To suit the Action to the Word, the Word to the Action

Posts tagged ‘City of Edinburgh Council’

Arts and Community Events Need You! Complete very quick survey…

It’s live! You can now find the City of Edinburgh Council’s survey about changes to Public Entertainment Licensing online.

Make sure you tell them what you think about their proposals re. licences for free events!

If you are not yet in the picture re. these changes, check out the importance of this campaign and the basics of what is involved and what is going on.

Further related posts on this blog (including the Edinburgh Public Meeting and delegation to the Edinburgh Council) can be found in the ‘Public Entertainment Licence Fiasco’ category.

Time to be consulted! Speak up about Public Entertainment Licence changes…

The public consultancy period – where you and I get to put our penny’s-worth in – has started on changes to the Public Entertainment Licensing Resolution of the City of Edinburgh Council. Below is a letter giving details about this (bold highlighting by me) and how to speak up about this important issue.

If you are not familiar with the campaign highlighting the affect of these changes on free events and expression, check out the posts in the category ‘Public Entertainment Licence Fiasco‘, in particular Keeping Track.

From solicitor for City of Edinburgh Council

“Firstly I would confirm that the advert advising of the proposed draft Public Entertainment licensing Resolution went into the Edinburgh Evening News on 16th March 2012. That has the effect of kick-starting the legal process for the consultation. The advert invites written responses, to be sent to the Director of Services for Communities, Licensing Section, 249 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1YJ.

In addition we have set up an email address for consultation responses – publicentertainment.licensing@edinburgh.gov.uk

Separately, arrangements are in hand for an online consultation and I understand that this is likely to be accessed on the Council’s website at the general consultations section, and also via a link from the Public Entertainment licensing section of the website. At the time of emailing the questions for the online survey were almost ready – so hopefully will be in place by the end of the week. Meantime, a couple of links which will hopefully be of some assistance to you:-

The details of the committee decision and the press release, etc are at the following link:-

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/830/consultation_to_take_place_on_licensing_rules_for_free_events

The details of Public Entertainment licensing and the link to the online survey will be at the following address (which at the time of emailing was still to be updated):-

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/309/public_entertainment_licences/935/public_entertainment  [the survey is now live - the above link leads to it, or you can go direct via   http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QTZMWXP]

For those who are anxious to ensure that their views are recorded, may I suggest that they make use of the email address as above, and/or write in with their comments? Once the online questionnaire is up and running, that will enable a more accessible means of responding to the consultation process – as I say, I think that should be ready in the next day or two.

Hope this assists in the meantime.

Regards,”

As I write, poets, performers and artists sit in prisons…

“As I write, poets, performers and artists sit in prisons and under house arrest across the globe (as a visit to Amnesty International will inform), because they encourage society to think. Art is as necessary in a democracy, as food and water, if there is to be quality of life. Quality of life comes from knowing one has the power to change, contribute, be heard and to hear why things are as they are or how they could be within our communities.”

Wise words from Gillian, leading to why A Little April Foolery is so important, in the ‘Crunch time for Edinburgh!’ comments.

See Gillian’s comment in full – and add your responses too!

Edinburgh Regulatory Committee Meeting of 9th March – report and result

ReportAt the City of Edinburgh Council’s meeting of the Regulatory Committee, convened by Councillor Rob Munn, a deputation representing the views of those concerned about the Public Entertainment Licence changes was invited to speak for 10 minutes, before being asked questions by committee members. Also present were officers from licensing departments, whom the committee members consulted about the issue.

The deputation consisted of Neil Cooper, arts journalist, and Morvern Cunningham, arts promoter and organiser. Mr Cooper spoke eloquently, with wit and knowledge, about the history of arts in Edinburgh and the way in which grassroots endeavours feed major artistic success stories. He also pointed out the incredibly difficult task of defining ‘entertainment’ within artistic perimeters, and did so with appreciated humour. You can read the full address here, in the post ‘Address to Edinburgh Regulatory Committee and Campaign Statement‘.

Both Mr Cooper and Ms Cunningham, along with the licensing officers, then answered questions from committee members. These queries included what events are already being affected by the changes in legislation, whether an exemption mentioning ‘200 capacity’ would be sufficient to allay concerns, what precisely is meant by ‘premises’ for official wording, and the very telling question of what the actual intention of the changes to the legislation is!

Also of note was the suggestion that, rather than focus on exempting certain events – the arduous and, in practice, unending task of creating a comprehensive list – it would make more sense to state which free events ARE to be covered by the changed legislation. This would, however, necessitate (legally) a full scale consultation and re-drafting of the relevant Resolution which would require at least 9 months. The focus currently is on what can be done in the short-term to minimise the impact of these changes on events which should not be their target.

As a result, the shorter consultation period of 28 days was decided upon, with an interim period of free licensing in effect from 1st April to at least 20th April, the time of the next meeting of the Regulatory Committee. At that point, with the relevant report to hand, the Committee plans to announce which events have been removed from the Resolution and will therefore no longer require licensing.

It was made clear that no-one present – those who spoke up and, by final agreement, all committee members – wished the PEL changes to impact on arts and community events. The focus of the licensing departments will be on large-scale events which pose some risk to public safety and those which may be using the ‘free’ category to obscure high business interests.

The motion put to the Committee and passed at this meeting is detailed – along with the results – here:

http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/830/consultation_to_take_place_on_licensing_rules_for_free_events

Crunch time for Edinburgh! Public Entertainment Licence meeting, 9th March

Show your support on the 9th of March

The public can view the City of Edinburgh Council Regulatory Committee’s meeting, where the Public Entertainment Licence changes will be discussed, and so show the support that the campaign against these changes is raising.

To attend, head for the Dean of Guild Court Room, City Chambers, High Street, Edinburgh on Friday 9th March and meet there at 8.50am, for the 9am meeting start.

The general public cannot speak at this meeting, but there will be a “deputation at the meeting speaking on behalf of the campaign comprising Neil Cooper (journalist and writer for numerous publications) and Morvern Cunningham (organiser of LeithLate and active member of Edinburgh’s grassroots arts community).”

This quote is taken from the Council Regulatory Meeting – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC Facebook event, where you can find further information and leave comments on points you would like the deputation to cover.

A Scotsman article on the current plans of the council, already amended somewhat from earlier ones due to the strength of the campaign against these licence changes, can be found here:

http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/heritage/culture/small-edinburgh-arts-events-to-be-exempted-from-licence-crackdown-1-2158223

There appears to be some good news, but there are still questions (see Morvern Cunningham’s remarks in the above article), and the actual legislation itself – at Scottish Government level – is still an issue, affecting all councils and the whole of Scotland.

Further information

See ‘Keeping Track’ post for help in understanding and keeping abreast with this PEL issue.

Telling the Truth to Power – Edinburgh Public Meeting: Stop Public Entertainment Licence Changes

Notice for Edinburgh 'Stop public entertainment licence changes' meeting, 1st March

Links to report by Song, by Toad Records

The public meeting on March 1st at Out of the Blue Drill Hall, Edinburgh, about new legislation changes due to come into effect on 1st of April, received a very strong turnout. A number of people were able to ask questions after panel members (listed below) had spoken briefly on their view of the current Public Entertainment Licence (PEL) fee legislation and how it can / should be applied and amended.

Unsurprisingly, the basic agreement among all those who spoke and, indeed – judging by the reactions from all those who didn’t speak – from everyone present, was that licence fees for small-scale arts and community events are completely unjustifiable. The legislation at Scottish Government level was intended to deal with large-scale events where greater Health and Safety controls may well be helpful, however the wording of the legislation leaves local authorities without sufficient guidance on implementing changes. It is, however, down to local councils as to how they go about putting the legislation into practice, and different councils are dealing with different ‘resolutions’ – lists of events covered by licensing. More on ‘resolutions’ later.

Dangers mentioned about such a licence fee system covered the stifling of both spontaneous and longer-term planned events within grassroots arts and communities due to the necessary effort and heavy admin involved in applying, the time necessary for gaining a license, the sheer daunting prospect of even attempting such applications and the money involved when there is no monetary return (with some hilarity following mention of a notion – thankfully dismissed prior to this meeting – of putting in a fee structure that depends upon the ‘success’ of an event).

There were further considerations also: that legislation for the arts is state interference in what must remain free expression and that, whatever the reasons for such legislation and the intentions at this time, such legislation creates the possibility of future political interference tantamount to censorship.

A major theme, recurring throughout the meeting, was a call for clarity – both from the Scottish Government to assist councils and from councils to state what is actually involved in applying for a licence and the penalty if one does not. Such clarity has yet to be established, but this is…

Where matters currently stand

Councillor Rob Munn, Convener of City of Edinburgh Council Regulatory Committee, said that the road he would like to see taken would reach a point where this Public Entertainment Licence would not be applied to the grassroots arts and community events discussed. En route, however, the current advice to the Council from ‘officers’ – apparently advising on legal implications – is that a licence must be required and so, attempting to address this, the Council is considering an interim measure of non-fee licences. As was immediately made clear in responses, this does not in any way address the immense problem of the administration in such form-filling, the application time before grant of licence and the seriously off-putting affect that such a measure would have, temporary or otherwise.

Councillor Munn stressed that his presence at the meeting was so that he could feedback to the Council, and everyone else stressed that this temporary measure is unacceptable and that should be what he feeds back. When questioned as to why Glasgow could decide not to enforce the new legislation immediately – a temporary measure that has not resolved the issue, but which allows time for a review – Councillor Munn focused on each council’s resolution being different. These resolutions are, apparently, a list of events previously covered by licensing and they differ nationwide. This means that there is, perhaps, no single solution that would suit every council – each area must look at the events that they have on their list. It is for this kind of review to take place that the temporary measure of licences for which one does not pay has been suggested.

However, the need for such a measure was not fully clear. It was felt that there is time before 1st April for the Council to amend their ‘resolution’, taking off the events in question so that they would not be affected by the new legislation. Also, why can these events – if they cannot be immediately removed from the resolution – not be exempted, this being a power the Council reputedly has?

In the end, further action depends on the outcome of the meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council Regulatory Committee scheduled for 9th March. It is possible for a deputation to address their concerns to this meeting – a matter that went to further discussion after the meeting had ended, so watch out for information on that.

Suggestions for action should the result of the Committee’s meeting not be satisfactory include flooding the Council with licence applications come April Fool’s Day (something that may be rather harsh for staff and Councillors, such as Rob Munn, who are also against such increased bureaucracy) and the opposite: simply ignoring any such requirements and so operating ‘illegally’ – something many seem prepared to do if forced, but there was also strong indication that people would rather stay within the law. A practical, pro-active suggestion – from Chair Neil Cooper – was to put on the very events under discussion over the week-end 31st March and 1st April, without licences: for more on this, see the ‘What can YOU do?’ section below.

This is a basic overview (written up in the early hours of the morning) of what I, Danielle Farrow of Discover Fine Acting, understood of the meeting and it does not do justice to the passion, dedication, intelligence and concern of those present.

All those that spoke, panelists and speakers from the floor, are worthy of attention. This is what I can pass on:-

Panel

Morvern Cunningham – Grassroots arts promoter and organiser of LeithLate; spoke of how such legislation would impact on the events with which she has been involved and later put forward the important exemption suggestion, which there was not then time to discuss
Neil Mulholland – Head of Postgraduate Programmes and Visual Culture, Edinburgh College of Art; looked at context: the importance of grassroots culture for expression and participation, and human rights issues / interference of state in cultural activity
Chloe Dear – Independent Creative Producer; gave a quick – and very useful – rundown of major items involved in applying for a Public Entertainment Licence, making it very clear how arduous a task this is and how unlikely producers of our small-scale events are to be able to tackle this, even should they be wiling to try
Kevin Williamson – Founder of literary cabaret club Neu! Reekie! (author of article in the Evening News on this issue); spoke of how art and state should be entirely separate – with an amusing story about pigs’ heads and live pornography ridiculing establishment – and warned of the threat of censorship, saying that grassroots arts are about ‘telling truth to power’
Malcolm Chisholm MSP – Member of Scottish Parliament for Leith; raised the issue of unfortunate wording and need for guidance from the Scottish Government to assist councils in implementing these licensing changes, so that the discretion councils can employ in this matter should be very clear; stated that he would be making a big issue of the matter with his colleagues, while he also felt that in the month before April 1st there is opportunity for the Council to act
Councillor Rob Munn – Convener of City of Edinburgh Council Regulatory Committee; see main post – he does seem to be focusing on arts events not requiring licence fees: hopefully this will be a focus of the Council as a whole, and without an ‘interim’ measure which only deals with monetary considerations and not artistic and administration ones
Neil Cooper, Chair of the meeting – Chief Theatre Critic of The Herald; set the scene, including events ongoing at time and difference that has been in place between those events that require licences and those that may soon do so; picked up on need for clarity right at the start and made sure a number of people were able to speak from the floor

Points made by speakers from the floor

The ‘interim’ measure advised is ‘wishy-washy’ – need set action soon for all events already planned; this legislation can push artists, etc. out of Edinburgh; education and higher values are involved here, arts not solely ‘entertainment’; real threat of what this legislation could mean further down the line, when a political company applies for a licence – possibility of politically motivated refusal / censorship; there is some point in comparing Edinburgh and Glasgow Councils – the latter is felt to support grassroots culture, while the former needs to work on this, including making council property available, perhaps – echoed by an ECA student re. needing spaces, including from the council: wants to know has future HERE, in Edinburgh, or will go elsewhere (Dumfries and Galloway, perhaps, which does not include arts events in its resolution!); the arts are already self-regulated (through risk assessments, Public Liability Insurance, etc.), so little worth to claims about there being a need to licence for insurance reasons (Chloe Dear had also mentioned that insurance is another matter, not part of PEL)

Particular points, where I caught the organisations represented:
Tightlaced Theatre – need to know the nuts and bolts of this (clarification!), including what ‘temporary’ actually means, what ‘temporary’ form-filling actually involves, how grassroots organisations are, in practical terms, to deal with this, and what the penalty is for not doing so (see also A Little April Foolery)
Rhubarba Gallery – clarification needed; ‘due notice’ promised, yet won’t know what in place till after meeting of 9th March, so where is this before April 1st?; wants to be operating within the law; there has been a lack of consultation; this is a chance to look at licensing as a whole and improve it overall
Word of Mouth Cafe – impossible to manage the admin involved in applying for licence when already working 50hrs a week; spaces such as this won’t fit regulations; this means loss of great resources
Song, by Toad Records – grassroots organisers provide the environment that grows commercially viable talent and that growth relies on the ‘miasma of people’ who create the grassroots events ‘for the love of it’ – not commercially viable in themselves and not likely to complete the admin obstacle course necessary with this legislation; any interference in this area will kill the important environment and cut off many of those who could go on to be commercially viable; these grassroots people need support and encouragement and not just in Fringe time
Big Things on the Beach – community initiative, where artists are invited to exhibit in locals’ gardens, sheds, etc., already feeling Council is not very encouraging of their efforts, and the complexity of such legislation will push it beyond what residents would sign up for, resulting in a real depression of grassroots culture and citizen participation; this is a chance for the Council to look at all policies that affect this level of cultural participation and start to encourage it

For background on this meeting and the uproar that began in Glasgow, see previous posts:

News: Edinburgh Public Entertainment Licensing Meeting announced

WTF!?! Paying licence fees to do a free event in a shop or cafe?

What can YOU do?

Get involved, anywhere in Scotland, having a great time with A Little April Foolery!

Keep abreast of what is happening about this issue in Edinburgh: http://www.facebook.com/groups/178277778942301/

Not in Edinburgh? Find out what is happening in your area – a good place to start is to…

Sign this petition, if you have yet to do so, and read its updates: http://www.change.org/petitions/scottish-councils-scrap-public-entertainment-licence-fees

And read: http://scrapartstax.wordpress.com/

Finally, respond to this blog / pass on the word about the information that is here!

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