Mudcat Café message #894336 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #56799   Message #894336
Posted By: The Shambles
20-Feb-03 - 11:53 AM
Thread Name: PEL: Billy Bragg BBC1 Monday nite
Subject: RE: PEL: Billy Bragg BBC1 Monday nite
[Thanks to Trevor Gilson, for sending me the tape.]

Inside Out BBC South TV. 17 February 2003

Chris Packham The group behind me are mummers and they are putting on a traditional play that has its roots in our pagan history. But if a new Act of Parliament goes through, its performance in a pub, like this could be severely threatened, and that has really irked musician Billy Bragg.

Billy Bragg. These are my friends Little Dixie, and what they doing, the three of them playing in this bar, is currently illegal without a [Public Entertainment] Licence.

BB Ah, now there is two of them. What they are doing is legal without the landlord of the pub having to apply for an entertainment licence.

BB And then there was one. This presently is legal without an entertainment licence, but under forthcoming Government legislation, even one person playing in a bar, without a Public Entertainment Licence will be illegal.

BB Confused? Well so is everyone. The law was silly enough before, a maximum of two musicians were allowed to play in an ordinary pub that is a pub without an entertainment Licence. But a government Bill, currently going through parliament could produce an even sillier law.

BB No one will be able to get up and sing in a pub or strum a guitar unless there is a licence. The Government's justification? One person with an amplifier can make as much noise as several. Here in West Dorset we think that is just more 'red tape'.

? Music is something we want to try to bring into the community more and more and local bands and supporting local bands is what we would like to do. It doesn't appear that the legislation allows that to happen.

BB When I first started out in this business I played a lot of gigs in pubs like this. It was basically a case of trying to convince the landlord let us play on a quiet night often for nothing. If the proposed Licensing Bill becomes law, it will make it much more difficult for young people to have the opportunity to perform in public. There is only so much you can learn by standing in front of a mirror with a tennis racket, eventually you will have to get out there and find out whether or not you really can cut-it. I don't want all our kids to have to go to stage-school and through 'Pop Idol' in order to get on 'Top Of the Pops'.   

BB Now you may not be a fan of live music, or a musician yourself, you may think what has this got to do with me? Why should I be bothered about this law?

BB Well the scope of it is so wide that it covers all kinds of public performance. Acting, singing, dancing, carolling, organ recitals, everything. Here in West Dorset, we have our community traditions under threat.

BB This is Symondsbury, near Bridport, home to a tradition that stretches back to the time of Thomas Hardy. For centuries the mummers have been performing in pubs, community halls, even village car parks. But under the new law, if they perform and haven't checked first if the venue has a licence, they could be breaking the law.

Our play goes back to the dark ages, prior to the Norman conquest, and its been going on continuously since then with nobody bothering it but this appears to be the type of thing that's going to bring it to its knees.

BB And the money that you raise from doing it, where does that go?

I'd better keep quiet on that one. [Laughs] The money raised is for expenses. {Laughs]

BB you realise that any form of remuneration falls within the remit of the new legislation, so this will also be illegal.

Well. I just hope our accountant and the Chancellor of the Exchequer isn't watching, this programme.

BB They are laughing now but this legislation could be the end for the Symondsbury mummers.

BB This is our village church. Surely we can find sanctuary from the bureaucrats in here? Well we would be wrong. The new law was designed to include churches. In the future like organ recitals and village festivals, would have to be licensed. Only religious services would be exempt.

BB Well, with the legislation as it stands at the moment, any event that is open to the public will require a performance licence, You'll need the Fire Brigade and the health and safety inspectors inhere. Would that sort of thing, mitigate against holding public events in the church?

Certainly it would. At the minimum it would be a nuisance but we have to comply with so many rules and regulation at the moment that I don't think we would welcome another one. It's rather odd that we can have a religious service packed to the doors, with no licence. no fee but the possibility of having a half filled church for a concert, paying a fee and having to be pretty closely scrutinised.

BB So finally we come to the centre of our community life, the village hall. Let's see what the new Licensing Bill will affect what goes on in here.

BB They are rehearsing for the annual village 'panto'. This year it's 'Hickory-Dickory-Dock. Under the new rule the hall will have to have a temporary events licence. But they are only allowed a maximum of five a year and each one lasts for only three days. Well, who thought that one up? The 'panto' alone goes on for a week!

BB The future is not looking good. More rules and more costs.

The fact is we only break even now and unless we are going to come after and find someone who is going to provide the money, we will not be able to run the pantomime.

BB that would be a great shame.

Well since we have been going since 1980, it would be a terrible shame. It provides, its not just the cast and the people surrounding the performance, it is all the people in the village, who help us in so many ways. It's a vital thing for village life, to keep the whole thing going.

BB So we are finishing of here with a quick pint in the village pub, and we are going to sing Happy Birthday to Sandra here whose birthday it is. [singing}

Landlord. Just a second, [singing stops] I'm not sure if I have got a licence for this. let me just go and check..

BB The landlord is going to ring the Ministry of Culture. Incidentally, we did ask the minister responsible to come to Dorset to talk to us but sadly he was too busy.

Landlord. I have just spoken to the Ministry of Culture and they have said, and I quote. "We have been able to confirm with ministerial guidance that spontaneous singing of Happy Birthday is not needed to be licensable". So carry on {singing resumes].

*BB since we began making this programme, there has been some movement by the Government. They have decided to exempt churches, altogether. Well as for village hall, they are still going to have to be licensed, but the Governments says there are going to wave the fees. But still we have heard no word whatsoever about what's going to happen about performance in public places.*

CP I think that is about the first time I have ever paid to hear you play.

BB Oh - thanks

CP I don't know whether it's a good or a bad thing but it does say a bit about you. But they're tough times then?

BB Yes they are tough times but if this legislation becomes law this situation is going to be much worse, because this is going to be the only place where young people are going to be able to get up and play.

CP Thanks for your help.