The Live Music Forum



30th June - BBC Radio 4 The Today Programme

After receiving a "very lively" response to a feature broadcast the previous day, the Today Programme followed up with a piece airing the views of small venue proprietors who were having considerable difficulties in complying with demands imposed by the new system.

Purnell's claims about it being 'much, much easier' and just a tick-box to put on live music are given short shrift. One club operator said Purnell was 'talking garbage'.

Hamish Birchall


Real Audio recording of the feature

TRANSCRIPT follows (note: we cannot guarantee interviewee names are correctly spelt.

BBC RADIO 4 'TODAY' Two in a Bar follow-up
Thursday 30 June 2005, 8.42-8.47am approx.
JAMES NAUGHTIE: It's now 17 minutes to 9. We've had a very lively response from you to a statement made by James Purnell, who's the minister responsible for implementing the new licensing laws. We revealed on the programme yesterday that the new Licensing Act, which is partly designed to allow 24-hour drinking, is causing a headache for many pubs and clubs, even some church halls and village halls, because all the venues that want to have musicians performing there live will need a licence. Now, Mr Purnell, the minister, told us that once licensees have 'ticked the box' they will never have to apply for a licence again. The system, he said, was 'much easier' than the old system. Well, Polly Billington's been looking through some of the messages that provoked.

POLLY BILLINGTON: I met Roy Green at the former scout hut in Surrey that he and other villagers have turned into a social club for families in Hersham.

ROY GREEN: We have the main hall, we have a built-in bar which we built ourselves. We have a small kitchen, and then at the back of the hall we have a rear enclosed garden with children's play equipment.

[Sound of cans being stacked]

POLLY BILLINGTON: As his wife filled the fridge in the bar, Roy went through the form he's been putting off filling in, that he must submit by August the 6th if the club is to be able to continue to serve drinks and have live music.

ROY GREEN: So many different things they want to know as what we're doing about, er, prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, protection of children, and the prevention of public nuisance. Um, we have to give details down for live music, er.. days of the week when it's going to start and finish. Now, generally this is OK if you are in a large pub premises, but we run a small family club. And we really do find it's a lot to contend with.

POLLY BILLINGTON: The minister in charge of the Licensing Act, James Purnell, admitted to this programme there are issues setting up the new system.

JAMES PURNEL [clip from yesterday's programme - 29 June 2005]: As long as they tick that box it's going to be much, much easier for them to put on live music than it is now. They never have to apply for a licence again, and I think that's.... you know there is definitely a transition issue people filling these forms out. I realise that there are a few hours work and it is, you know, it is an issue but the light at the end of that tunnel is they will have a licence that is much more flexible.

POLLY BILLINGTON: But that doesn't wash with Roy Bettles, the secretary of a working man's club.

ACTOR READING ROY BETTLES' EMAIL: Your contributor is talking garbage. To quote 'tick the box': I have to fill in a 12-page form, get architects' drawings of the club, certified copies of our existing liquor licence, and send these to 8 different authorities at a cost, so far, exceeding £1,200.

POLLY BILLINGTON: And Roy Green fears the regulation will threaten the future of live music.

ROY GREEN: As I say, it does provide an opportunity for people to start off here...

[clip of Sham 69]

ROY GREEN continues: At one stage we had Sham 69, many years ago, using these premises for rehearsing in - and they went on to better things, I understand.

[more Sham 69]

POLLY BILLINGTON: It's extraordinary what can come out of quiet leafy corners of Surrey, isn't it? [Sham 69 fades] Live music will need special approval, but pubs showing sports events on big TV screens won't. That annoys many, like Andrew Bazely who emailed the programme:

ACTOR READING ANDREW BAZELY'S EMAIL: I'm one of those musicians whose income and ability to entertain people will be seriously affected simply because of the conditions indiscriminately applied to all pubs. I wonder whether those pubs who televise big football games will have to pay for improvements to their premises. I find it extraordinary that the minister finds the provision of the television in pubs so nice and cosy. I've so often seen this the catalyst for drunkeness, abusive shouting and violence.

POLLY BILLINGTON: James Purnell says the new law means there are more options to deal with rowdy pubs like that. But Hamish Birchall disagrees. He lobbied the government on behalf of the Musicians' Union when the Bill was going through Parliament.

HAMISH BIRCHALL: For many years local authorities have had the power to confiscate noisy equipment immediately. They can issue anticipatory noise abatement notices, or reactive noise abatement notices. And, I think since 2001, under separate legislation, the police have had the power to close rowdy pubs immediately for up to 24 hours.

EDWARD STOURTON: That report from Polly Billington.. The time now....