In 2010, legislation was passed to review the notion of entertainment in Scotland under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, rendering free-forms of creative expression such as small scale music events, theatre productions, literary readings and visual art exhibitions produced by grass roots groups and initiatives, which should remain free to public as viewers or audience, as impassable without a paid for Public Entertainment Licence. By 1 April 2012, if left unreviewed, this could have potentially destructive effects to existing cultural infrastructures that rely on a free economy and community.

It is at the discretion of local authorities in Scotland to come to an agreement between the voice of artists, with their reasoning for a right to free and impromptu expression (the licence would require 28 days notice during application period and consultation), and regulatory committees set in place, to come to a decision on what types of events and organisations need to apply for a licence.

On 23 February Glasgow City Council published a statement after reviewing public entertainment licence rules, clarifying “the council will not require a licence for events which are for a temporary period and are of a non-commercial nature”. However this is only for a blanket period of six months, after which more clarification will be needed.

On the Thursday 1 March a public meeting was held at Out Of The Blue in Leith, Edinburgh. Chaired by The Herald’s Neil Cooper the meeting presented a panel, comprising of grassroots arts promoter and organiser of LeithLate Morvern Cunnigham, head of Postgraduate and Visual Culture at Edinburgh College of Art Neil Mullholland, independent creative producer Chloe Dear, founder of Neu! Reekie, Kevin Williamson, Malcolm Chisholm MSP and Councillor Rob Munn (convenor of City of Edinburgh Council Regulatory Committee).

Further groups and individuals representative of the grass routes visual arts and music scene in Edinburgh were present, in order to clarify ramifications of possible decisions made by City of Edinburgh Council on what has been described as the essential ‘bottom up’ pathway of feeding the creative industries: an infrastructure which has historically enriched creative growth, making a commercially viable and economically tightened culture within Scotland.

By 9 March 2012, the City of Edinburgh Council Regulatory Committee will have reached a form of clarification for what type events and organisations are to be exempt from needing a license. Whilst Dumfries and Galloway Council have in effect wavered the license for smaller organisations by shifting the language used in enforcing the act, citizens of Edinburgh hope for a similar outcome.

A resounding 15,661signatures for a petition against the move towards the Public Entertainment License has been successful in rallying cultural voice. The licensing process will not only add more cost to producing events, gigs and exhibitions, it will also prolong administrative responsibilities for grass roots organisers (and indeed for the council too), hemming in often reactive and spontaneous forms of art making: the sort of activity that gives cities such as Edinburgh their vibrancy and cultural backbone.

Some might say that Glasgow’s move to shift the act above a threshold, allowing smaller groups to remain active without a license, is to waver Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art: a biannual event which puts Glasgow on the international map, mustering cultural economy for Scotland.

A similar resolution may be reached in Edinburgh, but imagine future Edinburgh Fringe Festivals without the freedom to experience free events in the back of your local pub, or to attend a lecture series in your friends flat? Politics aside, it is a question of clarity in language used, so everyone knows where they stand.


Sign the petition for local authorities in Scotland to reach clarity on the implications of Public Entertainment Licence Changes, make your voice heard Read on

Facebook event for Stop Public Entertainment Licence Changes: A Public Meeting Read on

Article in The Herald Read on

Scottish Artists Union Read on

Glasgow City Council Read on

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