The implementation of hefty fees to obtain a Public Entertainment Licence for exhibitions and events—including those to be held free of charge—is practically extortion and will cripple grassroots art and culture in Glasgow, Edinburgh and beyond. Small, independent venues such as coffee shops who support artists and performers by hosting free events will not be able to sustain the fees announced.
It is a tax on art and entertainment.
All Scottish councils must urgently review and scrap the proposed fees, particularly those to be imposed on free events and on temporarily licensing small venues.
The Bigger Picture
This petition is a response to the announcement that from 1 April 2012, a licence will be required in Scotland to hold free events such as exhibitions and performances. Previously a licence was only required for events charging admission. We, the undersigned, believe this change will be damaging to the foundations of Scotland's arts and entertainment communities at every level.
While we understand that legislation is necessary for larger events, the current wording of the bill could potentially damage a thriving infrastructure of grassroots events in all art forms as well as small-to-medium scale cultural organisations. These include pop-up exhibitions in temporary spaces, music gigs in record shops, galleries and flats, free exhibitions or film screenings in publicly-funded arts centres, small-scale independently promoted music events, literary readings and storytelling events in libraries, folk music sessions and other spontaneous and ad hoc artistic activities across the entire country. The legislation may also potentially impact on community organisations, clubs and activity groups, and student and charity event organisers.
Based on previous years, the application fee for a Public Entertainment Licence ranges from £120 to £7500. It also requires several months’ notice to the Council and 21 days of public notice via signage posted on location. While many groups and organisations simply do not and will not have the practical resources to undertake such weighty administration, at an artistic level, such a lengthy process would potentially undermine the spontaneity and flexibility of artists working in temporary spaces.
Scotland's arts and entertainment communities are currently thriving, with success stories at every turn.
In Glasgow, bands such as Franz Ferdinand, and artists including Turner Prize winners Richard Wright and Martin Boyce, have all come up through a vibrant grassroots scene. Glasgow School of Art was recently awarded a major grant by The Arts and Humanities Research Council to study the phenomenon known as the "Glasgow Miracle”.
In Edinburgh, novelist Irvine Welsh first came to prominence in the mid 1990s via a thriving spoken-word scene led by those behind litzine Rebel Inc, which became an international phenomenon. Angus Farquhar's NVA Organisation is currently preparing Speed of Light, a major outdoor project for Edinburgh International Festival and the London 2012 Olympics.
All of these independent grassroots initiatives have helped put Scotland on the map artistically, and have fed into the arts infrastructure at both a national and international level.
If all public events are required to apply for a license regardless of size or entry charge, freedoms of expression and assembly will also be compromised.
Scotland has a proud tradition of producing art in all forms out with the major institutions that date back to the early days of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The changes to Public Entertainment Licensing would compromise both its history and its future, and cannot be enforced as they stand.
This petition demands:
1. That all 32 of Scotland's local authorities clarify their position on the new legislation, and make sensible exemptions for all free to enter events, plus those attended by 200 hundred people or less.
2. That the Scottish Government issue proper guidance to all Scottish councils to ensure that all not-for-profit arts events attended by 200 people or less can operate free of unnecessary legislation, and consider repealing the amendments should they prove unworkable.
3. That comparative legislation from Westminster be taken in to consideration. Westminster takes a more enlightened view on licensing events in England and Wales, and Holyrood should look to this for guidance when redrafting, revising or constituting new legislation.
If all 32 local authorities along with the Scottish Government take urgent action on this, the next generation of Scotland's artists will be allowed to thrive, thus ensuring Scotland's reputation for creative innovation at every level.
"BBC News." School of Art awarded grant to probe 'Glasgow Miracle'. January 18, 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-16603378.
Glasgow City Council briefing note: