Form 696 and why grime is not the enemy

'Grime and urban artists are disproportionately affected through cancelled shows. They are not afforded a fair chance to make a living from their art'

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The Independent Culture

Vincent Olutayo of Urban Development writes for The Independent on what can be done to protect artists from being 'targeted' by police

Following a number of violent incidents at London nightclubs, the Metropolitan police introduced the Promoted Event Risk Assessment Form 696 in 2005.  

The aim was ‘to identify and minimise any risk of most serious violent crime happening’.  

It seemed reasonable and right for the police to take measures to keep the public safe, however, the targeted nature of its application, specifically to events that ‘predominantly feature DJs or MCs performing to a recorded backing track’, made Form 696 hugely controversial.  

Many music industry figures and trade associations called it an infringement of civil liberties and demanded it be scrapped.

Last week’s open letter from Culture Minister Matt Hancock to London Mayor Sadiq Khan voiced concerns that the form was ‘stifling young artists’ and impacting negatively on London’s economy.

Hancock asked if it was ‘serving a justified purpose’ and whether it was time for the form to be reviewed or scrapped.

So what’s the ‘beef’? 

From inception, the use of Form 696 was highly targeted.  

Though it was edited in 2009, original versions required venues to supply details of audience ethnicity and even singled out particular genres such as bashment, R&B and garage.  

It required full disclosure of names and addresses of promoters and artists performing, who were then subject to police investigation. Failure to comply was interpreted as a breach of licence and carried a potential fine.  

On the basis of the investigation, events were either permitted to go ahead or venues were compelled to cancel them or take costly additional security measures.

Would this level of investigation and implied causation be carried out on actual players in the event of violence at a football match?  

Was it not the industry-wide approach, promoting cooperation between the police, Football Association and football clubs, that in the end helped to root out the hooliganism that plagued the football industry?

Despite the updates to the form, a recent Freedom of Information request by the BBC uncovered that it is still being misused by certain factions of the police: Leicestershire police still asks about ethnicity; the form is still not imposed on other musical genres.  

As a consequence, grime and urban artists are disproportionately affected through cancelled shows. They are not afforded a fair chance to make a living from their art.

Considering the increasing success of urban music and grime in particular, Form 696 does indeed appear to be ‘stifling’ a unique British musical and cultural art form, as Matt Hancock suggested.  Like your beef rare, or medium-well?

Urban Development aims to support emerging diverse young artists, professionals and entrepreneurs to build sustainable careers and develop their knowledge and art.

Our work sits at the crossroads where the talent of emerging and underground music meets a hugely competitive mainstream industry. 

Of course, keeping the public safe and preventing violent crime are paramount – the police should do all it can to tackle malevolent elements within society.  

However, Form 696 may not be the answer. We're not alone in questioning whether Form 696 is jeopardising a thriving sector and stifling urban music's valuable cultural and economic contribution, reducing the diversity of this country’s musical offering and having a damaging wider potential impact.  

We support Matt Hancock in calling for a review and welcome a dialogue between the music sector and the Police to address the concerns. Grime is not the enemy.