Wednesday, January 08, 2003


This via e-mail from Tom Sutcliffe, counter-tenor and classical music critic (of the London Evening Standard, among other outlets):

'The UK 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 here. This threatens the whole spectrum of musical performance, from a Three Choirs Festival production of Dream of Gerontius at Worcester Cathedral, 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). Closer to home, fundraising work done through concerts in local churches will no longer be such a rewarding way of supporting local charities, and the role the Church can play in the local community will be reduced. There is a relevant petition on-line which has so far attracted 24,961 electronic signatures (names and addresses, but not email addresses) .

'The wording of this peition is taken from a Parliamentary early day motion. If you feel strongly about this, please sign this petition, and forward this message on to anyone you can think of who would be affected or would care about the issue as you do.

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