Sharkey says councils and police misusing Licensing Act

December 2008

Live event industry

UK Music boss Feargal Sharkey has hit out at the Metropolitan Police and London borough councils, saying they have overstepped the mark in their administration of 2003 Licensing Act.

Sharkey, who previously headed up the Live Music Forum, the DCMS sponsored panel which was set up to monitor the impact of the 2003 Act on the live music community, was speaking about the state of gig licensing since the new legislation in front of Parliament’s Culture, Media And Sport Select Committee and explained that as licensing is handled by local councils who take advice from local police, the impact of the new laws varies around the country, but in some areas new licensing powers were being used to hinder legitimate live music events. Focusing on London, he said that a dozen councils in the capital had adopted a system proposed by the Police for the risk assessment of live music. This meant promoters were required to fill in the Metropolitan Police Form 696, which requires specific details about the type of music that will be performed plus the names, aliases, phone numbers and addresses of all performers up to 14 days before the event. This, Sharkey argues, is unnecessary, puts an added burden on under-resourced independent promoters, and suggests authorities might be making discriminatory judgments about the fans of certain genres or artists. Billboard reported Sharkey as saying “They [the Met and London’s councils] need to go back and amend those licensing policy statements and review this system. Quite frankly they should probably stand up and publicly apologise to every young musician and performer in this town. Should that not happen, UK Music potentially does have the ability to take them to the High Court for judicial review”. On the music genre section of the 696 form, Sharkey says he is concerned how certain urban genres are singled out as examples of music style – including “basement, R&B and garage”. “It might be a happy coincidence”, he told Billboard, “but those are three musical styles that by and large would probably appeal to a large audience of young black or Asian people living in London”. Sharkey went to give other examples of the sometimes over zealous application of licensing rules outside of London, singling out the licensing decision made in Wiltshire earlier this year where promoters of Moonfest were told they wouldn’t get the go-ahead if their event was to be headlined by Babyshambles because the head of the local police force had expressed concerns that Doherty et al’s tendency to “speed up and then slow down the music” could create a “whirlpool effect” and spark disorder. Sharkey concluded: “The point I was putting across is that it is true that live music in the UK has blossomed in the last five or six years, but that we are still very concerned and now firmly believe that the smaller, informal gigs in those little bars and clubs, wine bars and restaurants, are being impacted upon by this legislation. The government now needs to intervene and amend that legislation”. UK Music is proposing exempting gigs for less than 200 people from the legislation (really going back to something like the ‘two in the bar rule’ that worked so well before the new Act came in).

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