Wednesday, 7 March 2012
An Insidious Piece Of Legislation
Consider a life without music, literature and the wee ones' Christmas plays. The arts contribute much to the quality of most of our lives.
I didn't think I would meet a victim of the Scottish government's Criminal Justice and Licencing (Scotland) Act 2010 - which comes into force on 1 April - so soon after reading Joyce McMillan's obvious anger at this latest piece of legislation.
For some years I've been associated with a creative writing group, many of whom are published writers. Every year they self-publish a book of short stories and in order to promote themselves they give a free evening's entertainment in a city bookshop. This year's book is with the printers and the posters and flyers have also been printed. All of us do our best to ensure a healthy turnout by distributing these as widely as possible.
Today I had coffee with one of the group. "You're not going to believe this," were his welcoming words and I knew he was scunnered by the tone of his voice. I waited. "We're going to have to cancel the reading evening," he whispered. (He's one of those people who, when desperate to repress anger, whispers).
The group's secretary had received a phone call from the bookshop manager explaining his head office had instructed that all events would have to comply with the latest legislation.
Previously, because it is a free event, no licence was required. This new legislation requires a licence for any event - be it free or paid admittance - where the public are admitted. Dundee council has yet to update its website but Edinburgh has done so. The link to fees on both websites is broken although Dundee council appears to charge a flat fee of £245 for a Public Entertainment Licence.
The group's annual reading event normally generates enough book sales to cover the cost of all printing involved, including publicity material. The publicity material will now have to be binned and the group will have to rely upon the local media to promote this year's book. The event may be small but it attracts a 'full house' each year and it is an enjoyable social occasion.
No blame lies with the bookshop owners. They are, quite rightly, protecting themselves. The blame lies with the Scottish government for more foolish law making. As I see it, the removal of 'payment' from the 1982 legislation is an attempt, by government, to glean more money for their coffers rather than Joyce McMillan's suggestion that it is a question of 'people control'. The effect this law will have on small artistic groups, as she acknowledges, will be devastating.
It is indeed an insidious piece of legislation.
Posted by subrosa at 09:22