Updated: 10/04/08
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The Licensing Bill - Message 3 - Tim Aves

MUSICIANS will be utterly horrified when they find out how much the Bill will cramp their style, says blues singer and festival organiser Tim Aves.

But the most worrying aspect, he adds, is that many people are unlikely to discover the full implications of the Government proposals until it's too late and they have already passed into law.

"It really is hard to credit that a Government which has aligned itself so closely with rock and pop musicians should come up with something that will do so much harm to musicians everywhere," he adds. " You tell other musicians what it is likely to mean and most of them just think you're having them on."

Tim, 44, has worked widely as a semi-professional musician for 25 years, first with r'n'b band Automatic Slim and currently with Essex blues outfit The Rockin' Armadillos, with whom he has released two acclaimed CDs and recently recorded a session for BBC Radio 2's Paul Jones R&B Show. He is also one of the organisers of the long-running annual Burnham Festival of Music and the Arts - and in this capacity has been lobbying for some time for a change to the present law.

"The current laws are clearly daft," he says. "They were made for an age before amplified music was the norm. Imagine if the roads were still regulated by laws made for horses and carts - that's where we still are with music licensing!

But to continue the analogy, what is being proposed is the equivalent of putting a man with a red flag in front of every car on the M25. It's heavy-handed, overly bureaucratic and proscriptive. If the Bill passes intolaw, you'll probably need a licence to break wind!"

All the Government needs to do, he argues, is to look at the problems associated with live music - noise, electrical safety and overcrowding in venues - and make sure there are proper legal safeguards to deal with these.

"The legal framework for these safeguards is already largely there under other laws," he adds. "All the Government has to do is apply a light touch to co-ordinate these safeguards and leave the creative side to its own devices. It's what they do in the USA, continental Europe - even just over the border in Scotland and Ireland - and it works just fine."

He is especially concerned that for the first time, musicians will be responsible for making sure the places they play are licensed - with the threat of prosecution hanging over them if they're caught giving an unlicensed performance.

"Imagine taking the Salvation Army band to court for playing Christmas carols in the local shopping centre, or prosecuting a family group for singing 'Happy Birthday' at a private party," Tim adds. "Crazy as it seems, both these situations would require a licence, under the proposals. That's how idiotic and petty this thing really is!"

And here's an interesting notion...

If he's not careful, a certain Mr A Blair, could fall foul of his own law, as he strums his Fender Stratocaster in the privacy of his Downing Street home! Under the Bill, for the first time, rehearsal areas will require a licence - and it's far from clear exactly what, in law, will constitute rehearsal space.

And what will be gained by imposing the most restrictive controls in the West upon a grass-roots music scene whose creativity has long been the envy of the world?

"It makes me seething mad every time I think about it," Tim adds.

"Absolutely nobody will gain - and a hell of a lot of people will lose. The little guy who makes his living playing solo in pubs; school choirs; young bands who need small gigs to hone their performing skills; the huge numbers of working musicians who are the cultural lifeblood of this country - they'll all lose out".

"That's why it is VITALLY important that everyone - not just musicians, but everyone who cares about the future of music in Britain - gets in touch with their MP right now and makes a huge fuss about this. Otherwise, the cultural map of this country will be irreparably changed for ever."

Message 4