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Council Bans Morris Dancing

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The Shambles 11 Jul 01 - 01:15 PM
Les from Hull 11 Jul 01 - 01:22 PM
SINSULL 11 Jul 01 - 01:24 PM
Clinton Hammond 11 Jul 01 - 01:30 PM
GeorgeH 11 Jul 01 - 01:30 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Jul 01 - 01:32 PM
GeorgeH 11 Jul 01 - 01:36 PM
GUEST,Les/Manchesterex Gorton 11 Jul 01 - 02:57 PM
GUEST,Les/Manchester ex Gorton Morrismen 11 Jul 01 - 03:01 PM
bobby's girl 11 Jul 01 - 03:10 PM
The Shambles 11 Jul 01 - 03:49 PM
MMario 11 Jul 01 - 03:56 PM
The Shambles 11 Jul 01 - 04:06 PM
MMario 11 Jul 01 - 04:09 PM
The Shambles 11 Jul 01 - 04:11 PM
M.Ted 11 Jul 01 - 04:24 PM
The Shambles 11 Jul 01 - 04:34 PM
The Shambles 11 Jul 01 - 04:44 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Jul 01 - 05:28 PM
The Shambles 11 Jul 01 - 05:49 PM
The Shambles 11 Jul 01 - 05:55 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Jul 01 - 06:45 PM
Hollowfox 11 Jul 01 - 06:54 PM
The Shambles 11 Jul 01 - 07:03 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Jul 01 - 07:06 PM
Noreen 11 Jul 01 - 07:25 PM
Gareth 11 Jul 01 - 07:28 PM
M.Ted 11 Jul 01 - 07:34 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Jul 01 - 07:42 PM
GUEST 11 Jul 01 - 07:46 PM
Noreen 11 Jul 01 - 07:53 PM
Geoff the Duck 12 Jul 01 - 04:28 AM
pavane 12 Jul 01 - 05:18 AM
IanC 12 Jul 01 - 05:33 AM
pavane 12 Jul 01 - 06:38 AM
The Shambles 12 Jul 01 - 06:50 AM
GUEST,JohnB 12 Jul 01 - 12:39 PM
mousethief 12 Jul 01 - 01:43 PM
GUEST,Les/Manchester ex Gorton Morrismen 12 Jul 01 - 01:44 PM
Bert 12 Jul 01 - 02:37 PM
bobby's girl 12 Jul 01 - 04:39 PM
The Shambles 13 Jul 01 - 06:02 AM
Fiolar 13 Jul 01 - 06:40 AM
The Shambles 13 Jul 01 - 06:45 AM
The Shambles 13 Jul 01 - 08:36 AM
The Shambles 13 Jul 01 - 08:57 AM
GUEST,Les/Manchester ex Gorton Morrismen 13 Jul 01 - 01:51 PM
The Shambles 13 Jul 01 - 04:52 PM
M.Ted 13 Jul 01 - 10:27 PM
The Shambles 14 Jul 01 - 04:32 AM
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Subject: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 01:15 PM

Sorry for the slight overstatement of the title. Or for raising some peoples hopes....?

The following is a question from me and an answer from my Local Authority (Weymouth and Portland Borough Council) Licensing Officer.

A Morris side (comprising of more than two people) will produce a programme of dates where they will be performing during a summer season. When these include public houses, which may be visited more than once and they take place on land belonging to the public house, such as pub gardens or car parks, would these events require a Public Entertainment Licence?

Dear Mr Gall

MORRIS DANCING

Thank you for your letter dated 26th June 2001.

A performance of music and dancing taking place in the open and on private land i.e. land to which the public has access only with the permission of the owner, will be subject to SS3 and SS4 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (Schedule 1), which requires a licence to be granted by the Local Authority.

An exemption is available if the musical entertainment is incidental to an event such as a garden fete.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: Les from Hull
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 01:22 PM

If you write to the LA and ask their opinion, that's going to go to their Legal Section, and you're going to get some cagey legal eagle giving you chapter and verse. That doesn't mean that when the side start up in some pub car park there's going to be a SWAT squad waiting for them. Can you imagine the adverse publicity if a Local Authority used this legislation to stop a morris side dancing out?


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: SINSULL
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 01:24 PM

So if I show up on your doorstep with a boombox and a Chubby Checker CD, and we start doing the Twist together, we can be fined for other than creating a nuisance? We need a license to do this? What about if we do this at a garden fete?
Who stays up at night dreaming up this nonsense?


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 01:30 PM

'Can you imagine the adverse publicity if a Local Authority used this legislation to stop a morris side dancing out? '

HA! Can you imagine the praises that would be sung of said Local Authority!?!?!?!

LOL!!

*evil wink*


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: GeorgeH
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 01:30 PM

Hey, Shambles, didn't you know we live in a free country.

Just so long as we have their permission to be free, of course . .

G.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 01:32 PM

An exemption is available if the musical entertainment is incidental to an event such as a garden fete.

I'd argue that a Morris side dancing outsidee a pub is very definitely incidental to the main activity that is going on there, which is drinking and socialising.

Can't see it standing up,in court - but then nor would any of this stuff limiting live sessions and so forth.

How it works is that when publicans are lent on by the authorities they, quite understandably, they tend to cave in. And in most cases they are tenants or managers, and don't even have the authority not to cave in, if the conmpany doesn't want to fight it out.

Any one planning to go to the music session action in London on 19th July?


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: GeorgeH
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 01:36 PM

Can't see the morris side standing up in court at the end of their dancing out, either - for much the same reason . .

G.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: GUEST,Les/Manchesterex Gorton
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 02:57 PM


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: GUEST,Les/Manchester ex Gorton Morrismen
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 03:01 PM

Sorry I pressed the wrong key, so to speak. Damn good idea I say. The sooner its driven underground the better. It might regain some credibility and excitement. See the History of Gorton Morris, drinking and fighting in North Manchester in the late 19C I believe


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: bobby's girl
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 03:10 PM

I do hope Shambles is wrong about getting us banned, because Royal Manor Morris will be dancing outside his local pub on Saturday night to celebrate our 20th birthday. We will have several other sides with us and will be collecting for charity, so it should be a good night if any local mudcatters fancy a night at the Cove. Hopefully a birthday party might loosely come under the heading of a fete!


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 03:49 PM

First of it isn't me getting anyone is banned, it is our local authority having banned participatory sessions without PELs, that is classing Morris as a public entertainment and requiring a PEL.

The situation at The Cove is even more complicated.

The Cove now has a Public Entertainment Licence, so you might believe that Morris there would be covered by this? Not so.

Morris and any other outside entertainment, under conditions placed on this PEL, can only take place once in August as part of the regular yearly fund raising charity event. All other outside entertainment is not permitted at any other time. As follows.

6. The Licensees are permitted to hold one outdoor charity event each year, which must cease no later than 6.00pm.

Morris and any other entertainment can take place (as busking) on land close to the Cove, but not on private land belonging to the Cove.

Of course it is then subject to public complaint, as is all busking.

Wishing a very Happy 20th Birthday to Royal Manor Morris.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: MMario
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 03:56 PM

so - perhaps it can take place as spontaneous interaction?


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 04:06 PM

The councils word for "spontaneous interaction" (which sounds filthy anyway) is impromtu. One off such events are allowed.

Of course if you think about this, such things are not a problem, as twenty or so musicians and dancers just coming together by chance (that sounds pretty filthy too), is unlikey and if they choose to do it again, it is then not impromtu and subject to the PEL.

The problem being, if you read my question, is the production of a programme of where the side will be dancing through the year.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: MMario
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 04:09 PM

that's simple too. simply do your programme as where you shall NOT be.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 04:11 PM

Day of Action for Live Music 19th July

Hopefully Royal Manor Morris and their friends will have recovered from their birthday celebrations and will be able to attend and dance at our local version at the Cove on Thursday 19th July?


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: M.Ted
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 04:24 PM

You've got to write back to them and ask for the exemption, based on McGrath's idea. Actually, to satisfy the requirements, you can specify that the performances are incidental to an event at the pubs etc. The event may be happy hour, or even special "Morris Nite", which consists of nothing more than your performances. If one were inclined, one could argue also that, since the event does not involve admission or any sort of fee or restriction of attendence, (that is to say, attendence does not require any permission of the owner of said property) then the statute does not apply.

Best to present the arguement first, and, if the powers that be agree, get a letter from them.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 04:34 PM

I have been trying every possible argument since December 2000. Involved my MP, councillors, The Home Office and 'Uncle Tom Cobbley and all'.

The officer's opinion that such events are Public Entertainment has been endorsed by a meeting of the Social and Community Committee(05/06/01.

They are quite firmly of the idea that the statue does indeed apply.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 04:44 PM

Help with UK Licensing problem is the start of this sorry tale.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 05:28 PM

The best way with daft laws is just to break them. That's where most of our public liberties have come from.

So far as sessions in pubs is concerned, one complicating factor is that the landlord has to worry about his licence (and probably about the company that owns the pub). The other is that nine times out of ten, nobody gives a bugger about the law in these cases, and there's a worry that raising it as a matter of principle might make someone give a bugger about. The nuisance is when you find your session is the one in ten that gets stomped - which is why the law has to be changed.

But when it comes to dancing on the highway, it's between the dancers and the local authority. I can't imagine the police being too eager to get involved in this kind of caper. Just imagine arresting a bunch of Morris Dancers.

"Free the Morris 8!"

It's just occurred to me, what with all this in the paper about Portillo and Co coming out for legalising dope as a token (these puns keep on coming inadvertently) gesture of Tory Libertarianism. I can envisage our music and dancing could be taken up in a similar way. Similar but less likely to offend the respectable people. (Little do they know...)


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 05:49 PM

I used to drive a Morris 8.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 05:55 PM

I feel that Morris is the key to public awareness of the dangers of this legislation. People cannot easily see the admittedly subtle distinction between sessions and conventional pub entertainment. They do however know what Morris is, or rather what it is not.

It may not be edifying to see the way the press treat Morris but Council Bans Morris Dancing is the perfect 'silly season' headline. The public may not understand Morris but see it as a fairly harmless thing and have an affection for it.

A better headline would be Europe Bans Morris Dancing but you can't have everything?


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 06:45 PM

Well in fact it'd be more likely that European courts would overturn any attempts by British courts to ban Morris dancing. But I accept that the papers wouldn't like that one much.

Remember when Maggie tried to abloish the May bank hoiday, and Morris sides turned up to protest? and she backed down. (Mind you the hoteliers were probably a bigger influence on that...)

I think the only way you'll get the police arresting Morris dancers would be if they did something genuinely disruptive like dancing on a Zebra crossing at Rush Hour. Preferably naked.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: Hollowfox
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 06:54 PM

I always thought morris dancing at your door brought you good luck. Perhaps the Local Authority is trying to drive away any good luck in the vicinity? ... Maybe you could get yourselves registered as a folk religion. It worked for the (neo) druids.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 07:03 PM

Interesting point again. There is another exemption to the licensing requirement, if the music is part of a religous service?

I think the argument could be, is a traditional custom, even if it may be entertaining, a staged public entertainment?


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 07:06 PM

What about the Trooping of the Colour? Or those processions that Judges have on circuit, dressed up in funny costumes with all the crowd gawking.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: Noreen
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 07:25 PM

That's interesting, McG... Trooping the Colour involves music too, or is that 'incidental' to the proceedings? Ha!


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: Gareth
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 07:28 PM

Never underestimate the stupidity of Local Councillors.

Once upon a time a local council here in Wales was discussing how to increase tourism at the Local Castle.

"Well," said the Chair of Amenities, "We propose putting a Gondola on the Castle Moat."
" Ah," says the leader of the opposition, "Would not that be rather expensive ?"
"Yes." says the Chairman, "They cost about £5,000.00 each."
And there follows an discussion. At this point Councillor X wakes up. He realises as Deputy Chair of Amenities he had better make a contribution to the debate.
"Well hang the expense !" says Councillor X, "I propose we buy a pair of Gondolas and let then breed."

Gareth


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: M.Ted
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 07:34 PM

Well, I am sorry that I missed your first post on this. The situation is plainly and completely ridiculous--I can think of any number of reasons that Morris Dancing should happen whenever and wherever, not the least of which is that it is a tradition with strong religious undertones or overtones, that goes back to the middle ages, which everyone here knows, I guess, but I am a getting a bit bent about this myself, and have to say something.

What we would do here under such circumstances, or what I would do (being a serious and earnest trouble maker) would be to call the TV and newspapers and make a big fuss, then find somebody famous, preferably a religious leader with a sense of humor,a trial lawyer or an aspiring politician who will come along to talk to the TV cameras, and tell the council to arrest us if they dare, and just do it--

My experience with this is that, whether you come out ahead or not, it puts all those idiots who caused the problem in the first place through a lot of aggravation(which makes it worth the aggravation that I have to go through)--

Good luck on this--


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 07:42 PM

Unannounced guerrilla Morris dancing could be much more efun. Suddenly explode into action in shopping malls and bus stations. And as part of protest actions.

I can't see it working with Cotswold Morris, but the freakier types of Border Morris would flourish in that context.

Maybe a ban is what is needed to wake things up.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 07:46 PM

SINSULL ASKS:

So if I show up on your doorstep with a boombox and a Chubby Checker CD, and we start doing the Twist together, we can be fined for other than creating a nuisance?

Probably not - but you COULD be arrested for pumping gas!!


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: Noreen
Date: 11 Jul 01 - 07:53 PM

The Flag crackers side that I saw at the Four Fools Festival, Chorley 2 weeks ago, would do the job... they clogged like they meant it! (No sniggering at them!)


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 12 Jul 01 - 04:28 AM

The secret of dealing with councils is NEVER ASK PERMISSION TO DO ANYTHING! DO NOT tell them where you intend to perform. DO NOT send them an itinerary - If you do not bring something to their attention they will not know it has happened.
As far as dancing on a public space is concerned, the only people who can ask you to stop is the police, and unless you are causing an actual nuisance or obstruction to traffic, they have better things to do with their time, and anyway are probably somewhere else (especially if NOT being somewhere else would mean tangling with a Morris Team. If someone complains to you, explain what you are about (it will delay the move off), then move on with good grace - we are not here to make enemies!
Quack!
GtD


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: pavane
Date: 12 Jul 01 - 05:18 AM

There is a snippet on the album 'Rattlebone and Ploughjack' about how, back around 1900 or before, the police banned the 'Straw Bear' in Whittlesea and the surrounding area, because they defined it as 'cadging' or begging. Doesn't look like much has changed since then.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: IanC
Date: 12 Jul 01 - 05:33 AM

Pavane

Like a lot of things, the Straw Bear got pretty rowdy round about the end of C19th. The real reason it was banned was that it was associated with drunkenness and vandalism, I think. I believe a lot of traditional street football games (I mean similar in format to the Haxey Hood) were banned by police in the 1970s for the same reason.

Cheers!
Ian


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: pavane
Date: 12 Jul 01 - 06:38 AM

Down in West Wales a few years ago, the council PAID us to dance in the town. Naturally, we didn't take a collection on that occasion.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 12 Jul 01 - 06:50 AM

Of course councils do not want to ban Morris on public house land or indeed the street. The resulting publicity would not be welcome to them. It would be very welcome for those trying to challenge them.

Councils such as Oxford and Weymouth and Portland have not had the same concern unfortunately, in preventing participatory traditional music sessions taking place without the licensee obtaining a Public Entertainment Licence. Mainly because they may understand a little of the former but wanted to understand nothing about the latter.

It is the very arguments that these councils have used against sessions that mean that Morris on pub ground requires a PEL

In fact there is a case that Morris, with its regular members and well-practised set, far more resembles a band or a conventional pub entertainment than does a session , with its floating personnel and chaotic nature.

I would maintain that neither of them are public entertainment provided by the Licensee and further that preventing this free expression is contrary to Article 10 of The Human Rights Act.

This situation has not been caused by asking permission from any Officer, they have take the action without any invitation. The 'head in the sand' approach will not now work. What I would suggest is to bring the issue to a head.

Where a side is due to dance on pub premises without a PEL, complain to your local Licensing officer and demand that they do their job.

The resulting publicity will be good for the cause if they take action or if they do not.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: GUEST,JohnB
Date: 12 Jul 01 - 12:39 PM

It's not the first time. Morris Dancers were arrested in 1611 plus or minus a couple of years. For Dancing on a SUNDAY, shame of it. Border RULES OK. JohnB


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: mousethief
Date: 12 Jul 01 - 01:43 PM

Why does Old Blighty seem to have so many stupid laws vis-a-vis public entertainment? Is this a ploy by the television networks to force people to watch TV instead of entertaining themselves?

Alex


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: GUEST,Les/Manchester ex Gorton Morrismen
Date: 12 Jul 01 - 01:44 PM

See my ealier posting - if itsn't a bit scarry and ileagal what the hell is it?


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: Bert
Date: 12 Jul 01 - 02:37 PM

First ask for an exemption.
If they refuse that then send three people, very nicely dressed to one of their meetings and ask nicely again.
If they still refuse the exemption. Then turn up at their council meeting with the fully regaled Morris Team.
If that doesn't get you the exemption then send all your documentation to the local rag and TV and Radio stations. Get the support of as many other Morris and folk dance teams and local folk musicians as you can and stage a dance/song/demonstration outside the council offices.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: bobby's girl
Date: 12 Jul 01 - 04:39 PM

(Actually Bobby's Girl's husband)

As a Weymouth & Portland Council employee, ex longsword-dancer and regular drinker in The Cove I feel some objectivity is needed in this debate and the issue of legislation applying to traditional activities in the modern world which I will add as another new thread.

Firstly I add that I am not in the Legal Unit but was present at the Social and Community Committee (to present a report on another item) when this matter was debated and the Committee was eloquently addressed by a London Jazz Musician under the Council's democratic public speaking arrangements.

One key thread made by Councillors during the debate was that the law is "silly" but it is the law. It also arose that there will shortly be a consultation paper on it at which point objections can be made and the Council intend to raise this issue at that time. The key legal issue was whether the law should be applied not whether it was being broken. This law is a central government law and therefore "Council bans ....." is typical mis-reporting and should in any event be "Government bans...."

In this specific case under the law as it stands a situation requiring a PEL was taking place and had been advertised as such in the pub (and I think the local paper too) to attact additional musicians and as an incidental side effect sell more ale in the pub. A formal complaint was made, I believe by another licensee who had previously had to obtain a PEL for music at his pub, the pub was visited and a music activity requiring a licence was taking place. In this situation(whether or not the law is an ass)any Licencing Officer of any Council has to take the necessary action as if he/she does not the chances are an Ombudsman case etc will arise.

Therefore it is national law that is the issue not the local enforcement of it and the relevant channel is a complaint through your local MP. I presume in fact that the law is so ridiculous that every pub in the land should have a PEL as on New Years Eve at 23:59 more than four persons will predictably join together into a ring and sing Auld Lang Syne!


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 13 Jul 01 - 06:02 AM

More good points here Traditional activities and the law


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: Fiolar
Date: 13 Jul 01 - 06:40 AM

At the risk of upsetting people what has the guy Morris ever done for us/ . Seriously though, not to worry too much. In 1930s Ireland, certain members of the clergy tried to get Irish dancing banned. It doesn't seem to have suffered too much.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 13 Jul 01 - 06:45 AM

For the purposes of objectivity, here is Hamish Birchall's report on this meeting.

The minutes of this meeting are still unavailable.

As promised, here is my report on my presentation at the Weymouth council meeting (below) on behalf of Roger Gall, the amateur folk musician whose session was prevented for some five months by PEL enforcement action in Portland. I have taken the opportunity to relate this to other developments, in Oxford and London.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________ Weymouth & Portland Borough Council Social/Community Committee meeting Tuesday 5 June 2001
Council officers attending included:
Melanie Earnshaw, Solicitor
Ian Locke, Director of Tourism and Leisure Services
Sue Allen, Licensing Manager
Tony Beeson, Environmental Health Services Manager
Geoff Pritchard, Senior Committee Administrator
Councillors:
12 members in social/community committee (plus two apologies)
(unadopted minutes are usually circulated a month later - I have requested a copy when available)

______________________________________________________________________________________________ The Committee was presented with a report dated 23 May 2001, jointly authored by Sue Allen (Licensing Manager) and Melanie Earnshaw (Borough Solicitor). The report asked: 'That members confirm that steps taken by Licensing Officers to encourage an application from the proprietor of the Cove House Inn, Portland, for a Licence permitting public entertainment on the premises were appropriate and justified'. My impression following this meeting, and the recent public consultation in Camden, is that local authority licensing managers and solicitors are withholding important information from councillors, and may even be knowingly misleading them. This is preventing a proper debate about the whole range of licensing issues. The motives would appear to be a mixture of misplaced professional amour-propre, empire-building and maintenance.

Roger Gall, the amateur folk musician whose informal jam session had been prevented for six months by council enforcement action, could not attend. He asked me to take his place.

In spite of the fact that my written invitation from WPBC carried the heading 'Democratic Services' I was allowed only 4 minutes to speak. Both WPBC's formal invitation and a copy of the internal report (copy available) on the enforcement action reached me only the day before the meeting. On the day itself they gave the 12 attending councillors five minutes to read two letters (five sides of A4) that I had sent in February and March to Melanie Earnshaw arguing that councils should relax enforcement against certain types of live music. The letters point out that local authorities have complete discretion in the PEL fees they set, some discretion in the interpretation of the law that applies, and adequate powers under separate legislation to address most of the problems PELs supposedly deal with.

I also argued that certain strict enforcement may be unlawful under the Human Rights because it prevents the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression where there are no noise or safety issues. At the meeting I argued against the Committee accepting the report, jointly signed by Melanie Earnshaw and Licensing Manager Sue Allen, which called for retrospective endorsement of the enforcement action that had prevented Mr Gall's session. The report was drafted in a way that led councillors away from an informed debate about the underlying issues. The anomalous exemptions to PELs were not mentioned at all (Crown land, recorded sound, satellite tv etc), case law in support of the council position was alluded to but not cited, case law that might be in the musicians favour was omitted, the duplication of safety legislation and PELs was not discussed.

By WPBC's own admission, there were no noise complaints resulting from Mr Gall's music-making. More significantly there were no safety concerns either. The public entertainment licence was granted to the pub last month without any safety conditions attached. There were no objections to the PEL from either the police or fire service.

There had been one or two noise complaints in previous years occasioned by an outside charity event that the publican, Mr Flynn (The Cove Inn, Portland) organises himself on one day in the year. This was referred to at the meeting as 'a history of noise problems at The Cove'. When The Cove's PEL application was made public, four objections on the grounds of potential for noise disturbance were made. These were due to be considered at a hearing, but Ms Allen persuaded the complainants to withdraw just 24 hours prior to the hearing taking place. Thus the PEL was granted.

The new PEL actually increases the public safety risk because it insists that members of the public attending the next charity event must come inside after 6pm. The pub's capacity limit of 95 was unchanged since being set by the fire service some years ago. Mr Flynn claims that the greatest contribution to the good cause comes late in the evening when people often hand over the change left in their pockets. If the event now has to come indoors after 6pm, the large numbers attending outdoors will either leave or pack into the pub making it dangerous. Either way the good cause loses out. The Cove's charity fetes have been reported favourably in the local press. They raised about £700-800 on each occasion. Mr Flynn showed me the press cuttings.

In my view, in preventing Mr Gall's music-making, WPBC was acting unlawfully under s 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Because there were no noise or safety concerns, the enforcement was disproportionate and incompatible with Mr Gall and participating members of the public exercising their right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention.

In spite of my making this point, and even though two or three councillors accepted that s 182 as it stands is an ass, I am afraid that the Committee voted overwhelmingly to support the licensing enforcement. They did vote to add a qualifying statement to the effect that some form of public consultation on the issue may be useful at a future date. One councillor asked if there was any mechanism for such a consultation, apparently not knowing about the Local Cultural Strategy, a Department of Culture initiative which all local authorities must complete by 2002. The LCS requires local authorities to undertake extensive public consultation, and specifically mentions a need for a review of licensing arrangements in small venues. I raised this point, but the meeting seemed to move swiftly to other agenda items. I left shortly afterwards, unsure of the final wording of the amendment.

The fact is that the councillors, with one or two exceptions, didn't really understand the issue. In spite of the fact that Weymouth police officers have expressed concerns about the council's inconsistent enforcement of PEL conditions, and that public disorder and disturbance will - like most areas of the country - be associated with nightclubs and late-opening bars that hold PELs, councillors remain apparently convinced of PELs' efficacy in controlling noise and alcohol-related crime and disorder. I don't think it is going too far to say that the officers of the council tended to reinforce these perceptions, either by failing to correct councillors' mistaken assumptions (many of the questions councillors asked revealed a profound ignorance about how the law actually works), or by stating that the law is clear when it is not. The significance of the HRA and the European Convention was disregarded by councillors - the underlying assumption being, I suspect, that live music cannot be that important, particularly when it is amateur and taking place in a pub.

Tony Beeson, Weymouth's Environmental Health Services manager, admitted to me outside the meeting afterwards that safety legislation was quite up to the task of ensuring public safety for this sort of music-making at The Cove, irrespective of whether a PEL applied. But he did not mention this at the meeting. He also suggested that if Weymouth, which he claimed was a small under-resourced authority, were to be 'made an example of' by musicians bringing a case alleging a breach of their rights under the HRA, then other local authorities would join Weymouth to fight it. It would seem they are taking the possibility of a challenge quite seriously.

Oxford's internal report (copy available) on its own enforcement action against a very similar folk session is misleading in broadly the same way as Weymouth's. I have written to Oxford's legal director setting out my reservations about the report. No reply so far.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 13 Jul 01 - 08:36 AM

'That members confirm that steps taken by Licensing Officers to encourage an application from the proprietor of the Cove House Inn, Portland, for a Licence permitting public entertainment on the premises were appropriate and justified'

This was what the members were asked to do. Not too suprising that they did just that, if you read Hamish's report (above)? The meeting was not to determine any key legal points such as "whether the law should be applied not whether it was being broken". The law had been applied.

My original request was that the members looked at the future of traditional music events in the light of the policy that the officers had made for them and the public of Weymouth and Portland.

The events and the officer's 'fairy story' given in their report for the meeting, of how things happened, is the subject of a complaint, which will most probably finish up with the local government ombudsman.

No "formal complaint" was ever made against the session. WPBC have admitted that.

There have been conflicting explanations as to how the officers came to visit, the one they seem now to have settled is this undated unrecorded anonymous complaint to unlicensed events, which there is no evidence that it ever existed, from unidentified presumed licensee. Why would you "believe" any of this and why would you state here that this was in any shape or form to be considered a "formal complaint"?

There is acording to WPBC's latest information, only one officer, the Licensing Manager who could have actually visited the event. The whole issue is based one that expressed and unchallenged opinion as the the nature of the event. My opinion, that it was not a public entertainment provided by the licensee, is as valid as hers, that it was.

Please do not assume that what your hear an officer of WPBC say, is the whole truth.


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 13 Jul 01 - 08:57 AM

Unfortuately our MP did believe what the officers told him to be the whole truth.

We do now have a new MP.........


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: GUEST,Les/Manchester ex Gorton Morrismen
Date: 13 Jul 01 - 01:51 PM

So, Morris Dancing is innocent is he. That's what is wrong with the whole of this strand.

When Ash Lathom and Chris Cole led Gorton Men to Dance in the wind and rain, on the pavement, without permission or notice, outside 6 small pubs on a Friday night in Openshaw, Longsight or Beswick people gathered and were amazed.

So much Morris is like daytime TV. It's tame and completely free of drama or excitement. No one really knows the origin or purpose of Morris but surely ritual, drama, surprise and not a little lawlessness must lie at its heart.

Perhaps its just a way of men (mostly) dancing together in public without having to explain themselves


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 13 Jul 01 - 04:52 PM

Central Government has made it quite clear that that it does not wish this legislation to be used by local authorities, against the public, Morris included, in this fashion. WPBC's officers have chosen to ignore this.

Local authorities such as WPBC also have equal responsibilities for cultural and human rights legislation that should prevent the 'tunnelled vision' enforcement of this Licensing legislation in isolation.

Try as one wants, it is certainly not possible to blame the conditions on outside entertainment that WPBC's officers have imposed on the Cove's PEL, on central Government? These conditions were not presented before any elected members of the council. The PEL hearing scheduled to discuss the application, being cancelled by the Licensing Manager at the very last minute.

These senseless conditions prevent any outside entertainment not just amplified music from taking place, except once in August?

These are entirely down to WPBC's officers not being able or willing to distinguish between entertainment, that may be a noise problem (amplified music) and entertainment that will not.

I must admit that I am now getting rather tired of the 'we are but just a poor little council' attitude or of hearing 'it's the law and we must enforce it' or even the 'it's your fault for bringing it to their attention' attitude.

The one and only advert appeared in the local paper on the 7th December when the first session took place. It was not placed again because the officers visited the very next day, to 'encourage' the licensee to obtain a PEL. According to WPBC's officer's own account, this 'encouragement' took place, even though the session had not yet been witnessed to ascertain its nature or the number of musicians involved.

Oh yes, the 'encouragement' to which the officers refer in their report, is a letter threatening the Licensee with a possible £20.000 fine or six months in prison. This being just an example of the 'spin' contained in a report claimed to be objective advice to enable members to make policy.

WPBC's officers have had plenty of opportunity at each stage to consider the full effect and implications of their actions and to consider alternatives, it is to their lasting shame that they chose to pursue this with such certainty and apparent zeal. They are charged with the public's interest, it is difficult to see how their actions in this sad episode can have been in anyone's interests?


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: M.Ted
Date: 13 Jul 01 - 10:27 PM

Roger, I am both disgusted and amused by these proceedings, and I thank you profusely for sharing them with us. I also applaud you for sticking with it--

Meanwhile, it seems that there must be some one on the Council side who is pushing this absurdity, do you know who that is? If you can identify your main opponent, it may be possible to make your efforts much more effective--


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Subject: RE: Council Bans Morris Dancing
From: The Shambles
Date: 14 Jul 01 - 04:32 AM

Locally there are two strands. The first is the individual event and its treatment by the council officers. This I thought was best directed at the officers and the department(s) concerned by the form of an a formal complaint, which is progressing slowly. Ironically it is the Director of Tourism that is pushing the hard line, by supporting the actions of his department. He has now however compromised his boss, The Chief Executive by obtaining his full support for their actions. My complaint is currently with him.

The second strand was the general effect this PEL policy of 'members of the public as performers' will have on local traditional events. I thought The best way for this was to have the council members meet and decide this. Sadly the the offcers saw this meeting only as a chance to compromise the members into endorsing their actions and used their control of their system to ensure the meeting did just that.

We are not without support from the councillors (not many of these were on this committee), but if members are (wrongly) told by their legal advisors that the 'law is clear', they will tend to agree, for it is a complicated subject. They would certainly need to understand it better to enable them to refuse to endorse their officer's actions, as they were asked to do at this meeting.

Sadly I was not at the meeting (which may have been a good thing), so will have to wait for the minutes, to see who said what and which councillors may be helpful.

I would like to publicly thank Hamish Birchall for coming all the way down and doing such a fine job at this meeting.


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