Thursday, February 06, 2003


Back on 5 January 2003, NFE reported on the potential threat to live music in England and Wales (particularly at a local, informal level) brought about by a complex and bureaucratic Licensing Bill being proposed by the British government. Following massive lobbying and a 40,000 strong on-line petition, UK Culture Secretary Kim Howells -- who seems, in fact, to despise much modern artistic expression if it falls outside his rather parochial horizons -- has made a major concession. Churches and other places of worship will now be exempt from the proposals. This is a development which will serve the interests of a range of cultural organisations with no direct religious concerns, since these premises are used for thousands of different events and rehearsals.

Howells curiously observed that his new move would "enable .. institutions and music societies to flourish", thereby inadvertently recognising the deleterious impact his legislation would otherwise have! We're not dealing with an over-subtle mind here.

At any rate, while this is progress, folk and jazz pubs and clubs will still be hit for six by financial impositions under the proposed Bill. There is no justification for this because problems of noise, disorder and health and safety (which this massively overwrought legislation is supposed to address) are already covered by existing law. So the struggle goes on. The Musicians Union, arts groups and the serious national media are unanimously against what The Independent has described as "a deeply flawed piece of legislation". A full briefing is here. Sign the petition too. The rumour in Parliament is that a further humiliating back-down is on the cards as reality dawns, but only if pressure is kept up...

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