|A folk session in the Station Inn |
in Whitby, North Yorkshire
Because singing is so natural, the music licensing system brought in by "New" Labour in 2003 was absurd; unfortunately, it was also draconian and punitive. As I've written previously, it was nonsense that strumming an unamplified acoustic guitar in a pub could be illegal, while big screen sports with all the noise they create from both the TV and the people watching it were completely unrestricted. Even worse, a licensee who put on a solo performer without a public entertainment licence was committing a criminal offence and could be fined up to £20,000 or sent to prison. That's a high price to hear me play Sunny Afternoon. In one extreme instance, some Morris dancers who went into a Sam Smith's pub for a post-dance pint were asked to leave because the tinkling bells on their outfits constituted music for which the pub had no licence!
In a rare outbreak of common sense, Parliament has decided that venues in England and Wales with a capacity of under 200 people will no longer need a licence for live music between the hours of 8.00 a.m. and 11.00 p.m., and unamplified live music can now be played in any location under the act. The change was contained in a private member's bill introduced by Don Foster, Lib Dem MP for Bath. While this will be a real boost for live music and local performers, it will also help pubs and clubs that are seeking ways to improve trade and increase the range of entertainment available to the public.
|A band in Café Matisse in Southport|
(lead singer: yours truly)
It's not just licensed premises that will be covered by this change. To give a couple of the silliest examples: school concerts didn't need a licence unless they made a small charge or admitted members of the general public, and a carol concert was unrestricted in the church, but would need a licence if held in the church hall.
I welcome this release of the simple pleasures of music and singing from the stifling dead hand of the nanny state.
I've previously written several posts on this topic - click here if you'd like to read them - and you can read the full BBC article here.