Saturday 11th February, 2012
Glasgow City Council have announced plans to introduce hefty Temporary Public Entertainment Licence fees to cover all events and exhibitions held in the city—even if they are being hosted free of charge. It looks like they will be rolled out nationally as the result of a change in policy by the Scottish Government, despite 2012 being lauded as the ‘Year of Creative Scotland’.
Last year, my writing was exhibited free of charge for a month at a wee independent coffee shop, where I also gave readings and recitals one night per week. This gave me the opportunity to try out new material from the play I was writing in front of a live audience. I was able to do this because the owner of the shop supports the arts and was happy to let the place be used for this purpose. These events help bring in customers and support small businesses at a time when many are struggling to survive and compete against larger chains.
Running this same exhibition in 2012, I’d need to pay a minimum of £121, potentially up to £580 (the fee structure is far from clear) to get a licence for the event. The event could not be hosted free of charge unless someone with deep pockets was willing to sponsor it, nor could it have happened as spontaneously and creatively as it did given the ridiculous application process to go through.
A warning on the Council’s briefing note states that failure to secure a licence could result in a maximum fine of up to £20,000, 6 months inprisonment or both—simply for expressing yourself artistically and trying to do so for free.
I personally believe that grassroots artists like myself—writers, painters, poets, photographers, performers—anyone trying to gain exposure for their work while it is still in its early stages depends on independent venues to get a ‘foot up’. They allow us to share our art with the community, help us to build an audience and are the vital life blood of grassroots culture in Glasgow.
Have you ever attended a free poetry recital?
Have you ever admired artwork exhibited freely on the walls of a coffee shop, pub or pop-up gallery?
Have you listened to an author read from a novel in a bookshop?
Have you stopped to look at photography by a student or freelancer?
Have you listened to a musician play an acoustic set in a cafe or restaurant?
These types of events are now at risk.
I urge you to visit the website below and sign my petition calling for the fees to scrapped. They are nothing short of a tax on art and entertainment.
Thanks for reading,
Playwright, Poet & Performing Artist