Monday, August 21, 2006

Sheffield United Treated Badly (Again)

Once again Sheffield United are badly done by. First of all by referee Rob Styles in awarding an extremely dubious penalty on Saturday. Still we were top of the Premier League for a while. And for the second time a Sheffield United player is the first to score in a Premiership season!!

Secondly the local licensing authority charge Sheffield United £640.00 to have regulated entertainment on the pitch. I referred to this on August 7th.

The London Borough of Islington have a different attitude to half-time entertainment. They are responsible for the new Emirates Stadium where Arsenal have moved to.

This from the local Licensing Office at Islington:
.......they are not currently licensed for regulated entertainment on the pitch. Under the Safety of Sports Ground certificate they are able to have regulated entertainment if it is considered ancillary to a football match. For example they could have people dancing at half time for a couple of minutes as it would be reasonably assumed that people have attended the game for the football match and not to watch dancing at half time.
Sheffield United were advised that such entertainment - a Lion Dance - did need licensing. Just the opposite to what Arsenal were advised.

Now we are constantly told, the law will have to be decided in the courts. Arsenal are not going to appeal against the above decision; Sheffield United aren't for the sake of £640.00 either.

And the Law looks idiotic again.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Europride (4)

It does seem from the tone of their letter to me that Westminster will be taking a closer look at this next year.

I hope they use common sense, but with the Licensing Atc 2003 who knows?

There will be a short halt to the blog for the next few days. Forgive me I shall be busy!

Europride (3)

To me the most interesting part of this post is these two quotes. First:
In any event, from the point of public safety and prevention of nuisance, the event organisers worked closely with the council to try and achieve a safe and well-managed event.
And this one:
........the Police, who are the only responsible authority who may oppose a temporary event notice, may have been inclined not to oppose the application.
Precisely the point that the campaigners against the Licensing Act 2003 made time and time again. If event organisers, the council and police work together for a well- managed event, what is the problem?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Westminster Council and Europride (2)

My first question basically asked if the march was licensed. I tried to pre-empt the answer that Westminster have used before (the regulated entertainment was incidental) by pointing out that it was integral to the march. So this time they have claimed it was spontaneous.

In fact as anyone could see from a glance at the website there were dancing groups.
The web site said:
Walking Groups includes all non motorised groups such as walking, marching or dancing groups. It also includes bicycles, rollerskates, skateboards and any other vehicles that does not rely on an engine.
So the organisers were certainly expecting dancing groups. In fact can you imagine a march like Europride being quiet? So clealy there would be a music element too.

In fact of course from their titles of the groups it was obvious there would be music as well as dance from them.

Westminster Council and Europride (1)

I wrote to Westminster Council using the Freedom of Information Act asking about the Europride March that took place in July.

Despite a number of requests for them to complete the answer within the statutory time limit of (basically) one working month it took until today August 11th before they answered.
Dear Mr Eyre,
I am now in a position to answer you enquiries contained in your original email of 23 June 2006. Please accept my apologies in the delay in collating all of the information, however, it was not a simple case of referring to existing documents, as some of your queries required consideration in respect of a legal view.
I shall answer your points in turn:
1. Europride
The event was co-ordinated and agreed between the organisers and a multi-agency working group consisting of the police, fire brigade, environmental health, special events and licensing.
The wearing of a costume and simply taking part in a parade by walking along is not a licensable activity. If however, there was a planned display of dancing as part of the parade, this may have constituted a licensable activity. There was no indication up front that there would be 'walking bands', although I am not sure what activity is alluded to here, as it could simply refer to people walking in groups, it does not definitively mean the performance of music and/or dancing. If any singing or dancing was spontaneous as opposed to planned, then this would not be considered licensable.
In any event, from the point of public safety and prevention of nuisance, the event organisers worked closely with the council to try and achieve a safe and well managed event.
Because the Licensing Act 2003 was new to all parties concerned, and the interpretation of the legislation not consistent we were developing our approach events of this nature in light of the legislative requirements of the event. It may be that in future, having now had the experience of dealing with such a large event, a different approach will be taken.
2. Trafalgar Square - yes, this is licensed
3. Leicester Square - the Gardens in the centre are licensed
4. If the organiser could demonstrate a reasonable plan on how to control numbers, then the Police, who are the only responsible authority who may oppose a temporary event notice, may have been inclined not to oppose the application. However, as stated earlier, now that the event has happened, responsible authorities will have looked closely at how the event ran, and if considered appropriate, enforcement action could have been considered, or records updated to ensure a more regulatory approach was taken in future.

I'll take a closer look at what they say here since there are a number of points that need taking issue with.



Southwark Council's Creative Thinking

Another approach towards parades is that of Southwark Council.

In my humble opinion (I am not a solicitor and do not purport to give legal advice) it isn't legally worth the paper it is written on. However I offer it to other councils such as West Wiltshire as an example of creative thinking that other councils have used to get around the problems of "regulated entertainment" and needing to licence streets so that parades and so on can go ahead.
While it is potentially possible to licence a street we would only look to do so when an event is taking place in a static defined area where consent can be obtained for the use of that area. A parade which is continually on the move will not normally be licensed by us but should the carnival lead ultimately to a defined event space then we would look for that space to have the appropriate consent through a time-limited premises licence or Temporary Event Notice
.
Well done Southwark, that's the style!!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Nice Quote

I belong to a number of music user groups. One is called "Action for Music" and a member called Howard Jones posted this:

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy. [Ernest Benn]


Sums up the DCMS perfectly!

Howard Jones

Existing Laws on Noise Good Enough After All

It's only a small thing compared to the DCMS regard for statistics - but if you have a moment take a look at this news report from our friendly folk at the Wiltshire Times and Chippenham Gazette.

It tells the story of how noise from a pub had lead the people next door to object to a pub altering its premises. Let me quote the last paragraph:

The [licensing] committee granted the license subject to the room being adequately soundproofed and double glazing being put in, saying they felt noise issues could be dealt with under existing laws. (My emphasis)

Just as campaigners had argued whilst Bill was passing through parliament.

Well Done Hamish

I would love to be able to claim this blog had had an instant effect upon the DCMS.The truth is rather that indefatigable campaigner Hamish Birchall has much more influence.

Hamish has been a thorn in the side of the DCMS for a long time.

He has managed to get the original "corrected" page restored by the DCMS.

Anyway here is the original page as restored on the new website. Read and judge for yourself.

If you would like to receive Hamish's newsletters which often go into details of his dealings with the DCMS and also report on other matters to do with the wonderful world of the Licensing Act 2003 then he would love to hear from you.

Contact him at drum.pro@virgin.net

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Stalin, Trotsky and the DCMS. Connection?









This website tells some of the story of how Stalin altered history. Stalin found certain
people inconvenient so they were airbrushed out of photographs. Facts became what Stalin said they were.

Licensing Act related? Of course.

The DCMS has a new website. It is here:

Hamish Birchall spotted that at least one page is missing in the new website that used to be archived in the old website had been "lost".

By sheer coincidence (of course) it happens to be the one where the DCMS had been forced to admit that they had massaged a ministerial speech which exaggerated the number of live gigs. Readers will note they also massaged the "Notes to Editors" so it was not an accident.


Here's the apology from the missing DCMS page:
Following a representation from the Market Research Society to MORI, the words "and other venues" have been added to the following sentence contained within this press release:
"This survey shows that heritage is alive and well with a flourishing music scene - an estimated 1.7 million gigs were staged in the past year alone in bars, clubs, restaurants
and other venues. whose main business isn't putting on live music." The following addition has also been made to notes to editors: "A total of 1,577 interviews were conducted among licensees in a representative cross section of pubs, inns, hotels, restaurants, small clubs, associations, student unions and church and community halls."

The original was wrong (it should have read "1.3 million gigs were staged in the past year alone in bars, clubs and restaurants" not "1.7 million" ) and thus exaggerated the number of gigs by 400,000.

This put that mistake right.
The words in red were NOT in the original. And it took the Market Research Society, the Statistics Commission and a question in Parliament to get it put right.

Actually the Live Music Survey had more than that wrong, because it included student union gigs. As you might, for there is a flourishing student music scene. Unfortunately the methodology behind that was very poor. It took an estimate of the number of student unions from the NUS and multiplied that by an estimate of the number of gigs each one had.

Seems OK you might think and certainly the statisticians of the DCMS thought so. A closer look tells a different tale.

They took the number of student unions to be 620 and the number of live gigs at about 16,000. Seems about right?

Well no, not really. You see that number of student unions is based on figures of Student Unions affiliated to the NUS. And that figure includes Further Education Colleges who don't do gigs on their premises. So reduce the number of student unions downwards to around 200. And now take out the Scottish and N. Irish Universities for they are not affected by the Licensing Act 2003.

It brings the number of student unions down to about 185 and that reduces the number of gigs to 4,600 approx. A difference of over 11,000. The DCMS described the change from 1.3 million to 1.7 million as a "minor".

So no chance of getting that 11,000 altered. And in answer to your next question - I tried, twice.

Take A Look At the Scottish System

Whilst the strange and contradictory manifestations of the Act have amused, intrigued and frustrated those who take an interest in these things, one of the strangest receives little attention.

When the Act was a Bill and passing through Parliament many remarked that it would be impossible to imagine a similar regulation of entertainment elsewhere in Europe. Surely existing noise and health and safety regulations were sufficient to protect the public?

They were right of course but it was not necessary to cross the English Channel. A simple trip across the border to Scotland or across to N. Ireland would have produced the same effect since the Licensing Act 2003 only applies to England and Wales. The law there basically says that if the main business of the premises is not entertainment (like a pub sells beer for example) then they can do what they like.

I did write to the Minister when it was Kim Howells and one of his civil servants replied on his behalf.

Now follow this closely because I shall test you on this later.

"The Scottish system, in general terms provides that public entertainment is covered by a licence permitting the sale of alcohol, but only within formal permitted hours.. Many licensed premises in Scotland do have extended licensing hours because of the more flexible system operating there. There is however nothing in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 which denies the Licensing Board the power to restrict or forbid entertainment activities by conditions either specified in by-laws or attached to licences. Although by-laws prohibiting live music are rare, the law provides the Boards with these powers should they be necessary. This is similar to the system proposed under the Bill whereby conditions would be attached to licences only where they prove necessary. As we intend to abolish permitted hours and the new hours up to 24 hours per day will be tailored to specific premises, it would be inappropriate to adopt the Scottish system which is based on national permitted hours.
Our approach is more flexible.Phew!! Imagine having to write like that all the time. The writer deserves a gold pig.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Remember The Licensing Act 2003 Will Save You Money

The issue of fees has caused a lot of bother within the licensed trade. The government reckoned the change to the licensing regime would save £1.97 billion over ten years or around £200 million a year.

It is believed that as this was written a whole squadron of farmyard animals flew past the window.

In today's Guardian this problem is highlighted by the CCPR. Far from saving money sports clubs are finding their licence fees have gone up by about £2.6 million.

This is not surprising. My own favourite football club, the incredibly talented Sheffield United F.C have found that their beautiful downtown Bramall Lane ground has to pay £635 per year to allow "regulated entertainment" on the pitch. So they have been charged as a place with a rateable value of over £125,000 for a premises licence.

But is this correct? Surely there should be an extra fee for a large capacity venue of over 30,000 people? Surely the fee ought to be an extra £16,000? Well, your guess is as good as mine why this has not been charged. Licensing Fees are here.

Of course since the Sheffield City Council recommended that all sports grounds locally should take out a licence for on pitch entertainment and Sheffield Wednesday could not afford that sort of money - it was probably best that the council found some excuse to keep it the cost as low as possible.

The basis of the Council's position is a convoluted exemption that applies if the premises is 'a structure which is not a vehicle, vessel, or moveable structure; and has been constructed or structurally altered for the purpose, or for purposes which include the purpose, of enabling- (i) the premises to be used for the licensable activities the applicant proposes the licence should authorise...'.

This raises the sort of questions which keep lawyers in business for years: is a football pitch 'a structure'? Even if it is, could it be said that it was 'constructed or structurally altered' in any sense to enable on-pitch dancing? Definitive answers are unlikely in the short term, so the Council's position is arguable, if unproven.

According to the Football Licensing Authority (FLA), 40-50% of its 92 premiership or football league grounds have 'cheer-leading troupes' for some or all of their matches. Majorette-style dancers are also popular at Rugby Super League games - the same dancing that was deemed licensable by Trowbridge Carnival Committee last month................

Words in italics are thanks to Hamish Birchall

So maybe that hoary old quiz question "Who played at Bramall Lane on Boxing Day morning and Hillsborough on Boxing
Day afternoon?" will still be able to be asked.

Despite brass bands on the pitch being "regulated entertainment".

Consistency And The DCMS

The DCMS view that local authorities are the best judge of what happens in their area is echoed constantly by DCMS spokespeople. My story of the Sheffield Street Piano July 31st is a good example of this sort of thing.

However the DCMS is not entirely consistent in these matters. Where does this quote come from?

"The central setting of fees removes the considerable and widespread regional inconsistencies that previously existed with fee levels in relation to the provision of
regulated entertainment and late night refreshment."

From the DCMS of course. Stop regional inconsistencies on the one hand - encourage them so that councils can act independently on the other. You could make it up I suppose but you would have to try hard.

Contradictions In Trowbridge

When I was looking to see if my letter (below) had been pubished - I happened to come across a story in the same newspaper which seemed to indicate that "regulated entertainment" had taken place in Trowbridge Park including a live group and dancing.

Naturally I wrote to West Wiltshire District Council asking if and how the park was licensed. It seems from their reply that it is and the licence is held by the local council.

Now - it seems strange to me that a Council can license the park as an open space, recognising that the place needs it, and not license the streets so that a group of young people can dance.

So I have asked them. Watch this space.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Save The Majorettes

When the case of the Trowbridge Majorettes came to my attention I wrote to the local newspaper as well as to the local licensing authority.

This is somewhat more acerbic than the conciliatory letter I sent to Clive Harland. See my earlier post.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hull is another city where licensing has caused a problem to a venue.
The story of the Adelphi is here.


Oldham Council fail to issue licences.

The DCMS was rightly criticised by the Better Regulation Commission for the way the Licensing Act 2003 was implemented.

Costs and unnecessary bureaucracy were the centrepiece of this criticism.

Mind they are not a patch on Oldham Council who have failed to issue any premises licences at all for eight months, according to this report in
The Publican

Of course the Act Part Three does have something to say about this.

"the holder of the premises licence must secure that the licence or a certified copy of it is kept at the premises............"

In fairness to the Act Section 56 does suggest that

"
A person commits an offence if he fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with a requirement......"

Leaving aside the inherent sexist nature of this, (it really ought to read "...if they fail.....") I suppose saying the Authority's software has failed to produce ANY premises licences and has been broken down for months would qualify as a "reasonable excuse".

It had better for otherwise the whole of Oldham has been selling alcohol illegally!!



Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Here is my reply to his letter:

Dear Mr. Harland,

Thank you for your prompt reply to my query. My sympathies are with the local authorities who have to administer “regulated entertainment” as part of the Licensing Act 2003. In my opinion the Act was generally unnecessary and over-complicated. Perhaps the biggest problem in their way is the fact that the DCMS offers little in the way of guidance in circumstances which may be unique to an area or in other cases common to most if all not local authorities.

Whilst I am not a solicitor and do not purport to give legal advice I wonder if it would be helpful to offer solutions to your carnival majorettes and processions which would allow processions to go ahead and fulfil the conditions of your own licensing statement. I might add these are well-documented solutions that other authorities have used.

There are two that come to mind straight away. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have the problem of the biggest parade in Western Europe (The Notting Hill Carnival) with floats and dancers in-between. They have decided that the dancers can be regarded as similar to morris dancing (Schedule 1, Part 2 Sec. 11). The sound systems for the dancers are on vehicles and as you point out these are exempt. Marching bands with amplified music are rare so this does not normally present a problem.

This is similar to a solution to Sheffield City Council who had an event entitled “Chance to Dance” in the City Centre May 14th 2006. To allow this to go ahead without a licence, hip-hop, sequence dancing, belly dancing, ceroc, break-dancing, samba dancing etc etc became "similar to morris dancing".

Sheffield also had another solution which is actually recommended in the government guidance; indeed the government has a register for this purpose. On June 16th Sheffield City Council licensed the streets and open spaces owned or leased by themselves in an area bounded by the Sheffield Inner Ring Road. People still need permission to use these areas of course but it allows “regulated entertainment” such as processions to go ahead with no problems. An immediate result of this was that the Lord Mayor’s Parade – which includes young people dancing and parading in costumes like the Carnival Parade in Trowbridge – was able to go ahead without hindrance. It is of course cost free.

Can I draw your attention to the two sections of the Government’s own guidance sections 3.58 and 3.59 which refer to this? Especially perhaps the final sentence of section 3.58 referring to young people?
So far West Wiltshire


West Wiltshire District Council have replied to my email regarding their policy on Carnivals. I asked where it came from and had it been reported correctly.

Here is their reply:

Dear David
Thank you for your recent email concerning the above and in particular participation by majorettes. Please find attached to this email our guidance on the need for the licensing of carnivals. This was produced after taking legal advice. There is no doubt that musical entertainment or dancing on foot is licensable if it takes place in isolation. Majorettes, and others fall into this group. The guidance revolves around at what point does the licensable activity become 'incidental' to other non licensable activities such as entertainment on a float or someone simply walking in fancy dress. This is where the 50% comes from. We issued this guidance in April of this year following several enquiries and it has not changed. The recent article in the local paper said that it was the ratio of people, which was incorrect. As you will see from the guidance it is the ratio of entertainment groups, so a majorette 'team' will count as one. Following the newspaper article we have again sent the guidance to all Town Councils in our district to pass on to their carnival committees.
If you have any further queries regarding the above, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Regards

I can hardly blame the journalist for getting it wrong. Try reading it yourself and then explaining it to someone without referring back to it! This is what the journalist wrote:

"West Wiltshire District Council has said to us as long as the number of people walking is less than 50 per cent of the number of floats that take part in the carnival then it is not a licensable activity.

Anyway here is the attachment that came with the email and which has been sent to all the other councils in the District. Attached to it is Schedule 1 of the Licensing Act 2003 and the exemptions.

West Wiltshire District Council
Licensing Act 2003
Carnivals The requirement to licence carnivals. Having taken into account that: • entertainment on moving vehicles is exempt

• not all of the entertainment on foot would be licensable
• some of the musical entertainment may be incidental to other entertainment

the following advice to carnival organisers is provided. Carnivals will only be licensable if: • The number of entrants that are on foot and providing regulated entertainment is more than half of the total number of entrants.The definition of entrant includes a vehicle, a float, an identifiable separate group of people or an individual providing entertainment of any description and authorised by the organisers. For instance:

• Two distinctly different marching bands, playing different music would count as two entrants
• All persons on a single vehicle or float would be classed as one entrant
• A collection of people walking in costume would be classed as one entrant.
• A marching band with majorettes would be classed as one entrant
• An individual robotic dancer, on foot and not associated with any other group, would be classed as one entrant.

Let me emphasise again (despite the title of this attachment Licensing Act 2003) that this document has no basis in the Act which makes no reference to carnival processions at all.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

One item that doesn't get much discussion is the constant statement that decisions of local authorities or the police "need to be challenged in the courts". Of course this can settle disputes, but to my mind one of the consequences of this act is that most local authorities are reluctant to prosecute offences. And people who do cancel events are not in a position to change things.

Since
one of the first offenders to break the terms of the Act was Tessa Jowell herself - the Minster responsible for the Act, a precedent was set early on. Remarkably she wasn't prosecuted. Mind she was singing "The Truth Goes Marching On" which for a Labour Cabinet Minister is as good a theme song as any I suppose.

What happens though is that instead events like Belper Carnival fail to go ahead. Unless that event can then get publicity for their plight no-one ever knows it has happened. A garden fete held by a community organisation near to where I live was cancelled on the advice of the local police after a complaint. There was no headline in the local newspaper "Community Fete Cancelled on Police Advice".

At the same time London City Airport's Fun Day (a massive event) took place because the regulated entertainment was regarded as incidental.

Here is a reply I received when I asked Newham Council if it was licensed.

The entertainment provided at London City Airport did not fall within the remit of the Licensing Act 2003 in that the majority of the events taking place were not a licensable activity and those few events remaining were determined to be of an ancillary nature to the main purpose of the event and hence exempt from licensing.

An enquiry was made regarding the possibility of a need to apply for a licence on 21 March 2006. This enquiry was responded to on 27 March 2006 stating that no application would be required. That said we were kept advised of the activities to be held and the running order. For the last 3 years the event has been attended by officers from the Council’s Licensing Team and on each occasion, the activities held and public safety controls have been well organised and managed, giving no cause for concern to those officers.

Once again, the Licensing Act 2003 becomes a moveable feast and a "post code lottery".


It is not my intention to use this blog to report on material the details of which can be found elsewhere, on somewhere like Mudcat for example.

However my wife and I were at Warwick Folk Festival the weekend before last and whilst there heard of someone being hurt by the lightning which accompanied a huge storm on Saturday afternoon.

We have just found out that he died on Friday evening after being kept in a coma for a few days after the event. When he was brought round he was found to have very severe brain damage and he passed away peacefully.

The thoughts of my wife and myself go to his family and friends that such a tragedy should happen.

The story of West Wiltshire District Council and the Trowbridge Majorettes is a fine example of how the approach of the DCMS allowing councils to do as they like can cause chaos.

The
news report is here and appears to tell the story of how the West Wiltshire District Council (WWDC) forced a group of majorettes out of a parade they had participated in for years. A result of "red tape".

The “red tape” according to the newspaper report went as follows.

The ban has been put into place because of the demands of the 2003 Licensing Act, which comes into force this year. The act means those on foot in the procession must number no more than half the number of floats, or organisers could face a hefty licence fee.

Trowbridge Carnival committee chairman Steve Nash said: "The way it works is the majorettes are dancers and dancing is a licensable activity".

West Wiltshire District Council has said to us as long as the number of people walking is less than 50 per cent of the number of floats that take part in the carnival then it is not a licensable activity.

Steve Nash is correct, majorettes are dancers and dancing is a licensable activity. Otherwise, well frankly you couldn't make it up.

The Act says nothing about processions and it certainly has no comments about ratios of those on foot to those on floats. It probably would have done had they thought about at the time of drafting the Bill, but they didn't. The rest of it is garbage (think about it for two minutes and you will see what I mean) and has been made up by someone. Let’s take a guess and perhaps suggest it was someone from WWDC.

What makes the spokesperson's statement even more remarkable is that like all other councils WWDC has to produce a Statement of Licensing Policy. Section 2.38 of this policy says:

  • "This policy seeks to apply restrictions only where they are necessary, proportionate and reasonable for promoting the four licensing objectives. This policy recognises that unnecessary conditions could place substantial and reasonable financial burdens on those providing cultural entertainment. If the Council has, or receives evidence that this policy may be significantly deterring cultural activity, in particular live music, dancing or theatre, then a review of this policy will be considered."

So is WWDC’s policy on majorettes and parades imposing “unnecessary conditions”?.

Well, since the conditions aren't in the Act, not in the DCMS Guidance and not even in WWDC's own policy you would think so.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have managed to allow thousands of dancers to parade the streets of Notting Hill. Why can’t WWDC allow a few majorettes on the same basis?

Answers on a postcard to Tessa Jowell, DCMS, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London, SW1Y 5DH

Monday, July 31, 2006

One of my pet hates is the fact that the DCMS will take little responsibility for its own Act.

Sheffield has a street piano. It provides a great deal of fun for a lot of people and when Sheffield Council tried to move it as "litter" the uproar was heard around the UK. It even got a mention on the "Today" programme!! What the Council should have done was use the Licensing Act 2003 for then the owners would have needed a licence. Now of course (having experienced the media skills of its owners) the Council daren't have a go at it.

I asked the DCMS their opinion. They didn't have one, "Up to the local council" they said. So I asked the other local councils in South Yorkshire their opinion if I wanted to have a street piano in Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley.

Rotherham were brilliant and told me that since it was an acoustic instrument it would be OK. Utter garbage of course and bears no relation to the truth, but Rotherham Council is a bit like that.

Doncaster were much more forthcoming and told me to get legal advice.

  • ".....there are a number of issues that would relate to a piano being positioned in the street and I would advise you seek legal guidance before taking any action. With regards to licensing we would be unable to make any decision on an application unless a premise application with payment and proper consultation has taken place".
which is what you would expect. Different to Sheffield of course who are allowing such a piano with no legal advice, no application, and no consultation, proper or otherwise.

Barnsley have excellent guidance notes for the general public and for licensing regulated entertainment here. Remarkably similar to those which applied before the new Licensing Act came into force in November 2005. Some might say identical!! The Council have forgotten to change their web page.

Barnsley have given essentially the same reply as Doncaster. If I take a piano and leave it outside the house then apply for a licence they will consider it on its merits. If someone offers objections then they will listen to those and take them into consideration. If I just leave it outside the house they will act upon any complaints. Pray for a lottery win from me and I promise not to run off before testing this one.

Thus in the South Yorkshire area the law depends upon where you live. One Council will give one opinion and another council will give another. it is another "post code lottery".

These local councils however are not too bad compared to West Wiltshire Dictrict Council who according to a local newspaper report have made up the law as they go along. Allegedly.

This Morris Dancing Exemption - as it has come to be known - has in fact proved very useful to local authorities. (It's section 11).

By mistake Sheffield City Council did not licence its "Chance to Dance" in the City Centre May 14th 2006. Thus hip-hop, sequence dancing, belly dancing, ceroc, break-dancing, samba dancing etc etc became "similar to morris dancing" to enable the event to go ahead. Mind you the law clearly says that the music must not be amplified - so the council just ignored that bit.

The result of all this and in order to allow the Lord Mayor's procession to go ahead - is that the whole of Sheffield as bounded by the inner city ring road is now licensed under the Act and no separate application is needed to hold regulated entertainment in the area, once permission is granted. This includes anything owned or leased by the Council so streets and most open spaces are included.

Another local authority finding the exemption useful is the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Their largest event of the year is the "Notting Hill Carnival" indeed it describes itself as Europe's largest street party.

The Act already specifically exempts vehicles in motion (otherwise the Carnival would have to have been cancelled or faced a very very hefty licence fee) . The dancers clearly need licensing. So the council have labelled their dancing as similar to Morris Dancing. I am sure the Morris Dancers of England are delighted. Do the dancers of Carnival know about this? Are they happy to be likened to Morris dancers?

The Start of It All

I decided to go into blogging to highlight the idiocies of the Licensing Act 2003 which introduced the concept of "regulated entertainment".

My original interest in the Act came about because I have an abiding love of traditional music and dance and this Act could have affected one of the most important of these to me, the Sheffield Carols. The more I read about the Act and listened and read about its effects and proposals the more I became appalled by the garbage it included.

Kim Howell was the Minister who pushed the Act through Parliament and during the passage of the Bill made an appearance on the Mike Harding Show on Radio 2. This was on July 17th 2002. He clearly declared that the new Act would be the end of the previous regime whereby the number of musicians was limited to two. Here is a copy of what was said on the programme:

  • When you introduce this new licensing system, if pubs don't have an entertainment licence, will sessions and singarounds be banned?"
  • No, they certainly wouldn't and I'm very keen that we should make sure that that facility is there. There shouldn't be a problem. As long as money isn't changing hands, then there's no reason why they should have to have a licence.
That was before the civil servants got to him.

In fact under the Act "two in a bar" became "none in a bar" and unless the bar is licensed for "regulated entertainment" if anyone played or sang in the bar the landlord would be liable to a fine of £20,000 AND six months imprisonment. Contrast this with the fact that large scale TV was free to do as it liked. Thus a bar could have one room with a large TV screen playing loud music free of restrictions and a single musician in the other bar needed a license.

During the transition period between the old and new licensing regimes landlords could "tick a box" and were told they could have regulated entertainment with no extra cost. The DCMS constantly emphasised this.

What this did not allow for was the fact that the running of Licensing was being handed over to local councils, who are in general more famous for their bureaucracy than anything else. So whilst they were unable to place any restrictions on the large-scale TV's, exempt under the Act, the singer/musician was restricted to idiocies such as having the windows closed even during this current summer weather! St. Albans has imposed this restriction on over 70 pubs. What has to happen to the windows when a pub has large-scale TV and musicians has not yet been made clear.

Another feature of the Act was the Morris Dancing exemption. It was just about the only concession made to our national culture and said the Morris dancing and dancing of a similar nature was OK provided it was not done to amplified music.

I'll come back to this in my next post.