Luvvies livid over lap-dancing crackdown
IT IS a piece of legislation which unwittingly threatened to revisit the dark days of the Lord Chamberlain's office upon Scotland's theatrical community.
• Shows such as Calender Girls, which feature nudity, could be affected by the proposed legislation
Some of the country's most celebrated arts bodies have welcomed clarification to new laws designed to crack down on lap-dancing clubs which would have inadvertently prevented them from staging shows featuring nudity.
Nationalist MSP Sandra White has put forward an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill going through Holyrood which would allow local authorities and licensing boards to bar lap-dancing venues in their area.
But organisations such as Scottish Ballet and the Festival Fringe Society had warned that under plans to tighten licensing rules, renowned shows featuring nudity, such as Nic Green's Trilogy, could have been pulled.
Cindy Sughrue, Scottish Ballet's chief executive, had urged the committee to carefully consider the wording of Ms White's amendment, given the potential "unintended consequences" for theatre companies, who would be unable to show "iconic works" by "world-renowned" directors and choreographers.
She said: "Nudity, as defined, would rule out presentations of some of the most powerful performance work of the 20th and 21st centuries, including numerous acclaimed productions created and presented in Scotland, including at the Edinburgh International festival."
Yesterday, at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament's justice committee, politicians echoed such concerns. Robert Brown, Scottish Liberal Democrats justice spokesman, said: "For theatrical performances, I'm not sure it presents as clear exemptions as one would hope.
"There's a long history, right back to Lady Chatterley's Lover, where issues between morality and (areas of the arts such as] literature has been present."
Bill Aitken, his Tory counterpart and the committee's convener, agreed. "I do have serious reservations and I don't think the issue of theatrical performances has been satisfactorily resolved."
Labour's James Kelly said he had sympathy for Ms White's intentions but arts performances could inadvertently be hit. He warned: "There are potentially unintended consequences for the entertainment arena."
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill told the committee that while communities should be allowed to refuse permission to license the clubs, the government had "significant concerns" over Ms White's amendment. He said: "There are drafting difficulties with the amendment which will have to be addressed."
Ms White accepted an offer of assistance to "clarify" her amendment, meaning the government will now draft a tighter licensing regime which will come before MSPs when the bill is considered by the full parliament at its final stage.
A spokeswoman for the Federation of Scottish Theatre, which had warned of the consequences for shows with nudity or semi-nudity, said last night: "If the committee is responding positively in order to change the wording, it's fantastic news."
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