While at University in Hull many years ago I lived 100 yards away from the cities only small venue, The Adelphi Club (aka The New Adelphi Club). It had only recently opened when I first started frequenting it but had quickly become part of the infamous ”Å¡toilet tour of venues across the UK. A truly magical place, it not only had gigs on virtually every night but it also had a pool table, 2 x ÃÂ£100 jackpot fruit machines, a video game you could sit down to play at & a legendary musicians night every Monday that regularly had various members of The Housemartins in attendance. Some of my happiest memories took place in The Adelphi & to this day whenever I’m at a gig & I scent a whiff of stale sweat I’m transported off into a Proustian reverie & summon up “remembrances of The Adelphi past”. (Apologies to Marcel Proust for not only paraphrasing his prose badly but also for equating his precious Madeleine cakes to stale sweat.)
Years after my final trip to The Adelphi & I finally became a member of the computer owning classes. One of the first thing I googled was “The Adelphi Club Hull”. Poking around their website I found that they’d released (published) a book to celebrate their 20th birthday. Reading the book two things struck me. The first thing was the toilets (if you’ve been to The Adelphi you’ll know what I mean, if you haven’t, you don’t want to know). The second thing that struck me & the thing pertinent to this blog, was how frustrating running a small venue must be what with having to keep up with all the changes to the live music laws & licensing regulations & their associated ludicrous amounts of red tape & bureaucracy. Reading the history of the venue from it’s early days in 1985 through to the last change in the regulations in 2003 it became obvious that it had been gradually becoming harder & harder to run a small venue. Not only did the amount of red tape & form filling in keep increasing but also so did the cost of a license. Currently it’s ÃÂ¬ÃÂ£1600. It became clear it was nothing short of a small miracle The Adelphi (& I guess every other small venue in the country) was still running & a massive testament to the owner’s (Paul Jackson in the case of The Adelphi) tenacity, love of live music & refusal to give up despite having been pushed so close to the edge.
An awful lot of venues have had to close in the last few years because of all these restrictions. Indeed, a report in 2007 suggested that there had been a 5% drop in the amount of live music played in small venues. Just this year two venues that I know about close to where I live have had to close, firstly the legendary TJ’s in Newport which had been running for decades & which is very unlikely to be bought for use as a venue, & just this week one of Cardiff’s most popular venues, Buffalo Lounge, announced that it too is having to close. I’m sure wherever you are you can think of similar such stories of venues that have had to close.
The existing license needed for live music dates back to 2003. There have been several attempts to change it in the past, the most recent of which was in 2010. Following a select committee report a bill proposed by Lord Clement-Jones suggested the following amendments to the bill:
1. Venues authorised to supply alcohol with a capacity of less than 200 people, at which music would be performed between the hours of 8am and midnight, would no longer require a licence for the performance of live music.
2. Up to two performers would be able to perform live unamplified, or minimally amplified, music without the need for a licence.
3. Hospitals, hospital accommodation, schools and colleges would be able to host live music performances without the need for a licence.
The amendments were supported by Fergal Sharkey who commented:
‘Given the current economic situation, this is no time to be placing shackles on creativity. Live music is good for the economy, good for society and essential for the music industry. We urge Government to support Lord Clement-Jones, follow his lead and capitalise on one of this country”Å¡ÃâÃÂ´s major economic and social assets.’
Sadly the bill failed to pass before the dissolution of Parliament following last year’s General Election. However the coalition agreement included an undertaking in regard to live music to cut red tape to encourage the performance of more live music and so to help grassroots music”. A new bill was put together that appeared to have been built on the skeleton of the 2010 bill as it had similar proposals.
Finally yesterday we had the first suggestion that the new bill was going to be passed successfully, although we don’t know the precise details yet. In an article by Dan Sabbagh titled ‘Band aid: ministers to call time on pub live music restrictions”Å¡’ from The Guardian it was inferred that not only will a lot of the red tape soon be lifted from the laws surrounding live music in small venues, but also that the license needed to sell alcohol will be merged with the license needed to host live music so that only the one license will be necessary to put on live music in small venues.
The article also suggested that the third proposal above from the 2010 bill, that schools, hospitals etc will not need a license, will happen. Also in the article was the news that venues up to a capacity of 5000 will not need to buy a license, a considerable improvement on the original proposal that venues under 200 capacity won’t need a license. I believe also in the amended proposal of the Live Music Bill there was a suggestion that Morris Dancing should be allowed to be accompanied by as loud a noise as they want, something that at present isn’t allowed without a license. It didn’t mention this point in the Guardian article but if it doesn’t come to pass Lord Redesdale will not be happy. (I imagine if hospitals & schools are allowed to host events without acense that Morris dancing fans can breathe easy).
Although the precise details of the bill aren’t fully known yet it definitely seems hopeful that it won’t be long before things are finally going to get easier for small venue owners after years of struggling. This can only be a good thing.