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Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 15:01 GMT
Why the Sabbath is no longer kept sacred

club Clubbers are to be free to dance on Sundays

The people have voted with their feet and dancing - the last illegal activity on the Sabbath - is to be made legal.

Home Office officials have decided that a law banning a Sunday 'jig round the dance halle' - the 1790 Sunday Observance Act's term - is so outmoded it should be changed.

God, how I hate Sundays
Jimmy Porter, Look Back in Anger
The move brings England and Wales into line with the rest of Europe, and with Scotland, where Sunday dancing was allowed in the 1970s.

Many night clubs are already flouting the rules against opening for Sunday dancing, usually by charging membership fees instead of openly selling tickets.

But the result of the change in the dancing laws is that the last vestiges of the day of rest are set to be swept away.

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The barriers on public entertainment on Sunday in England and Wales have been coming down since restrictions on cinemas were lifted in 1932 and on theatres in 1972.

According to the Keep Sunday Special campaign, "the floodgates were opened" in 1994 with the passing of the Sunday Trading Act.

This meant that supermarkets could stay open for up to six hours a day and ended anomalies which meant that newsagents were allowed to stay open, but not bookshops.

Soon after, horse racing was allowed, along with betting and all-day pub opening hours.

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It's all a far cry from the 1950s of John Osborne's anti-hero Jimmy Porter who lamented in Look Back in Anger: "God, how I hate Sundays. It's always depressing, always the same. Reading the papers, drinking the tea, ironing."

The Keep Sunday Special campaign says the result has been an erosion of family life, with one or either partner working.

Spokesman John Alexander said: "Nine million people are working on Sundays and this is having a devastating affect on family life.

"A lot of those people that are working are single mums who have to find arrangements for their children - it's highly disruptive."

He added: "We used to say, 'Thank God It's Friday', but now it is not the same.

"Just try organising a cricket team on a Sunday and see how difficult it is with so many people now working."

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