rather more than the 100-200 figure that some groups were lobbying for.  The document sensibly asks whether unamplified music needs any limit at all, on the basis that "no audience limit is necessary due to the self- limiting possibilities from the event’s acoustic reach", but I can't think of any unamplified event where a 5,000 limit would ever be even remotely approached.

In the run-up to the "New" Labour government's implementing the current regime in 2003, Kim Howells, a junior Culture Minister at the time, contributed to the debate in 2001 by saying, "For a simple urban boy such as me, the idea of listening to three Somerset folk singers sounds like hell."  This caused a lot of anger in the folk world and provoked West Country folk group Show of Hands to respond with the song Roots, which includes the lines:

And a minister said his vision of hell
Is three folk singers in a pub near Wells
Well, I've got a vision of urban sprawl
There's pubs where no-one ever sings at all
And everyone stares at a great big screen
Overpaid soccer stars, prancing teens
Australian soap, American rap
Estuary English, baseball caps

Apologies and attempts to claim it was a joke soon followed but I can't help wondering whether it was just such personal prejudices among many MPs about all types of live music, not just folk, that led to the dog's breakfast of regulations we are stuck with now.

This consultation is looking very positive, as the government says it is inclined to accept deregulation unless persuaded otherwise; when I work out how to take part in the consultation, I'll publish another post.


  1. 'Roots' is an absolutely excellent tune, Nev, love it! I hadn't actually seen the vid before now. Filmed at the Eden Project down in Cornwall by the looks of things - great stuff!

    Very good to hear that the event licensing might be re-examined as well. Hopefully it'll lead to a few more folks nights springing up here and there, eh?

  2. I agree completely about Roots, and have written about its subject matter on this blog before. Perhaps there will be a few more singaround and music sessions, especially if people realise how ridiculously easy they are to organise: find a room in a good pub, tell people it's on, and that's it really.

  3. Great to hear that the Tories are unpicking Labour's dreadful licensing act. Credit where it's due.


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