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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Licence law 'damaging small gigs'
Live Music Forum chair Feargal Sharkey
Feargal Sharkey called on the government to amend legislation
Small-scale concerts are being put at risk by new licensing laws, according to a government-backed group.

The Live Music Forum says that small local venues staging acoustic concerts should be exempt from new regulations.

The forum, led by singer Feargal Sharkey, said that some councils are "unreasonable" when issuing licences.

The laws came into effect in 2005, introducing a single licence covering entertainment and alcohol, aimed at easing restrictions on live music.

Performance spaces

The forum, which was set up by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said on one occasion a brass band was told it could only perform religious songs if their performance was for charity.

It was then asked to apply for a licence which would cost more than the funds it expected to raise.

A pub landlady was told she required a variation in her licence to allow regular gatherings of a group of elderly men who sang folk songs together.

The group has also recommended that acoustic performances should be exempt from licensing, and also if it is not the main attraction at a venue.

It's these little rooms in the back of little pubs that sustain the 6bn business known as the music industry
Feargal Sharkey
Live Music Forum

It added that local councils should set up performance spaces for musicians.

Former Undertones frontman Sharkey said: "The UK's live music scene is a massive success, but the government needs to do more to help grass roots musicians and particularly small venues.

"We believe that a pub putting on an acoustic folk trio, for example, should not need a licence. That small acoustic gig does not impact on crime, disorder or public safety so should not fall under the remit of the licensing laws," he added.

Sharkey told the BBC's Breakfast programme: "It's these little rooms in the back of little pubs that sustain the 6 billion business known as the music industry."

Licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe welcomed the "interesting and challenging" findings.

He said: "We will now look at each of the recommendations, discuss with stakeholders and will respond fully in due course."

The forum, which was set up in 2004, said that the "vast majority" of local authorities had been "very helpful" in dealing with live music licences, but new regulations "lacked clarity".

It cited some positive effects of the new rules, such as abolishing the separate fee for a music licence and the annual process of getting one renewed.


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