Robin Simpson, Chief Executive of Voluntary Arts explains why he thinks removing licensing red tape will encourage more amateur performances while easing the burden on organisers.
The DCMS report ‘Our Creative Talent: the voluntary and amateur arts in England’ (DCMS/Arts Council England, 2008) concluded that, in England, voluntary and amateur arts groups put on 710,000 performances a year, with a total audience of more than 158 million. The average attendance at an amateur performance is 220 people. Licensing and public entertainment legislation was raised as a concern by many of the groups interviewed for the report. As ‘Our Creative Talent’ pointed out:
“Much of this legislation has been developed with the professional world in mind, where there is more capacity to manage bureaucratic processes and systems. For voluntary groups this can be a serious burden and can place huge limitations on their ability and confidence to deliver and expand activity.”
Voluntary Arts is the national representative organisation for the amateur arts and crafts. We represent tens of thousands of groups of singers, musicians, actors, dancers, painters and craftspeople across the country. These groups are self-organised, non-profit, community groups. ‘Our Creative Talent’ said:
“Crucially, the voluntary arts sector is a prime example of balancing supply and demand at a local level. This has enabled many groups to be sustainable over a long period of time, some for decades and even over 100 years, and indicates that the sector is highly valued by those directly participating in creative activity, by audiences and by the wider community.”
Performances by amateur groups form a significant proportion of the cultural life of the country. In some communities amateur shows are the only available live performances. For some time amateur arts groups have struggled with the complexities, confusions and costs of entertainment licensing which has often seemed excessive when applied to small-scale, non-profit, community activities. Voluntary Arts welcomes, therefore, the deregulation announced today and hopes this will encourage more amateur performances and ease the load on the organisers of amateur groups.
Clear, simple guidance on the changes to entertainment licensing will be available shortly through Running Your Group – our suite of online information services for the people running amateur groups. Running Your Group contains our library of Voluntary Arts Briefings as well as a range of new resources including interactive learning modules and live webcasts. Running Your Group is an invaluable resource for amateur arts groups, local authority Arts Development Officers, national umbrella bodies and any professional arts organisations working with amateur groups.