Mudcat Café message #898141 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #56271   Message #898141
Posted By: The Shambles
25-Feb-03 - 07:20 AM
Thread Name: PEL's: News Blackout!
Subject: RE: PEL's: News Blackout!
Western Morning News 25 February 2003.

The region's strength of feeling against the Licensing Bill, which threatens effectively to outlaw live music in our pubs by imposing new and draconian regulations on live entertainment, should make the government and, in particular, Minister for Culture Kim Howells, sit up and listen very attentively. By yesterday, we had received 1,466 signatures on 'Don't Kill Our Live Music' petitions and 3,478 on the campaign forms printed in these pages.

Such a response does not reflect the views of 5,000 dedicated pub-goers, folk-music fans and participators in bibulous singalongs, any more than, for example, all those who defended foxhunting counted every spare moment lost which was not spent in the chase. On the contrary, many of those who have felt compelled to state their objection to the Bill wish to record only their antipathy to an apparently unceasing trend for government to interfere in every aspect of our lives, and particularly in our enjoyment, and their sorrow at seeing yet another vital aspect of our culture under threat.

They - and we - have no wish to see safety prejudiced by overcrowding, over-excitement and inadequate access or egress, but there are adequate regulations already in place to ensure that crowds remain, within limits, orderly, and that fire-regulations, for example, are adhered to.

Last week's horrific inferno on Rhode Island, caused, it seems, by overcrowding, confinement and the use of powerful pyrotechnics indoors, is a world away from the familiar British scene of a well-lit, well-supervised, spacious public bar, dotted with tables to prevent excessive congestion, in which two or three entertainers regale drinkers with gentle or amusing songs and occasional jokes.

Putative risk, and the scope for impertinent legislation founded upon such risk, are almost infinite. Actual risk, however, although always hard to estimate, must surely be demonstrated before livelihoods and age-old customs are destroyed.

The legislators, of course, claim that noise-pollution is their principal concern, but, again, there is more than sufficient law to prevent such a nuisance beyond the walls of the pub itself, and, within the premises, punters will vote with their feet. It is a very small minority of pub-goers which wishes to be assailed by raucous rap or heavy metal whilst enjoying their pint of best, and most of these would surely prefer the ambience of the rave - often illegal and unregulated - to that of the King's Arms or the Bull and Bush.

The restrictive, standardising consequences of globalisation and mass-production were never better or earlier demonstrated than in the performing arts. Throughout history, people have gathered to tell tales and to sing the songs which at once express and identify their tribes and pass the lessons and experiences of the past to the present generation. Throughout recorded history, too, people have not been content to rely upon communal renditions of partially remembered and inexpertly performed texts and songs, but have engaged expert storytellers and minstrels to pluck at their heartstrings or convey history and news. Each such performer, as all live performers must. adapted the remembered text to the dialect, mood and terms of reference of a particular audience.

Once, then, such a storyteller or minstrel was a valued, even venerated, star in his or her community. He or she was a focal point, and, in lives often of drudgery, the person trusted to inspire joy, forgetfulness, nostalgia or frenzy. Until well into the nineteenth century, musicians in particular still enjoyed that status. Then came the phonograph and, soon afterward, the radio.

The local fiddler or singer whose ability had once set him as far above the common run as an angel above an earthworm was now compared with Caruso or with Jolson, with Heifetz or with Reinhardt, and was found wanting. The highly skilled few might find jobs in orchestras. The remainder were all but redundant, save for the teachers, the buskers and the brave few who formed bands and toured public places of entertainment.

Yet from this last group have come whole musical styles - jazz and blues, swing and folk, rock and roll and punk - and most of their greatest exponents. Today's one-off, slick and forgettable hits may be created 'by numbers' in the studio with high-tech wizardry, but all our finest innovators and performers - and the same, of course, is true of comedy - served their apprenticeship by performing gigs before unpredictable live audiences.

Despite these pressures, those unpredictable audiences and those innovative performers have persisted. What the global market cannot achieve, however, legislation, as so often, yet may. If this Bill is allowed to become law, not only will the nature of a good night out be needlessly changed, a whole layer in the texture of our culture be removed and many honest entertainers put out of business, but one of the most remunerative, prestigious and populist of British arts and crafts will be denied its life-blood. Keep the protests coming in.