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Written by on 13/06/2012

For several weeks we at Dunoon Community Radio have, like many other interested parties, been very worried about the new Entertainment licence implemented by Argyll & Bute. Out of respect for the recent Council elections we have not publicly aired our views. We now ask that the council reciprocate and address this situation as soon as possible

The implementation of hefty fees to obtain a Public Entertainment Licence for exhibitions and events—including those to be held free of charge—is practically extortion and will cripple grassroots art and culture in Dunoon and Cowal as well as Towns and Cities throughout Scotland.

Small, independent venues such as coffee shops who support artists and performers by hosting free events will not be able to sustain the fees announced.

Argyll and Bute Council introduced this new licence on 1st April the cost of which…………………….

they have implied is to cover the cost of administration has already led to the postponement and re-thinking of several entertainment events and caused  a “minor” setback to a  recent much publicised Scottish Council of Jewish Communities Celebration of Jewish Music as part of the Being Jewish In Scotland project.

Featuring Glasgow’s newest Klezmer Band Kasha-Malasha this event was to be held at the local Sandbank Village Hall. On realisation that to play music an absent Entertainment Licence was required a novel idea of holding the reception and meal in the Village Hall and then for the assembled company to vacate the premises and drive across town to The Braes who had kindly offered to host the music part of the event.

It seems that even with this “minor” set back a good time was had by all but we here at DCR 97.4fm have yet to be convinced that this approach to holding fund raising events and paying our way may not be the way forward.

All Scottish councils are being urged in a national campaign to urgently review and if not already done so scrap the proposed fees, particularly those to be imposed on free events and on temporarily licensing small venues.

This campaign and subsequent on going petition was in response to the announcement that from 1 April 2012, a licence will be required in Scotland to hold free events such as exhibitions and performances. Previously a licence was only required for events charging admission.

The petition states that while a understanding  that legislation is necessary for larger events, the current wording of the bill could potentially damage a thriving infrastructure of grassroots events in all art forms as well as small-to-medium scale cultural organisations.

These include pop-up exhibitions in temporary spaces, music gigs in record shops, galleries and flats, free exhibitions or film screenings in publicly-funded arts centres, small-scale independently promoted music events, literary readings and storytelling events in libraries, folk music sessions and other spontaneous and ad hoc artistic activities across the entire country. The legislation may also potentially impact on community organisations, clubs and activity groups, and student and charity event organisers.

Based on previous years, the application fee for a Public Entertainment Licence ranges from £120 to £7500. It also requires several months’ notice to the Council and 21 days of public notice via signage posted on location. While many groups and organisations such as Dunoon Community Radio simply do not and will not have the practical resources to undertake such weighty administration, at an artistic level, such a lengthy process would potentially undermine the spontaneity and flexibility of artists working in temporary spaces.

Scotland’s arts and entertainment communities are currently thriving, with success stories at every turn.

In Dunoon we are blessed with having many entertainment events throughout the year, many have been entertaining us on an annual basis for many years.

The Cowal Music Club, Cowal Games, Cowalfest and this year we have the Royal National Mod along with the Feis, all these events attract impromptu entertainment which is enjoyed by many but now at risk

In Glasgow, bands such as Franz Ferdinand, and artists including Turner Prize winners Richard Wright and Martin Boyce, have all come up through a vibrant grassroots scene. Glasgow School of Art was recently awarded a major grant by The Arts and Humanities Research Council to study the phenomenon known as the “Glasgow Miracle”.

In Edinburgh, novelist Irvine Welsh first came to prominence in the mid 1990s via a thriving spoken-word scene led by those behind litzine Rebel Inc, which became an international phenomenon. Angus Farquhar’s NVA Organisation is currently preparing Speed of Light, a major outdoor project for Edinburgh International Festival and the London 2012 Olympics.

All of these independent grassroots initiatives have helped put Scotland on the map artistically, and have fed into the arts infrastructure at both a national and international level.

If all public events are required to apply for a license regardless of size or entry charge, freedoms of expression and assembly will also be compromised.

Scotland has a proud tradition of producing art in all forms out with the major institutions that date back to the early days of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The changes to Public Entertainment Licensing would compromise both its history and its future, and cannot be enforced as they stand.

The petition we ask you to support ask:

1.  That all 32 of Scotland’s local authorities clarify their position on the new legislation, and make sensible exemptions for all free to enter events, plus those attended by 200 hundred people or less.

2.  That the Scottish Government issue proper guidance to all Scottish councils to ensure that all not-for-profit arts events attended by 200 people or less can operate free of unnecessary legislation, and consider repealing the amendments should they prove unworkable.

3.  That comparative legislation from Westminster be taken in to consideration. Westminster takes a more enlightened view on licensing events in England and Wales, and Holyrood should look to this for guidance when redrafting, revising or constituting new legislation.

If all 32 local authorities along with the Scottish Government take urgent action on this, the next generation of Scotland’s artists will be allowed to thrive, thus ensuring Scotland’s reputation for creative innovation at every level.

The City Of Edinburgh Council have recently released the following information

From 1st April 2012 licensing requirements for Public Entertainment events changed. Previously there was no need to have a license for Public Entertainment events if the event was free but that changed as a result of an amendment to legislation.

The Public Entertainment Resolution (a statement from the Council of its intentions and required by law)  has been changed

The following small scale, free to enter public events do not require a licence and can go ahead without a licence or fee:-

premises used for functions held by charitable, religious, youth,

sporting, community, political or similar organisations;

premises used for exhibitions of art work;

premises where live music is performed, but incidental to the main purpose of the premises (e.g occasional gigs in shop premises, etc)

premises used for oral recitals including poetry reading and story telling

“Small scale” is defined as capacity of 500 or less.  There may still be a licensing requirement for other free entry events and for larger scale free entry events (but at a reduced application fee.