Posts tagged ‘public entertainment licence’
Continuing the important fight to keep free events licence-free, without all the restrictions licences would require…
Thank you for supporting our campaign on Public Entertainment Licences in Scotland. You might be aware that City of Edinburgh Council already conducted a public consultation on the issue. Glasgow City Council have now followed suit, and we’d like to encourage as many supporters as possible to complete their survey and ensure that your voice and opinion is represented.
You can complete their short survey here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PEL2012
We are continuing to campaign on behalf of artists, community organisations and venues across Scotland. We are particularly keen to hear from anyone in areas outside Glasgow and Edinburgh interested in forming a network to keep us updated on developments in your area, such as events that may have been forced to pay, events that might not have taken place, no matter how large or small. Please contact us via the petition website. It is important that we have a better picture of what is happening across the country as we form a national strategy for the campaign.
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.
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 – email@example.com
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:-
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.
“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!
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONTINUE WITH THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST PUBLIC ENTERTAINMENT LICENCE CHANGES
Confusion is hardly surprising given that councils have different Resolutions and it is these which require amendment to follow the Scottish Government wishes for councils to deal reasonably on this matter.
The legislative change at government level was made in 2010. Amendment of a Resolution (which lists events to be licensed) by removing certain events requires a 28 day consultancy period. Amendment of a Resolution that makes additions (does that cover putting in exemptions?), or re-words it completely – stating what IS to be covered (probably a superior method of approach) – requires a 9 month consultancy period.
Any Council that claims it was against the changes to the legislation at the time they were made (i.e. Glasgow) should not now require a period of review / consultation, etc. as they have had plenty of time since 2010 to go through even the long consultancy period.
That the issue has only now come to light as a problem shows the lack of attention being paid to this piece of legislation.
The Scottish Government has either not prepared councils fully or has been ignored by councils – either situation is disgraceful. The legislation as it stands places a huge onus of work and of trust on the councils and it allows regional discrimination.
The legislation itself must be reviewed.
The councils have had time to put a workable and reasonable Resolution in place that deals with this legislation and there are major councils – Edinburgh and Glasgow to my definite knowledge – that have not done so.
No council (take note, Edinburgh) should now put the onus on the public to apply for licences, free or otherwise, which are only required because certain councils have not dealt with their Resolutions in time to handle this legislation despite the legislation having been passed back in 2010. This, too, is disgraceful.
The April 1st events have huge importance throughout Scotland
Whatever the situation with each local council and its Resolution, the April 1st events will help to highlight the fact that neither Scottish Government nor major local Councils paid proper attention to this legislation: not to how it would be handled; not to how it would actually affect the people of Scotland.
This is the event covered in The Scotsman’s article ‘Stage is set for artistic April Fools Day protest against new red tape‘ and it is about raising awareness of grassroots arts and how the current Public Entertainment Licence changes are threatening them and local community events.
At time of posting, the number of those joining in is nearing the 1,200 mark – make sure you’re involved too!
Below are the responses to the campaign against Public Entertainment Licence changes from SNP MSPs Fiona Hyslop (Culture Secretary), Kenny MacAskill (Justice Secretary) and Alex Salmond (First Minister)
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs (SNP)
LETTER TO NEIL COOPER, ARTS JOURNALIST AND DEPUTEE AT CEC REGULATORY COMMITTEE MEETING 9th March 2012
08 March 2012
Dear Mr Cooper,
Thank you for your e-mail of 6 March regarding changes to public entertainment licensing. I am very much aware of the current concern amongst the arts community over the changes brought in by the Criminal Law and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 and coming into force on 1 April. The Scottish Government is wholly supportive of the contribution made by the arts community and do not want to see any adverse affect on the staging of exhibitions/performances.
The system for licensing Public Entertainment has been in place since the passing of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. The licensing regime has been amended to give local licensing authorities the ability – if they so choose – to include free to enter events within the terms of licensable activities. This change in the law was in response to concerns that had been raised by a task group that had reviewed the legislation about the lack of control that local licensing authorities had over large scale free-to-enter events such as music festivals and large firework displays etc. where stewarding requirement for example may be needed for safety.
It is important to stress that the new law does not mean that local licensing authorities are required to insist on free-to-enter events having a Public Entertainment Licence. The discretion lies entirely with the local licensing authority to determine what types of events they licence. The public entertainment licence is a discretionary licence. It is for the local authority therefore to decide whether to licence public entertainment and if they do, what specific types of entertainment they wish to include.
There is nothing in the law to prevent an authority from exempting all or certain categories of free to enter events, or particular types of cultural events from the requirement to have a public entertainment licence.
The long lead in time between the passage of the bill and commencement of the change on 1 April 2012 has been to allow licensing authorities the time to ensure that they have adopted resolutions that ensure that they licence the activities that they want to, whilst avoiding a requirement for a licence where that is disproportionate. Councils are doing this and Edinburgh are doing so this week. It may be that others will need to do likewise.
The cost of the licence is also for the licensing authority to determine and therefore, even if the local authority decided to insist on some large scale free-to-enter events having a licence, it would be open to them to charge a lower fee than would be charged for commercial events.
The Scottish Government are clear though that we and the public will expect Councils to continue to support the fantastic individual, grassroots and community cultural activity which takes place particularly in this Year of Creative Scotland. It is our firm view that these decisions are taken locally so that that local needs and requirements are reflected rather than a one size fits all approach is taken.
I also attach for information a copy of;-
1) The letter issued by Mr MacAskill to licensing authorities clarifying the Scottish Government’s position on the matter.
2) The answer given today (Thursday 08 March) by the First Minister at First Minister’s Questions.
Kenny MacAskill, Cabinet Secretary for Justice (SNP)
LETTER TO LICENSING AUTHORITY CONVENORS
Dear Licensing Authority Convenors
The Scottish Government
DELIVERING A GAMES LEGACY FOR SCOTLAND
Many of you will be aware of the current interest in the changes to the law on licensing of public entertainment that will come into force on 1 April 2012. I am writing to you to set out the Scottish Government’s position on this matter.
The case for a change to the law was made by the task group that reviewed the operation of the licensing schemes operated under the Civic (Government) Scotland Act 1982. That task group concluded in its report, “A number of respondents requested that consideration be given to removing the exemption from the licensing requirement for events which are free to enter. At present, Section 41(2) of the Act states that a “place of public entertainment” means “any place where, on payment of money or money’s worth, members of the public may use any facilities for the purposes of entertainment or recreation.” Comments were made that some such events can attract large crowds with concomitant public safety and public order concerns, and as such licensing authorities should have a power to require the organisers to obtain a public entertainment licence. The Task Group agreed that it is unsatisfactory that licensing authorities are unable to control such large scale public entertainment events. We acknowledged that licensing authorities may not wish to license certain types of free event, such as gala days and school fetes, but considered that the decision on whether to license these events should rest with the individual authority. As such, we recommend that the exemption for events which are free to enter be removed.”
That recommendation was taken forward through the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 which under section 176(2) removed the words “on payment of money or money’s worth,” from section 41 the 1982 Act.
This amendment therefore allowed licensing authorities to licence free events where they wish to do so. It was never envisaged that all free events should be licensed. In fact, both the policy memorandum and explanatory notes accompanying the Act make clear that licensing authorities have discretion as to which events require a licence. The explanatory notes use the examples from the task group report of school fetes and gala days as types of event where the requirement for a licence may not be appropriate.
It has always been the case that without action on the part of licensing authorities to amend resolutions, free events could become licensed depending upon whatever existing resolution was already in place. The Scottish Government took the decision to delay commencement of the change until 1 April 2012 – some 20 months after Royal Assent – in order that licensing authorities had a reasonable period to amend their resolutions to ensure they were appropriate in light of the changes to the law.
I am aware that some authorities have already taken action or are planning to do so.
However it may be helpful if I set out the position about making changes to resolutions.
Section 9 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 sets out the process which an authority must follow when making, amending or repealing a resolution. In particular, I would draw your attention to subsection 9, which provides detail on amending or repealing resolutions.
Section 9 does not require a nine month period for amending a resolution where the variation reduces the scope of the resolution. However a 28 day period of public consultation is required, which may mean that an amended resolution will not be in force until after 1 April.
However, where an amended resolution is not in place by this date, we would encourage you to adopt a pragmatic and common sense approach in dealing with any applications for public entertainment licences between this date and the coming into force of any amended resolution.
Given that 2012 is the Year of Creative Scotland we would encourage you to take account of the contribution of the artistic community in particular when progressing any changes that are being made. It would be unfortunate if performers felt unable to showcase their talents around the country due to this issue.
I hope that this letter clarifies the Scottish Government’s position on this matter.
St Andrew’s House, Regent Road, Edinburgh EHl 3DG
Alex Salmond, First Minister for Scotland (SNP)
RESPONSE AT FIRST MINISTER’S QUESTION TIME, 8th March 2012
29 mins 57 secs in – Malcolm Chisholm MSP puts question and Alex Salmond answers:-
“The Cabinet Secretary for Justice has written to licensing authorities this week. This will further assist them and sets out the powers they have to decide what they wish to licence and what not to licence.
This amendment was introduced to allow local authorities to control and ensure safety at large scale free to enter events such as raves and major firework displays. When they take licensing decisions we expect them to take account of the impact on cultural activity and small scale events in their areas, in order to continue to support the fantastic individual, grass-root and community based artistic talent we have in Scotland. That is the case at any time but is especially important during the Year of Creative Scotland and I am pleased that Edinburgh Council has indicated that no free cultural events for audiences of less than 200 people will be affected.”
The deputation address which you will find below has been copied from the Facebook event page ‘PEL – Council Regulatory Meeting – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC‘, where you can find further useful information, including the following:
Edinburgh Campaign Statement March 9th 2012
The Edinburgh Stop Public Entertainment Licence Changes Campaign welcomes the positive outcome of their deputation to CEC’s Regulatory Committee on March 9th 2012, at which the public gallery was standing room only.
The Campaign also welcomes the Committee’s unanimous acceptance of the amendment to their original report, and looks forward to it being implemented following a consultation period which the Campaign encourages all of Edinburgh’s creative community to take full part in.
The Campaign also notes, however, that concerns over the changes to PELs remain, and will be continuing its dialogue with CEC in this respect.
The Edinburgh campaign will also be working at a national level with groups in other areas of Scotland to help facilitate dialogue with other local authorities as well as the Scottish Government.
As the First Minister has already indicated in his response to Malcolm Chisholm during First Minister’s Question Time on March 8th, when local authorities make their decisions regarding PELs, “we expect them to take account of the impact on cultural activity and small scale events in their areas, in order to continue to support the fantastic individual, grass-root and community based artistic talent we have in Scotland.”
In this Year of Creative Scotland, the Campaign trusts that all thirty-two local authorities in Scotland will ensure that their response is consistent with this aim.”
Here is the excellent address made by Neil Cooper for the deputation to the City of Edinburgh Council’s Regulatory Committee at their meeting of 9th March 2012. The issue under discussion was the Public Entertainment Licence changes and how these affect the arts.
“STOP PELS CAMPAIGN DEPUTATION ADDRESS TO CEC REGULATORY COMMITTEE – MARCH 9th 2012
Good morning Councillors.
First of all, I’d like to thank the Committee, on behalf of the Edinburgh Campaign against Public Entertainment Licences changes, for allowing me to speak on their behalf today.
It’s a pleasure, both for me to have the privilege to represent the group, and to see that the Regulatory committee is taking an issue which actually isn’t of its design so seriously.
Things have moved on considerably since the potential misinterpretations of the forthcoming legislation was first brought to Councillor Munn’s attention by the Edinburgh campaign.
Last week I think the message from Edinburgh’s creative community was really brought home at a packed public meeting at Out of the Blue, one of Edinburgh’s great independent art-spaces.
This led to a very positive dialogue with Councillor Munn and a great deal of press attention, while just yesterday, there was a question raised about the new legislation at First Minister’s Question Time, while the Minister for Culture was asked about it at a press conference over at The Hub.
But – today – I just want to reiterate the importance of Edinburgh’s grassroots arts scene, and how it informs some of Edinburgh’s bigger artistic events and institutions.
I also want to try and illustrate some of the potential – and indeed actual – absurdities of the legislation when it’s left open to interpretation the way it has been in this case.
As an arts journalist by trade, one of my great joys is being able to move between events and spaces great and small.
One night I can be at the Royal Lyceum or the Traverse, the next I can be at an opening at the Embassy Gallery or one of the other independent spaces, the next I can be watching a band or a piece of live art in the same space.
Being able to flit between spaces like that I think allows me a sense of what’s going on all around Edinburgh.
The larger spaces, like the Usher Hall or the Queens Hall, are really important, as are too the assorted international festivals that Edinburgh so proudly trades on, and which makes it one of the most exciting cities in the world.
But there’s also a loose-knit network of events that are equally thrilling.
These are far smaller, and range from literary readings in libraries and book-shops, gigs in record shops, and DJs and bands who play at the opening nights of art-shows in ad-hoc spaces that exist around town.
These are arguably where the real exciting work is produced, in social and creative hubs where artists are still finding their voice before they go on to the next stage.
One of these artists is Craig Coulthard, who trained at Edinburgh College of Art.
Craig was one of the original collective who founded the Embassy, which is still an artist-run space that allows its artists to do things on their own terms – and indeed to find out how to do them – in a way that they couldn’t in one of the larger institutions.
That’s presuming the institutions are interested in new, living artists, because – although things have improved hugely over the last decade – that’s not always the case.
And if the institutions aren’t interested, as history has taught us time and again, you do it yourself.
That’s exactly what Craig Coulthard did.
And that’s exactly what a young music and arts collective called FOUND did.
FOUND performed at art openings, made crazy constructions and mixed up artforms like mad professors who’ve spent to long in the lab.
And yet -
As I speak, Craig Coulthard is a recipient of a major Cultural Olympiad commission for a new large-scale work.
As for FOUND, well, last year, they won a BAFTA for a science-fiction sounding project they call Cybrathon.
FOUND too have also just received a major Creative Scotland commission.
And that’s how it starts.
But such success stories that have come from the grassroots are hardly a new thing.
In 1994 I was approached by a photographer called Neil Riley, with a view to setting up an exhibition of some of the young writers who were causing a bit of a commotion at the time.
I’d stumbled onto this scene in the back room of The Antiquary pub in St Stephen Street, where a host of writers were performing their work in a way that was a million miles away from the received idea of a poetry reading.
It was free admission and free to put on, which was just as well, because no-one involved with it – including myself – had any money, and certainly wouldn’t have had a clue about how to fill in a form.
This scene later developed to presenting work in community centres and other places, and – through Kevin Williamson – inspired a magazine called Rebel Inc that eventually became an imprint of Canongate publishing house.
Around the same time as I was approached by Neil, I was alerted to a new gallery that had just opened on Blackfriar’s Street.
That gallery was called Out of the Blue, and was the sort of shop-front artist-run gallery that is exactly the sort of space that this legislation puts under potential threat.
I approached the two women then running this new gallery, and proposed an exhibition of images of Edinburgh-based writers.
I also proposed that there be a series of events to go with this exhibition.
We got the gallery for a week, and set things in motion.
Over the course of that week – called by Neil The Apostolic Club – the gallery would be open in the daytime, while at night, there would be readings, recitals, musical performances and live art.
It was free to enter, people brought there own drinks, and stayed in the gallery till about ten o’ clock, after which they’d make a pilgrimage to Black Bo’s bar down the road.
The Apostolic Club was an amazing week.
The photographs had each of the writers posed in a unique way.
One was pictured up a tree; another with a box over his head, with the box featuring pasted-on images of himself; another merely leaning against the wall of the St James Centre.
The performances were equally eclectic if slightly chaotic, and by the end of the week I was both exhausted and elated.
The point of this reminiscence is two-fold.
Firstly, that exhibition and week of events was run on a shoe-string.
If I’m honest, it was actually run off mine and other people’s dole cheques
One thing that never happened that week was that at no point did anybody come up and ask me to fill in a form to ask permission to do all this.
Nor did anyone ask me to pay a fee – not even a minimum fee of fifty pounds – to do so.
If they had, it’s doubtful whether all the people in the room could have come up with such a sum.
Like me, most people were on the dole, and fifty quid was a lot of money then, just as, to some people, it’s a lot of money now.
The second point of this story is what might have been missed if a fifty pound licence had prevented The Apostolic Club from happening.
Because a couple of years later, five of the writers whose photographs appeared on the walls of Out of the Blue – which itself moved onto bigger things, first with the original Bongo Club in New Street, then with the Drill Hall on Dalmeny Street – five of the writers appeared on the cover of the New Yorker magazine.
One of them – Alan Warner – is currently Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University.
Another – Irvine Welsh – had already written Trainspotting.
All of these put Edinburgh on a world literary map in a way that hadn’t been done since the Enlightenment.
This wasn’t because of the free events they took part in, but those events certainly helped them hone their craft.
They also set the tone for the next generation of writers.
Two years ago, I was approached by Nick Barley, the director of Edinburgh International Book Festival.
It was shortly after the sad death of a writer called Paul Reekie, who’d been one of the writers who’d appeared on the cover of the New Yorker, and Nick asked about the possibility of doing some kind of tribute event to Paul.
Nick wanted to put on a series of free events at the Book Festival, and get all the local literary scene in to perform in a cabaret style environment.
Some of us helped put on a night at the Book Festival called Love’s Rebellious Joy, after a song that Paul wrote.
The night was packed out, and I suspect it’s probably the only Book Festival event ever that’s ended with the audience singing Hibs songs.
Nick Barley recently spoke about this night to the Guardian newspaper, using it as an example of how Edinburgh Book Festival was reaching out to people who lived in the city.
This was all true, but without the free nights at the Antiquary, without Rebel Inc and those nights at Out of the Blue, it’s doubtful a night like that at the Book Festival could have happened in quite the same way.
But let’s go back even further.
Let’s go back to the early 1960s, when a young American G.I. was posted to Edinburgh, where he fell in love with the city so much that he decided to open a bookshop.
The bookshop he opened was roughly I think on the site of where Edinburgh University’s Informatics Centre now stands, proudly heralding the future in its own exciting way.
The shop was unique because it was the first paperback bookshop in Britain, making literature more readily accessible to all.
It was also unique, because its proprietor, who by now had left the army and fallen in with a crowd of artists, writers and performers, began having readings in his shop – not just of poetry and literature, but of plays as well.
These just weren’t any plays, but were the sort of experimental absurdist plays which at the time you could only see in Europe.
Those events arguably opened up Edinburgh’s nascent artistic community to an entire new world that had hitherto been hidden away.
Again, no-one asked for a licence.
As for health and safety, as far as I’m aware, the only casualty came when several ladies from the Salvation Army turned up at the shop where they took several copies of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover and set fire to them outside.
When Jim Haynes – who was that soldier turned book-seller – met Richard Demarco – Edinburgh’s entire artistic history was turned upside down via the Traverse Theatre – which grew directly out of the Paperback Bookshop – the Demarco Gallery and the international literary conferences they organised.
The Traverse, Haynes and Demarco are all internationally renowned now – and rightly so – but here we are – a Unesco City of Literature – and after April 1st we might not even be able to have a free reading in a book shop without having to pay and plan for it months in advance.
If that had been the case in 1960, I suspect Jim Haynes would’ve stayed in the army and found another city to set up shop in, and who could blame him.
Walking up to the City Chambers today, my route took me up from Waverley Station – up the Scotsman Steps and up past the National Museum of Scotland.
Both of these places have undergone a transformation of late.
If I could go on a slightly wyndy route for a minute, let’s look at the recently re-opened National Museum.
It’s a beautiful renovation of an already beautiful space, and it’s quite rightly just been announced that since it reopened its had the highest attendance figures of any similar institution outside London.
Now, that’s quite a feat.
One of the main attractions of the National Museum since it reopened is Museum Late.
Museum Late, as the name hints at, is a monthly Friday night shindig, at which members of the public come into the Museum after hours.
Once in the Museum, they can enjoy looking at the exhibits accompanied by a glass of wine, a couple of bands, some DJs, and – so I’m told – the novelty of being able to touch real life lizards and other wild animals.
Yes, it’s a pay-in event.
And, yes, I have no doubt that it’s licenced to the hilt, but, as it’s the National Museum, one presumes they can afford this.
Museum Late sounds like a wonderful event, but again, it’s not a new idea.
Most weekends in Edinburgh for at least the last decade, pretty much every small-scale artist-run space in town has something similar going on, with art, music and drink making for an equally exciting social hub.
The only differences are in what are somewhat appositely named Private Views is that these are – a) free to enter, – b) don’t charge for the drink, – and c) have no wild animals.
If these small-scale spaces are forced to apply and pay for licences, without the resources which the National Museum of Scotland has, the energy and the will might not be there anymore to put on these small-scale events.
Now – moving up the road from the National Museum of Scotland – the steps officially called the Scotsman Steps have recently been transformed into something else again.
As I’m sure this committee is already aware, when Turner Prize winning artist Martin Creed was commissioned to effectively rebuild these steps with a hundred and four different types of marble, eyebrows were raised.
The end result, however – which may well be known forever after as Martin Creed’s Steps – is a staggering example of how art and the environment can co-exist.
Here, after all, is a public thoroughfare that is used every day by the citizens of Edinburgh, but which is also a work of art in what is effectively a permanent exhibition, and which – to some – might also be quite entertaining.
You can go up, you can go down, you can go back up again, all the while taking in the different types of marble on show.
But how – under the new legislation – would we define Martin Creed’s Steps?
It’s a public thoroughfare, but it’s also an artspace showing work for free in exactly the same way as a cafe or one of the small artspaces might show work – albeit in a temporary fashion – and which are branded by this legislation as places of public entertainment.
So what do we do?
Do we get the people who commissioned Martin Creed’s Steps to pay a licence?
Given that this would mean asking the Fruitmarket Gallery, Creative Scotland, the Scottish Government and City of Edinburgh Council itself to pay a licence fee – how would that work?
Or do we just ask the citizens of Edinburgh who walk up and down Martin Creed’s Steps whether they think they’re walking through – a) – a public thoroughfare, – b) – a work of art in an exhibition, – or – c) – a place of public entertainment – and then charge them a fee depending on whether they answer A, B, or C ?
As absurd and ridiculous as this sounds – as absurd, perhaps, as one of the plays that were read in Jim Haynes’ Paperback Bookshop – if you take this legislation on public entertainment licences to its logical limit, that’s where it ends.
Just the other day in the Highlands, a community group was informed by Highlands and Islands Council that they would be charged a three-figure sum for an Easter egg hunt and bonnet-making competition…
Now, Highlands and Islands have since realised the error of their ways, with one councillor – perhaps with egg on his face – declaring that – and I quote – ‘We are not going to be charging 435 pounds for a bouncy castle.’
But – it happened, and – unless the changes to the legislation are acted on – could easily happen again.
I was hoping today that one of the people sitting in the public gallery would be an artist called Jenny Soep.
Unfortunately Jenny can’t be here today due to other commitments, but if she had, I was hoping she was going to draw the proceedings of this meeting.
Jenny Soep’s main body of work comes via an initiative she calls Drawing The Experience.
For Drawing The Experience, Jenny sits discreetly at a gig or a performance or an event of description, and does exactly that.
She draws what’s going on, as it happens.
The results of Jenny Soep’s work have been exhibited in shops, cafes, public libraries and art spaces all over the world – sometimes in the very space she drew them.
Now, if Jenny had been here this morning, drawing the experience of this meeting, that would effectively be turning this meeting of City of Edinburgh Council’s Regulatory Committee both into a piece of performance it arguably is anyway – and into a living artwork and piece of entertainment.
If Jenny Soep had been here, would this Committee have then had to apply for a public entertainment licence six months ago from today?
I’m sure you take my point.
Back in the 1980s, I used to sit on a body called Edinburgh District Arts Council.
That was a body run by what I think was then Edinburgh District Council.
The function of Edinburgh District Arts Council – or EDAC as it became known – was to provide small grants to small-scale and community-based arts group.
At that time, that sector – if we wish to define it thus – was thriving.
The annual Spring Fling arts festival – designed to showcase work across all the arts by Edinburgh-based talent – took place at the Assembly Rooms and community venues and spaces across the city.
Throughout 1986, the Commonwealth Arts Festival – run alongside the Commonwealth Games, hosted in Edinburgh that year – produced a plethora of free events, from concerts in Princes Street Gardens most weekends, to cabaret nights in the Assembly Rooms to readings in libraries to exhibitions.
They were exciting times, and – personally speaking – provided me with much of my early artistic education.
Spring Fling and EDAC are long gone now.
As is usually the case, the money ran out, and here we are.
But that lack of money doesn’t stop people having ideas.
If anything, it makes them have more.
Because – when people haven’t got any money, the only thing they can do is make their own entertainment.
Again, this isn’t a new idea.
That’s how every culture began, from cave drawings onwards.
And that’s exactly what the artists behind this campaign against the public entertainment licence changes are doing.
For once – you might say – artists aren’t asking for any money here, because they know there isn’t any.
They’re asking that their work is allowed to exist without having to fork out money they haven’t got.
With that in mind I trust the Committee will ensure that common sense prevails, and that, in this Year of Creative Scotland, in this Unesco City of Literature, art of all kinds and at every level is allowed to flourish.”
At 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: