New licensing restrictions on buskers in Camden have been declared lawful by the high court.
Busking without a licence is to become a criminal offence in Camden, punishable with fines of up to £ 1,000. As well
as implementing a fine, officials can confiscate instruments.
It is proposed that licences can be obtained on standard conditions for a 12-month period at a fee of £ 19. They can only be used by
solo or dual performers. The conditions restrict hours of performing from 10am-9pm, and also restrict the use of certain types of instruments, such as drums, wind instruments and the use of sound amplification.
The restrictions were due to be
imposed for the first time last month, but the council agreed to await the outcome of the legal challenge before going ahead.
Comedians Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey and musician Billy Bragg are among celebrities who took to the streets to protest
over the restrictions being introduced by the council in the north London borough after noise complaints by local residents. Bragg, who spent his early career busking around London, said licensing would hurt a fundamental aspect of UK culture.
Mrs Justice Patterson, sitting in London, ruled that Camden council had adopted a policy that was both necessary and a proportionate response to the issue of busking .
The ruling was a defeat for the Keeping Streets Live Campaign, which was
ordered to pay £ 7,500 in legal costs.
David Wolfe QC, appearing for the campaign group, asked for permission to appeal, arguing that the ruling raised important legal issues and would have an impact on
street entertainment across London. The judge refused permission, which means the campaigners will now have to consider asking the court of appeal itself to hear their case.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is consulting on proposals to further reduce the need for licences for small scale music events.
The proposals are basically to take away the need for a local council licence for events with less than 500
attendees. Previously licences were required for events with between 200-500 attendees.
The main proposals for the entertainment industry are:
A performance of live
amplified music in alcohol licensed premises or in a workplace will not be regulated where the entertainment takes place between 08.00-23.00 and the audience consists of up to 500 persons. (The current audience limit is 200 persons).
Any playing of recorded music in alcohol licensed premises will not be regulated where the entertainment takes place between 08.00-23.00 and the audience consists of up to 500
Live and recorded music exemptions
The following events will not be regulated for live and recorded music between 08.00-23.00, where the audience consists of up to 500
Venues in England and Wales with a capacity of under 200 people no longer need a licence for live music, as long as it is not late at night. The change in law is part of a government move to free businesses from a little of the mass of red tape. Live
unamplified music can also now be played in any location, regardless of the audience size, under the act.
However, the government has made it clear there would be no changes on the rules controlling gatherings of more than 5,000 people, boxing and
wrestling, and events such as lap-dancing clubs classed as sexual entertainment.
Musicians and business owners have welcomed the change, which will allow live music to be played between the hours of 08:00 and 23:00. Jazz musician Buster Birch
described the change as a huge thing , adding that live music is very important for our society and our culture .
UK Music, which represents the music industry, estimates that the Live Music Act could enable 13,000 more venues to
start holding live music events.
Business Minister Michael Fallon said:
From today businesses are freed from the red tape that holds them back.
He described the previous rules that
affected pub gigs and small live performances as over-the-top bureaucracy that stifles community groups and pubs.
We've set ourselves the challenging target of scrapping or reducing a total of 3,000 regulations. I'm determined to
slim down regulation and make Britain an easier place to start and run a business.
The change was introduced through a private member's bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat Don Foster. The success is a relatively rare example of a
House of Lords private member's bill making it into law.
A private member's bill, introduced by Liberal Democrat Don Foster, will lift some of the state control and restrictions imposed on gigs by the 2003 Licensing Act.
The changes will mean that a licence will no longer be required for unamplified
live music taking place between 08:00 and 23:00, and for amplified live music taking place between the same times before audiences of no more than 200.
The bill passed unopposed and will have to go back to the House Of Lords on the 10th of
February before becoming law.
The MP from Bath was steering the bill through the House Of Commons on behalf of his Lib Dem colleague, Lord Clement Jones. The success is a relatively rare example of a House of Lords private member's bill making it
It was said the Licensing Act 2003 was going to lead to an explosion of live music but, in the event, in small venues it was drastically cut.
We saw village
halls, school halls, pubs and clubs reducing the the amount of live music, not increasing it.
Hopefully the bill, when it comes into law, will reverse that.
Separate to the private member's bill, the government
is conducting its own review of the Licensing Act.
Pubs, clubs and other small venues offering live music would no longer have to apply for an entertainment licence, under government proposals.
The plans, submitted for public consultation, would apply to premises in England and Wales with a
capacity of under 5,000. Ministers say the changes could also apply to school and charity events.
Licences would still be required for boxing, wrestling and sexual entertainment, and the rules on alcohol supply and sales would not be affected.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the Licensing Act 2003 removed the so-called two-in-a-bar rule, which had allowed two musicians to perform in a pub without needing an entertainment permit, and this was one example of how it ended
up potentially criminalising a harmless cultural pastime .
Tourism Minister John Penrose said changes could provide an important source of new income to struggling businesses such as pubs, restaurants and hotels . He said extra costs
and red tape had also been imposed on school plays and discos where ticket sales went to Parent Teacher Association funds, Punch and Judy shows, street artists, park brass bands and restaurant pianists.
Before we press ahead, it's important we get the views of those working in the industry, and to make sure that the principles of public safety, prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm are safeguarded.
Our starting point is a simple one: If there's no good reason for any of the rules and restrictions in this important area, our presumption should be to scrap them.
Pubs and clubs wanting to offer live music would no longer be forced to apply to the local council for an entertainment licence under a planned deregulation aimed at supporting grassroots music.
The proposal is part of a government consultation to
be unveiled by John Penrose, the tourism and heritage minister, amid warnings that small venues have been abandoning live music because of the bureaucracy introduced by the 2003 Licensing Act.
Feargal Sharkey, chief executive of UK Music, which
represents the UK's commercial music industry, said:
We're optimistic that this will be positive news for the industry, and especially for emerging talent. I'd wager that all of yesterday's Mercury music prize
nominees started their careers playing in pubs or clubs. In the meantime, we'll have to wait for the actual detail of the consultation, and under what specific circumstances the requirement for a music licence would be removed.
Parliamentarians have been calling for several years for the restriction to be removed. Prior to the 2003 Act, a two-in-a-bar exemption existed, allowing venues of any size to put on a performance of acoustic music by one or two musicians without
the need for a licence.
However, the ministerial proposals are understood to go further than that. Large venues with a capacity of more than 5,000 would continue to be subject to premises licensing as before, but small venues would save on average
£ 1,600 a year and be freed of the requirement to register with the council.
Live music is fast disappearing from pubs, clubs, wine bars, restaurants and other small venues, musicians claim, because of a law passed in 2003.
Hopes were raised recently when the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport ended a
lengthy investigation into the 2003 Licensing Act by recommending that venues with a capacity of fewer than 200 people should be exempt.
But this week, the Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw surely, gave the Government's reply: it does not matter
how small a venue is, it can still attract trouble. Bradshaw has agreed to revisit the issue, but not for at least a year, by which time there could be a different government.
If there is a folk singer or rapper in the pub, there has to be
a special licence called a Temporary Event Notice (TEN). According to the Musicians' Union, small venues have stopped putting on live music because managements do not want the hassle of filling out lengthy and intrusive forms.
In London, which
has perhaps the most vibrant live music scene of all, there is the additional hazard of form 696, compiled by Scotland Yard, which some people suspect is a deliberate device for suppressing the forms of music that black and Asian teenagers enjoy –
dubstep, hip hop, ragga, and the rest. The original version of form 696, since amended, asked after the ethnic background of all performers, and for their mobile phone numbers.
Lowkey, a British-Iraqi rapper, added: I've seen it doing the
clubs. On a night when they are expecting the white audience, there will be one bouncer on the door. On the next night, when there is a black audience, there will be bouncers everywhere, metal detectors, you have to show your passport and give your
address. that kind of thing. They just assume that where there is a lot of brown people, there is going to be violence.
But Bradshaw said that his department has considered exemptions for small venues, but has not been able to reach
agreement on exemptions that will deliver an increase in live music whilst still retaining essential protections for local residents. There is no direct link between size of audience or number of performers and potential for noise nuisance or
disorder, he claimed.
His decision provoked a furious reaction from musicians. Feargal Sharkey, chief executive of the charity UK Music, and former lead singer of the punk rock group the Undertones, said: After six years of legislation,
eight consultations, two government research projects, two national review processes and a parliamentary select committee report, all of which have highlighted the harmful impact these regulations are having on the British music industry, the
Government's only reaction is yet another review.
The Met says that the form is simply a tool for protecting the public, including the young people at these gigs, and that, even when there is a high risk of trouble, it is very unlikely that
police will close the venue. It happened eight times last year.
But on the Downing Street website there is a petition, organised by the singer Jon McClure, to scrap the unnecessary and draconian usage of the 696 form from London music events.
It has attracted 17,405 signatures. Gordon Brown has not yet responded.
Police have defended their use of a controversial form that requires live music venues to hand over details of performers, promoters and fans.
The Met introduced the risk assessment form 696 identify gigs where they claim trouble might
flare up, partly in response to black-on-black violence.
But it has been criticised for being heavy-handed and racially motivated.
The Met claimed the form had played its part in an 11% drop in serious violence in licensed premises
Thomas Bowen, head of the Met team that deals with Form 696, said: A co-ordinated effort, and 696 assisting the process of identifying potential gang conflict, is undoubtedly contributing towards that reduction of shooting incidents
in licensed premises.
Around 70 London pubs and clubs are currently required to complete the form. It asks for the names, dates of birth, addresses and phone numbers of promoters and artists, for details of the target audience and for the
style of music, eg bashment, R'n'B, garage.
It recently came in for criticism from the House of Commons Culture select committee, which recommended that the form be scrapped, saying it imposed unreasonable conditions on events and
goes beyond the Licensing Act.
It has also come under fire from Feargal Sharkey, former Undertones singer and now head of UK Music, an umbrella body that represents the British music industry: It needs to be abolished. It is now quite
clearly beginning to have an impact in certain musical types and genres within the London area.
Last autumn, a concert to raise money for a teenage cancer charity was cancelled on police advice because the performers refused to give their
personal details on the form, Sharkey said.
Earlier this month, a gig called Project Urban at the O2's Indigo venue was to have hosted some of the biggest names in UK hip-hop, including Tinchy Stryder, Wiley and DJ Ironik, but was called off.
There is no suggestion that those acts had been associated with any trouble. The promoters said police deemed it higher risk because they had not included the dates of birth of a couple of artists.
Jon McClure, singer with indie group
Reverend and the Makers, has claimed the form is racist because it targets black audiences, and has started a petition against its use.