Lord Grade of Yarmouth
Lord Grade spoke of his full support of this ‘quest to repair the unforeseen damage’ caused by the Licensing Act 2003 that ‘threatens musical life in our nations at its most fragile point—grass-roots level.’ He understood the need to give authorities the ‘necessary powers to curtail public nuisance and noise disturbance caused by unruly and unlicensed events of scale.’ However, the 2003 Act contained ‘such wide powers’ that it threatened to ‘criminalise even small groups of unlicensed music lovers huddled together in a public place,’ he said. ‘In the iPod and headphone world that we inhabit today, surely we should be doing everything to encourage and promote live music.’ The 2003 Licensing Act is bad law. ‘It is beyond the credible to argue that the legislators’ intention was actually to stifle the small pleasure of sharing live music with a small audience in any public space.’
Lord Grade invited those in the chamber to recall with him the ‘DIY musical movement’ known as ‘skiffle’. ‘It spawned a great British musical tradition and movement which put Britain in the forefront of live popular musical culture,’ he said. ‘In those days, no one had to care if halls and rooms above the coffee bars were licensed or not. From this amateur beginning, Britain gave the world the Stones, the Beatles, the Who and a whole hall of fame of music industry legends. As they set out on their roads to world fame, they performed anywhere they could find a public room and a few people—no licence required but a licence to inspire.’ How many of those legends who have brought such benefits to Great Britain plc would have had these opportunities had the 2003 Licensing Act been in force in those days, he asked.
The Live Music Bill contained ‘very well thought through protections and checks that offer real powers to the authorities where there is unacceptable abuse,’ Lord Grade said. ‘These, I believe, are more appropriate and better fit the original intentions of the 2003 Act.’
‘I come from what is popularly known as the land of song,’ Baroness Randerson said. ‘However, the Licensing Act 2003 has made it considerably more difficult for that for that song to be heard by an audience.’ As the minister for culture in the coalition government in National Assembly for Wales she had introduced a culture strategy that emphasised the importance of music in ‘the cohesion of communities’, for the tourist industry and economy to ‘increase opportunities for professional musicians’ she said. ‘We planned to strengthen the infrastructure of small venues for the performance of all types of music.’ However, the Licensing Act 2003 had hindered those ambitions.
Initiatives such as tours by the Welsh National Opera and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in small groups to small venues have had to ‘work against the grain’ of the Act. ‘The time, cost and bureaucracy involved in getting a licence for a small venue when you are likely to hold only two or three such events a year is simply not worth it.’The National Eisteddfod is ‘underpinned by a network of local festivals’ in an 80 per cent rural nation and characterised by a network of village and church halls. The community venues provide the opportunities individual to take a ‘first step’ in performing music. ‘Without that first step, they will not take the second, which is to consider earning their living that way. This means that you lose your source of income for creative industries and the cultural tourism sector suffers,’ she said.
Calling for ‘very careful’ examination of the evidence, Baroness Randerson said that small-scale venues were ‘suffering and declining’ in a flourishing live music scene was be flourishing. ‘As the poorest part of the UK that is often overwhelmed by the culture of its much bigger neighbour, Wales has a particular need to develop its own culture and identity, and has suffered disproportionately from the impact of the Act.’
The Live Music Bill, which seeks to amend the Licensing Act 2003 with respect to the performance of live music entertainment, was introduced by Lord Clement-Jones.
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