Mudcat Café message #889781 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54636   Message #889781
Posted By: ET
13-Feb-03 - 05:01 PM
Thread Name: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
Subject: RE: Sign a E Petition to 10 Downing St PELs
Having ceased to get a response to e-mails I have now tried snail mail to Howells - thus (sorry if its a bit wordy)

Attention of Dr Kim Howells.

An open, from the heart letter written as an amateur musician, not a lawyer.


Let me be constructive about music issues.   I work in the law and have done so all my working life (38 years now).

I am a law abiding citizen and my hobbies are not considered by me, or anyone I know, to be dangerous or offensive. I know you have said that the maximum penalty would be reserved by Magistrates to those who endanger health and safety. From my background I understand this well, but maximum penalties, and statutes with only one penalty, are also indicative of Parliaments view of the seriousness of offences. Even if I am to be accused only of playing a musical instrument in an unlicensed premises I have no wish to have to exercise a defence of due diligence, since prosecution alone would be disastrous in my employment, let alone conviction.

I would wish to explain the concern of myself, the thirty or forty musicians I know well and the thousands who express themselves through a musicians web site.

My hobby is music. I am not particularly good, indeed most of my friends play better but nonetheless I have a passion for playing. I play only acoustic instruments. I play mainly in a local pub, which has a PEL. The landlord has spent thousands on compliance with local authority requirements about crash bars, toilets etc. He has done this because he can afford it, has a passion for music and encourages players. He says that since we play for our own amusement in the main, and also for his pleasure, that the locals neither mind nor care, it adds nothing to his profits.

Playing at other pubs, with PELs, I find that when we "folkies" are playing at our best, sounds that to me are a delight, nonetheless many patrons do not even look our way, just walk in and to the bar.   This is because they are not disturbed by us, not offended, and don't care. Often we play in pubs in one small room, and in adjoining rooms there may be darts matches, pool or juke boxes. The only disturbance is to us from juke boxes. In 20 years playing I have never known a complaint from others in the pub. Occasionally enthusiastic applause, mainly indifference.

If a landlord thought we were putting off others and reducing his trade it would not be lack of a licence that ended our playing, it would be his decision.

I also play in folk festivals. They are often sponsored heavily by Local Authorities, who, on festival week, follow Home Office Guidelines and do not enforce the two in a bar rule, because they want to and do, attract many tourists to their town. Some authorities follow this philosophy throughout the year, others enforce the two in a bar rule with a rod of iron and then waive it for festival weeks. They are not particularly popular as you may imagine.


Your bill has cause tremendous anxiety for amateur musicians. We hoped the hated 2 in a bar rule, which you agree is a nonsense, would go. But not to be replaced with a none in a bar rule. We all know that local authorities, well meaning or otherwise, follow the dictates of their insurers and take no risks.   They assume all music is the same, all audiences are the same, with a potential for trouble, overcrowding etc. This is simply not so.

I noted that you said on the radio the other night you had never heard of a complaint of noise or trouble from acoustic music. I neither. Its not that such music is bland, it can be passionate, but it needs listening to and most of those who are members of the "yob culture" would not be seen dead listening to such.

So why are we worried. It is not paranoia or misinformation by the musicians union I assure you. It is because of the provisions of the bill.   If a landlord "ticks your music box" and adds acoustic music only, what will that mean to people living in the vicinity? They will only see the word music and think of thumps in the late night, walls vibrating etc and object. And if they do, or even if the landlord thinks they will object, he will not tick this box.    Landlords know, and all those who play know, that even with 20 players in a session, playing a fast Irish Jig, with Irish Drums (bodrhans) it is virtually impossible for the sound to penetrate the walls. There is none of the hideous bass thumps of amplified recorded music.

And also, given the "light touch" notice of an event elsewhere, there are obvious problems. Premises are defined as "any place" and such notice relates to events attracting crowds of less than 500.   But such an event may be, at festival time, every day of the week in a market square. What sort of "premise" is that. And how big is the audience? How far out do you count?

And would not your bill kill of busking? They play usually in a street for money. Is that not a "place". How can they know the size of a crowd? Would a local authority give then occasional permissions? Even if the fee was "only 20" they would be unlikely to raise that sum in collections. I think you have said that they can enliven many a dark corner. Would these stay dark?

Consider also your "culture" hat.   I have just read the "Rough" Guide to Ireland. In it every place has described its "Traditional Music Pub". It talks of continental visitors coming year after year for the music.   I have several Irish friends. They say that there is never any trouble in music pubs there but there would be if the Irish Government tried to license it.


I cannot think where you get the idea that acoustic music is not necessarily free of noise. At its very worst it might annoy others in the pub, but rest assured any landlord would kick it out if he thought it was affecting trade.   I understand you like Jazz. I know of several pubs that put on Jazz nights. These are the noisiest of acoustic instruments (saxes etc) but they cannot be heard outside the premises.   But I know of many pubs in my local city that only play recorded music but it echoes down the street. I have even attended symphony concerts in a local City Hall, which, in quieter passages are interrupted by the thump thump from a pub 500 yards away playing amplified pre recorded music.


AM I BEING CONSTRUCTIVE?

I hope so. I ask you to consider the amendments in the Lords and adopt them. There would be absolutely no public noise or disturbance issues if acoustic music were exempt.

If I am leaving amplified life music exposed, then so be it. Impose conditions that protect the public from unlicensed and unsafe raves in fields, but allow properly organised and safety conscious amplified music to continue with proper licences.

If you do this you will remove anxiety from folk, jazz, buskers, players of medieval music, Salvation Army Players, organisers and players in folk and jazz festivals. The near 65,000 people who have signed the e-petition will be mightily relieved.

You will be able to meet some human rights issues with ease and concentrate on selling this legislation for what it will then become, a true de-regulation measure.