Feargal Sharkey: When we rocked the Kasbah, the band was bigger than the crowd

Friday 21 November 2008 01:00

I performed my first gig at the Kasbah, in Derry, when I was 17 years old. There were five in the band. I think there were more of us on stage than there were in the audience. The only reason we got asked back was that the barman listened to us, and thought we were quite fun. I was paid £20.

What many people do not realise is that live music is one of the most successful creative industries in the UK. The whole music industry brings in £6bn a year. It also brings a great deal of pleasure to people's lives.

But this whole industry is built upon very fragile, very humble foundations, in the little rooms of pubs, clubs, hotels, bars and restaurants. From my personal experience, these little venues provide the only opportunity that young musicians and performers have to appear in public. It is where they find out about themselves. It is also an outlet for forms of music such as folk, blues, jazz, etc.

If you look at the police's definition of an "event" that might need a risk assessment, it could cover anything from a concert by the Royal Philharmonic to Uncle Joe getting up on stage at a wedding and performing with the spoons on his knees.

I'm not saying there was never any trouble in the audience when I was with the Undertones, but are we talking about trouble on the sort of scale that required intervention by the state? No.

When Pete Doherty was banned from performing at the Moonfest in August, it was because somebody in the Wiltshire police had watched a video of his gig at the Royal Albert Hall and, yes, some of the fans got up on stage, and it was alleged his music had a "whirlwind effect" that excited the audience. Well, bugger me, there was I thinking that was the point of it all, but apparently not in the minds of the Wiltshire Constabulary.

There were about 1.7 million live music events in England and Wales in the past 12 months. Exactly how many of those impacted on the police because of claimed disorder? The number is so little that there is no rational reason why the law should want to take any notice. Quite why the Met demands the names, addresses, birth dates and other details of musicians escapes me.

Feargal Sharkey is the chief executive of UK Music

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