Provincial Letters

Far from the mad crowds of the city, Blaise Pascal passed comment on the strange behaviour of this urban contemporaries in his Provincial Letters. The connection between them and this blog is somewhat tenuous.

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Location: Grimsby, N E Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

My star sign in Superstition. And I didn't believe in reincarnation last time, either. The only thing I can't tolerate is intolerance. I am a fanatical ant-fanaticist. I am bigotted only where bigots are concerned. I am a fundamentalist atheist. I'm proud to be a product of evolution; I know it in my genes.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Posted @ 03:00Live Music and related issues

Some time ago (February 2006, to be precise) I wrote about music in pubs and, in particular, the attitude of the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers — towards live music. At the time I e-mailed the ACPO asking them for clarification and evidence of their attitude, the reply I received was notable only by its complete non-existence. This post is a follow-up…

Myths, Lies & Confusion

Either from wanton ignorance, wilful neglect or wicked indifference, there has been over the past few years some execrable reporting on the subject of the provisions of the 2003 Licensing Act (which was implemented in 2005). Unlike a lot of people, I suspect, I've actually bothered to read the text of the Act, which is available on-line and have discovered that quite a lot of the screaming by musicians, publicans and newspaper reporters is just plain wrong. Sometimes it has the appearance of mere misunderstanding and, if I were being generous and non-cynical about the political bias of our press, I would put it down to accident. There does, however, seem to be a proclivity these days for wildly exaggerating issues with either small-minded (mis-)interpretation or simple lying. The people who do this get away with it because they neither expect or encourage their readers to look at original documents.

Typical of this is the following from the MySpace site of US radio station K94 Rocks:

"UK passed laws to suppress live music and dance. Very important for UK music fans and musicians! The Government have recently passed laws in the UK (applicable to England and Wales) to try and suppress live music and dance. Pubs which could previously offer work to solo singers or duos now have to pay for a special licence and can only have 12 of these per year. Even school Xmas concerts need to be licensed."

The sensationalism of this is truly astounding, but not as astounding as the total lack of foundation for the claims. As I say, I've actually bothered to read the Act, and can state with some conviction that the above claims are as wrong as they are colourful. The above quote continues with an appeal to sign a petition (which was sent to the Prime Minter's office in June; which I signed) which they claim has to do with these issues. That petition was important: there is scope in the act for the bureaucracy and local provisions attached to the regulations to become a burden and hindrance to live music. For more information, read the petition and the response. I'm not happy with the waffle in the response, but this does not support the stupid and ignorant claims in the statement above.

Prior to the 2003 Act, the music licensing provisions of pubs meant that they could only offer work to solo artists and duos: a full music license was difficult and expensive to obtain and rarely granted to pubs. The new act gets rid of all the different categories of license which used to exist and allows the licensee to apply for the PEL (Public Entertainment License) along with the drinks license (it is not compulsory and does cost extra). The PEL places no restriction on the size of the groups that can perform (this is restricted by the size of the venue). The cost of the PEL depends on the size and nature of the venue.

If a pub, club or other venue chooses not to apply for a PEL they can now (and they couldn't have done this before the 2003 Act) apply for a TEN (Temporary Event Notice). This allows any premises to be used for the live performance of music (subject to fire and safety considerations, of course). Any single venue is restricted to 12 TENs in a year — the logic being that if you have more than one event per month, you perhaps need to consider a PEL. The cost of a TEN? £21. And, by the way, Christmas Concerts, being of a religious nature ("associated with a religious event") are specifically excluded from the provisions of the act.

Now can you see how it is so easy to be led astray by wild, speculative, unsupported claims?


In researching this post, I read some of the report and recommendations by the government's Live Music Forum. In addition to debunking some of the myths that have become attached to the Act, and some of the myths promulgated by puritan opponents of live music in general, they also tackled the statement made by the ACPO which was quoted in by earlier post. The results are most interesting.

I cannot do justice to the report by quoting from it other than at length and I don't want to do that here as it would make an already extensive post inordinately long. Please read the relevant section of the relevant document starting on page 36. Actually, read the whole damn document.

I will summarise the report by saying that the ACPO basically retracted its claim that all live music was associated with crime and disorder but continued to state that it could be a magnet for them. The report found that, in general, live music events engendered less trouble and crime than other public events.

In Conclusion…

The use of myths, lies and deniable mis-reading by opponents of anything in our society has been so prevalent that one wonders what to do about it. I know the answer: just read more and don't trust anything or anybody not to be giving a biased explanation when they don't refer you to the original sources. The opponents of the Euro have used these techniques with so great effect that, sometimes, you'd think that it was all the work of some devil. Please, remember you know how to read and question.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Posted @ 14:39There are not two 23rds August this year

This a copy of a post to my MySpace blog; for which fact I make no apology whatsoever.

It has long been a tradition in my family that certain years possess two 23rds August. And I was certain that 2007 was one of them. It was written in the cards, the stars, my palms and the entrails of an earwig I found on the back doorstep (my family has never used anything larger than a spiders for haruspicy). It was foretold by daphnomancy1, halomancy2  and myomancy3. It was even written in the arrangement of objects that cannot be named for legal reasons4. The tradition of two 23rds August stretches back to time immemorial: i.e., I can't remember when I first got the idea into to my head.

The sheer convenience of having two 23rds August in a year — especially this one — cannot be over-estimated. For a start there's the 24-hour delay in encountering that next birthday which makes you realise just how old you're getting (with the consequent onset of the loss of mental facility which causes confusion concerning calendrical calculation and consequent atypical alliteration). There's also the advantage of having two Thursdays, this year, in a week. I sometimes think there are not enough Thursdays in a week — usually after having too much to drink on a Wednesday night. The final, and over-riding, advantage is, of course, that you can both go and see the inestimable Merlin's Keep plus the wonderful Driftnet Poets at Millfields and attend the new Open Mic at the Imperial where you've promised to help the web-and-sound wizard with the PA because Trev's on holiday.

It was, therefore, something of a shock to bump into Jim White yesterday and discover that there are not, it seems, two 23rds August this year5. To say that I was gutted is to underestimate the force with which a fish-filleter carries our their profession. I was so much beside myself that I let my other self pay for the groceries (quite a smart move that, I thought, until I got home and discovered that he'd used my money). I was so overwhelmed with regret that I failed to find a third spurious metaphor6.

I blame the government. It's a conspiracy of some sort to deprive my family and I of the right to enjoy two 23rds August7 in the years of our choosing. So, here I am, not looking forward to missing MK & Driftnet but otherwise anticipating with pleasure the night at the Imperial. My apologies to the wonderful people in MK & Driftnet for my non-attendance. It was not for want of trying. You can blame the government, too.

UPDATE @ 16:26

I have just been informed by the web-and-sound wizard that the Imperial Open Mic Night has been abducted by aliens and written into the sub-plot of Coronation Street involving the return of Elsie Tanner (or something like that, I may have mis-read the reason). That means that there are two 23rds August this year, it's just that one of them is on 13th September. See you at Millfields, people.

1 Divination by burning laurel leaves.

2 Divination by salt.

3 Divination by watching the movements of mice.

4 A method of divination unaccountably omitted from the otherwise excellent list at but for which I coin the term cryptoresomancy (lit. "hidden thing divination").

5 The shock was not that of bumping into Jim but that of discovering the singular lack of a second (and necessary) 23rd August this year. Bumping into Jim is never a shock unless he's carrying a long spear or one of those electric immobiliser thingies.

6 And, believe me, I tried. For minutes.

7 It must be understood that the extra 23rds August can only be enjoyed by myself and my immediate family. The rest of you must develop your own unfathomable delusions.