Terence Blacker: Where are the guitar riots and accordian assaults?

This Government has developed a bizarre hatred for a certain kind of live music

Share
Related Topics

Chilling with the kids at the Latitude Festival this weekend, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Ben Bradshaw, looked extraordinarily relaxed for someone whose ministry had just dealt a hammer blow to musical expression in the UK. Participating in a packed debate about media, Bradshaw had been amiable, almost liberal, in his views about Page Three girls and the celebrity culture.

It is music for which his Government has developed a bizarre, sustained hatred – or, to be more accurate, a certain kind of music. There is no problem with the big, moneyed, well-sponsored acts of the type performing on the main stages of Latitude and other festivals. It is the kind of acts found on the fringes of these events – small, scruffy, dangerously individual and spontaneous – which seems to frighten ministers, and has caused them to dump yet another mess of pointless legislation on to the statute books.

Six years ago, the Blair Government decided, for reasons which were and remain mysterious, that live music – that is, any music, acoustic or amplified, played by one musician or more in a public place – causes a threat to public order. It passed the Licensing Act, which required pubs or clubs to fill out a complicated form and pay for a permit from the local council.

There would be no exceptions. A person playing a ukulele accompanied by someone else on a triangle would be breaking the law if the act appeared in a pub without the required license. There was no control, on the other hand, over noise blaring from a large TV screen or from recorded music.

This bafflingly silly piece of legislation, which punished musicians and publicans, two professions that were already in difficulty, had the effect of causing many pubs to abandon live music. After a long campaign, headed by the charity UK Music, sanity seemed to have broken through in May when a Commons Select Committee looking into the act concluded that music should not automatically be considered a disruptive activity. The "draconian" law had discouraged performance, "especially by young musicians".

The Government has just rejected the committee's recommendations. Ben Bradshaw has decreed that, when it comes to music's potential for stirring violence, the number of musicians or the size of audience is irrelevant. Clearly bored by the subject, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has said that the subject is now closed.

Could someone in government, in the ministry, in the police, explain the thinking behind this idiocy? Surely even the most blinkered, legislation-addicted minister can see that it is not music which causes trouble when people are gathered together, but alcohol. It is asinine to blame musicians for what is a general social problem.

There has been extraordinarily little evidence to back up the Government's position – no sobering statistics about guitar riots, or chilling accounts of accordion-related violence. Feebly, a civil servant has argued that, in spite of the Licensing Act, the venues putting on live music in the UK have increased since 2007.

Of course they have. Surely, the news has reached Whitehall by now that Britain is going through a musical renaissance. There has been a huge increase in the numbers of those who attend concerts and festivals. In an age of control and corporatism, when so much of life and work is mediated through screens, performed music is a defiant, and increasingly powerful, expression of the individual human spirit.

Could that, just possibly, be the problem? Is the reason why politicians fear the kind of music which is not controlled by sponsors or huge marketing interests that it represents freedom? A government which likes to boast of the country's "creative industries" is one which deals with life as if it were part of a big business. Everything must be licensed, controlled.

There is a sad irony here for those who have voted Labour down the years. The last time there was an explosion of song-writing outside the power of record companies was some 45 years ago. At that time, a Labour government briefly had the courage to embrace musical performance as part of a young and changing Britain.

Today, those in charge are wary of unlicensed spontaneity. This absurd campaign against musicians, particularly young musicians, may not be the most grievous act of this Government but it represents a spirit of petty-mindedness and fear which will cost it dearly over the next 12 months.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone