17:50 Friday 21st January 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridge
CHRIS MANN: A Private Members’ Bill which could radically change the live music scene in the county passed through the House of Commons successfully today. The Live Music Bill proposes relaxation of the licensing rules around small scale live music events, making it easier for grass roots gigs to happen. Many argue that new bureaucracy put in place by the 2003 Licensing Act has made staging such events so tricky that many pubs and small venues that previously staged live music have stopped doing so, to the detriment of the grass roots music community. Earlier I spoke to Richard Brown, a lecturer at Comberton Village College, and Chair of Cambridgeshire’s Strawberry Fair event. (TAPE)
RICHARD BROWN: From 2003 there’s a new Licensing Act came in which meant that premises had to go through quite an onerous process of applying for a premises licence, if they wanted to put on a band at the weekend. Say for example two people turned up and they wanted to play some piano tunes in the corner, or maybe some local buskers came in and wanted to knock out a couple of tunes in the bar, under the 2003 regulations, strictly speaking, the venue should have some form of licence. Now that could either be a premises licence, which involves quite a lot of work on the landlord’s behalf, or you could apply for a temporary event notice. But that, you could only have 12 of those a year. So it was all getting really wrapped up in red tape, for something which was really just a harmless cultural pursuit. So it became tricky.
CHRIS MANN: We’re not talking about Pink Floyd playing at the Albert Hall. It’s grass roots music in your local pub or club or wherever.
RICHARD BROWN: Exactly. And even if a couple of guys in the bar wanted to get some guitars out and have a little sing song, that strictly speaking should be licensed as a what they call regulated entertainment, and it just became so silly. And it has, I think, hampered the development of music in Cambridge particularly, where venues who used to put on the occasional band would now have to spend quite a lot of money getting an expensive license.
CHRIS MANN: And presumably there was a worry for the manager or the publican or whatever the landlord that if they didn’t get this license, however ridiculous it may have been, they could be in trouble.
RICHARD BROWN: Yes that’s right. The fines are quite ridiculous. I think it goes up to as much as £20,000, although I don’t think anybody was ever fined that much. But you were eligible for a fine if you didn’t have the correct licence in place. That’s right.
CHRIS MANN: Ok. Well this Live Music Bill has now passed through the latest stage in the House of Commons. It looks like there’s nothing to prevent it becoming law, which will make quite a big difference to the music scene, do you think, on a local level?
RICHARD BROWN: Yes. My understanding is that it’s going to mean that spontaneous and low-key events that happen in pubs, restaurants and even shops and shopping centres can happen without a licence now, for up to 200 people at a time. So that would cover most of the small live venues in Cambridge. I’m thinking here of places like the Man on the Moon and the Portland Arms, which don’t have capacities much bigger than that at the moment. And currently they are having to pay licence fees for their premises licence. So I think it’s great all round. And it will encourage I’m sure other pubs to join them in putting on live music. And maybe that will encourage more people to get in bands. Because if there’s nowhere to play, there’s no point in being in the band. So I think that hopefully that’s going to be good all round. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Richard Brown there, lecturer at Comberton Village College, and from Cambridgeshire’s Strawberry Fair event Well our own Sue Marchant, from Big Night In, who has been organising adn been involved in live music in this area for many years joins me now live in the studio. Sue, hi.
SUE MARCHANT: Hi.
CHRIS MANN: This is great news, isn’t it, for people like you?
SUE MARCHANT: It is very much so. And also I know that a lot of artists have welcomed it with opened arms. And they were lobbying to get their Mps along to say please, if we don’t have the opportunity to go and play, then we’re never going to get our music out there. Not really about the money for them. They just want gigs to play in, as every musician does. And also anybody who is organising something for, as Richard was saying, 200 people or so, it gives them the opportunity to put something on, in the village hall, in their local community, because it’s going to be easier. Hurrah!
CHRIS MANN: And I felt at some point this country was just drowning in bureacracy and red tape, wasn’t it? So many health and safety, whatever. And this is another blow back, isn’t it, for the ordinary person, to hold events in a local pub? What’s the danger? What’s the problem? It’s just someone getting up and singing and playing
SUE MARCHANT: Absolutely. And that’s what we all need.
CHRIS MANN: So this wil make a difference, do you think, around the county?
SUE MARCHANT: Very much so, and around the region as well. Because it gives people that platform to get their music out there, which is the important thing.
CHRIS MANN: You don’t need a licence to play in the studio though, do you?
SUE MARCHANT: No. Not yet. (LAUGHS)
CHRIS MANN: Sue, thanks.