Small Edinburgh arts events to be exempted from licence crackdown

FREE arts events with a capacity of under 200 are set to escape controversial new licensing rules in Edinburgh under an apparent climbdown from councillors.

Art exhibitions, poetry recitals, book readings, cabaret events, magic shows, and live music sessions in temporary venues are likely to be exempted from the “burden” of needing a public entertainment licence.

However the exemptions will not be in place when the new legislation comes into force on 1 April, as the city council is being forced to carry out a full consultation on which free events should be charged for a permit.

A final decision will not be taken until a meeting of the council’s licensing committee on 20 April and it is not clear whether the exemptions will take effect immediately.

However it is a vast improvement from a public meeting last week when performers, venue managers and promoters were warned they may have to seek the permits for at least six months.

A series of online campaigns and bloggers have attacked the plans by the council, which said it would waive fees for the new licences but insisted they were needed for legal reasons.

Under the council’s existing rules, all exhibitions, “oral recitals”, and live band performances need a licence if people are being charged entry. According to legal advice from council officials, all of these would need a licence from 1 April until the council has officially exempted them.

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Their stance leaves organisers of free arts events in potential limbo and is in sharp contrast to Glasgow City Council, which has decided not to enforce the new legislation for six months while a major review is carried out.

Edinburgh’s licensing chairman Rob Munn said: “I have been listening closely to the views expressed by individuals and organisations across Edinburgh over the past week.

“I want to stress that no one wants to inhibit the artistic talent that makes Edinburgh one of the most culturally vibrant cities in the world.

“To ensure small free to enter public events do not require a licence I will be recommending changes to our public entertainment resolution. This will mean that some events - such as art exhibitions, community functions and other small scale free to enter events - can go ahead without the burden of obtaining a licence.

“Once these proposals are approved we will consult publicly on the issue. A final decision would be made next month once all the feedback has come in. In the meantime we would look at waiving any fee due for a licence for a free-to-enter event.” The Stop Public Entertainment Licences Changes campaign said it would now be seeking full “clarity” on what events and spaces would not require to be licensed in future.

Spokeswoman Morvern Cunningham said: “We are glad that the voices from Edinburgh’s creative community who made their case heard the public meeting last week have been listened to and trust that a similarly enlightened view will be taken following the consultation period.

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“We encourage all members of the creative community

to take part in the consultation to ensure that their voices are heard,

and that the grassroots culture of the city which feeds and informs its

internationally recognised festivals is allowed to thrive and flourish.

We will be seeking clarity on what the procedures will be between April 1st and April 20th, when the notice period required for a licence during that period is not achievable.”