TF Archives

UK Live Music Threat

Author: pr
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
The government want to tighten up the licensing laws. There's a lot involved in the bill, but the bottom line is it will be technically illegal to sing in the bath or play records at home on your own without a license if this bill is passed.

A new Licensing Bill was introduced to parliament on 14th November 2002. I believe it is an assault on our civil liberties as it clearly restricts participation in the performing arts. If passed as is it will be a disaster for musicians, event organisers, music teachers, studios and retailers, and bring repression unseen for centuries for our whole musical culture in England and Wales. No other country in the world restricts the arts in such a way.

"If you are concerned that the new licensing proposals are a threat to Live Music in England and Wales - and if you like music you should be concerned - then please read the statement below and sign the petition on the website.

"The Government is intending to introduce new licensing laws governing the performance and rehearsal of music in public buildings, a move that will drastically affect the whole culture of music-making in England and Wales.

Essentially, what they are also trying to do is legally redefine the notion of "performance" to include "performance and/or rehearsal". They want all venues (and this includes any church holding rehearsals or performances not directly related to the religious function of the building) to be subject to a Public Entertainments License. Currently they haven't published a fee but leaks to date have suggested that this fee will be between £500 and £1000 per annum. Clearly this will do a lot of harm to both amateur and professional music, drama, and dance - informal rehearsal venues will be a lot thinner on the ground as smaller organisations that play host to choirs, amateur theatre, musical groups, and concerts will simply not be able to afford the license. It will be illegal even to burst into song spontaneously in the pub, as the current two-in-a-bar rule will be abolished, and any "entertainment" at all, however informal, will require a license. Failure to comply-

Currently suggested penalties include a £20,000 fine or a 6 month prison sentence. It's worth noting that not only the administrator of an unlicensed venue but also any musician performing in such a venue would be criminalised. If you want to read the whole Bill (great fun, I can assure you!), it can be found at
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This threatens the whole spectrum of musical performance, from a production of Dream of Gerontius at Worcester Cathedral in the Three Choirs Festival, via school performances, music at weddings, and hospital concerts, right through to folk sessions in the local pub (a spontaneous activity encouraged in Scotland and Ireland). There is a petition on-line, to be found at (the wording of this is taken from an early day motion, the text of which can be found at"