Mudcat Café message #833370 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #53667   Message #833370
Posted By: The Shambles
23-Nov-02 - 10:08 AM
Thread Name: PELs UK Music needs your HELP
Subject: RE: PELs UK Music needs your HELP
Daily Telegraph

Churches must pay fees for fund-raising events
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
(Filed: 23/11/2002)

Cathedrals and churches face charges of thousands of pounds for staging concerts or even Nativity plays.
Church leaders fear that new legislation, introduced in last week's Queen's Speech, will prove so onerous that parishes will have to cancel vital fund-raising events.

Although the singing of hymns and carols is exempt, performances requiring an entertainment licence could include children's plays, a fete featuring a band or a disco in the community hall.

Events such as the annual Three Choirs festival in West Country cathedrals or classical concerts in Westminster Abbey could be hit by enormous bills.

Licences will be issued by town halls rather than magistrates under the proposals and could cost from hundreds of pounds a year to more than 15,000. At the moment, churches outside London are exempt from the need for a licence, while in London they are not required to pay.

Under the Government's proposed changes, churches used for more than five public performances a year will have to pay. Hard-up parishes may also have to pay for professional advice before making time-consuming applications.

The Ministry of Culture said the regulations were designed to ensure public safety, so there was no reason why churches or other places of worship should not be treated differently from secular venues.

Churches would be able to stage music or plays or show films if they were "for the purposes of, or incidental to, a religious meeting or service", but not otherwise. A Church spokesman said: "If these buildings are safe for public worship, surely they must be safe for public performances? Where is the evidence that the current system is failing?"

The Archbishops' Council, the Church of England's managing body, expressed alarm about the impact of the legislation, which is due to have its second reading in Parliament next week. In a letter to senior churchmen, it said: "If the new regulation is too onerous, it seems likely that parishes would either not obtain a licence, running the risk of prosecution, or would be deterred from hosting the event."

Canon Derek Stiff, the rector of Lavenham, Suffolk, said that his historic church cost 16,000 a week to run. This year the parish had organised 14 public events, including organ recitals and choral performances, each of which made less than 200. He said: "Audiences in this area have to be hard won and it will not be feasible to pass on fees in increased admission prices."