From the Northampton online Chronicle today, Wed 18 March
'A Northamptonshire school had to scrap its big musical production
after its head was told he could face a £20,000 fine and possible
imprisonment if it went ahead. David Howell, the head of Danetre
School in Daventry, was warned he would be liable if the We Will Rock
You show, based on the music of supergroup Queen, went ahead against the
advice of the district's licensing officers.'
The story was also covered on BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast yesterday, 17
Move the time-slider to 1 hour 55 mins into the programme.
According to the Northampton Chronicle, Ann Carter, chairman of the Daventry
District Council's licensing committee, has resigned in protest: "The
council was just administering the law and didn't have a choice in the
way it dealt with this,' she said. 'We are now getting to the stage where
people are having to apply to host cheese and wine evenings in their own
homes, because they will be selling alcohol for money. The [Temporary
Event Notice] form is five pages long and it is in danger of killing off
the age of fundraising'.
Unsurprisingly, the headteacher's understanding of the the Licensing Act
2003, at least as reported, was incomplete. Even if there had been no
charge for admission, a school concert open to friends and family is likely
to count as public and therefore licensable.
DCMS Licensing Guidance on this point is itself inadequate and somewhat
'Entertainment at a private event to which the public are not admitted
becomes regulated entertainment and therefore licensable, only if it is
provided for consideration and with a view to profit. So, for instance,
a charge made to people attending a private event to cover the costs of
the entertainment, and for no other purpose, would not make the entertainment
licensable. The fact that a profit might inadvertently be made would be
irrelevant as long as there had not been an intention to make a profit.'
[Guidance Issued under s182 of the Licensing Act 2003, p28, para 3.16]
This implies that the distinction between public and private events is
clear-cut. But the wording of the Act is open-ended, and suggests that
many events with some form of restricted entry will nonetheless count
as public events:
'The first condition [of two main conditions] is that the entertainment
is, or entertainment facilities are, provided (a) to any extent for members
of the public or a section of the public...'
Licensing Act 2003, Schedule 1, Part 1, para 1(2)(a).
This effectively broadened the meaning of 'public' that had applied under
the old licensing regime, and was why, in April 2006, the BBC had temporarily
to cancel live audience recordings of Top of the Pops. The local council,
Hammersmith & Fulham, insisted that under the new regime even limiting
admission to free ticket holders counted as 'public' entertainment. For
the first time, an entertainment licence was required for the Top of the
Pops studio. See this contemporary report from The Independent: