Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Public Entertainment Licences in Scotland

There has now been a small pile of coverage in the blogsphere about the controversy of Public Entertainments Licences in Glasgow. Rays of light here and there.

Helen Shaddock brings us the response for Nicola Sturgeon MSP including this:-
However, it is important to stress that the new law does not mean that local licensing authorities are required to insist on free-to-enter events having a Public Entertainment Licence. The discretion lies entirely with the local licensing authority - in this case Glasgow - to determine what types of events they licence. The public entertainment licence is a discretionary licence. It is for the local authority therefore to decide whether to licence public entertainment and if they do, what specific types of entertainment they wish to include.

As I understand it, there is nothing whatsoever in the law to prevent Glasgow from exempting all or certain categories of free to enter events from the requirement to have a public entertainment licence. Indeed they already have exemptions in place in relation to school halls, church halls, fetes and gala days and there is no reason why other events cannot be added to this list of exemptions.
Via For Pete's Sake we learn that Glasgow music scene heavy-weights Belle and Sebastian have weighed in on twitter with the jaw-dropping put-down:-
Not cool GlasgowCC [City Council], not cool at all.
Art Tokens wonders why there's no corresponding fuss about Edinburgh City Council who require exhibits to have licences, perhaps this is because their policy is for venues with paid entry. They don't seem to have changed their policy in line with the change in the law.

Linn Labour gets all political about it, having a go at Nicola Sturgeon MSP for clarifying the Scottish parliament's position in the face of Glasgow City Council's warning about the repercussion of the change in legislation. Somewhere along the line there was a miscommunication, a fine article on the subject in The Firm explains that
The licensing of public entertainment is an “optional” civic licence. This means it is a matter for each licensing authority to decide whether or not public entertainment events should require a licence, and secondly to decide what forms of entertainment are treated as “entertainment” for licensing purposes.
Thus bitch-slapping Glasgow City Council, bang, right in the chops.

There's a neat letter in The Herald pointing out
In this year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, many people will be considering ways to publicly celebrate this event. How many organisers will be aware that free entry community events will now, according to the legislative briefing on Glasgow City Council's website, require a public entertainment licence?
Which is a rather neat angle, outwith art galleries and popup gigs.

The campaign is still going strong on Facebook, with useful titbits filtering through, Zara Gladman wrote to her MSP Bill Kidd, who's aide Alison wrote back, possibly having looked at my list of what other councils are doing:-
...The interpretation of this and decision on what scale of event requires a license is up to local authorities, It doesn't appear that other local authorities are taking the same approach as Glasgow, which would tend to suggest that the problems... ...are of [Glasgow City] Council's making. There is nothing in the Act which would automatically penalise small scale free events...
Yeah, take that GlasgowCC, in your face.

The latest actual news via The Herald
...a spokesman for the local authority said it will seek a temporary solution so that small art exhibitions will not require a licence.

The move – a redefinition of the term exhibition, the council said – will represent immediate steps which help to protect Glasgow's art scene.
Perhaps like what West Lothian council have already done, instead of the boilerplate use of 'Exhibition' in the list of events affected, they specify
Exhibition of persons or performing animals.
and don't refer to art galleries at all.

One thing that has been bugging me immensely throughout is the spelling of licence, license, licencing, licensing?

Another thing is the nagging suspicion that maybe its Glasgow City Council, The Highlands Council and West Lothian who are on the ball in changing their policies, and the other 29 councils will all be playing catch up in the coming months. What if the rest of Scotland still have this battle to face once the various councils's lawyers have finished reading the legislation and then decide to implement it all across the board to the letter.

The main angle of my charge is that Glasgow is being unique in its implementation, and all the other councils are well aware of the change in legislation, but have decided not to implement it, that they know its all optional and have opted not to do anything. But maybe I'm wrong, and the rest of Scotland's art scenes are in for a fight.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Public Entertainment Licences in Glasgow

All over my twitter stream and Facebook feed Glaswegians are up in arms about the council's implementation of a change in the Public Entertainment Licence laws whereby the Scottish Parliament has devolved power down to local authorities to decide whether or not free events need to pay for an Public Entertainment Licence.

Originally the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 had the text
In this section, “place of public entertainment” means any place where, on payment of money or money’s worth, members of the public are admitted or may use any facilities for the purposes of entertainment or recreation...
But now the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 has removed the bit about payment of money. According to MSP Nicola Sturgeon, its up to local councils' discretion as to whether to charge free events and event modify which sorts of events are except, not the Scottish parliament.

I think the idea behind it was to enable councils to clamp down on free 'raves', which is kind of twenty five years too late

Anyhoo, I'm a bit far away from the action, but with a a few spare minutes I went through the websites of all the unitary authorities in Scotland and put together this google docs spreadsheet indicating which only require events where the public has to pay to have entertainment licences and which ones require all events.

Its thrilling stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

Of the 32 unitary authorities, only three make reference to the change in legislation, 19 of them only require a licence for events where the public has to pay.

As a side note, quite a few of them use EUGO the European Union point of single contact to administer Public Entertainment Licences. And also a great chunk of the councils have just cut and pasted the text from the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, as can be seen from the use of the phrase "on payment of money or money’s worth", but some change it to "monies" which is incorrect and a minor point of pedantry.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Library in a Phone Box #27 Brynberian, Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire-61Via the joy that is twitter, another phonebox library has appeared on my radar. A flickr user by the name of Katchoo found a llyfrgell cyfnewid in Brynberian, Pembrokeshire, on the road to Pentre Ifan, the largest dolmen on the British mainland. Katchoo has some fine photos there, and without much difficulty I was able to locate it on google maps too.

Its a good solid five shelf affair, about eighty books, with no sign of kids books as is usual for these things, but a couple of copies of Garden Answers magazine are a nice alternative.Pembrokeshire-56

But in Katchoo's accompanying blogpost, a comment has been left by a chap called John Kirriemuir:-
It’s good if there was nothing in the community for book lending before. Not a library in all but the narrowest of definitions though; it’s just a bunch of books that people can borrow.

It’s not so good if the local library has been closed, or taken over as a big society sham “community volunteer-run library” – much more in a post am writing on this. As it means (a) skilled information professional has been made unemployed and (b) the community has lost most or all of these”
This is easy to look into. According to Pembrokeshire council the nearest council-run libraries to Brynberian are Crymych Library which is 7 miles to the east and Newport Library which is 5.1 miles to the north. Also Pembrokeshire has three Mobile Libraries that visit villages and rural areas once every three weeks. So as there are clearly other things in the community for book lending, the phone box swop library is not "good".

I had a check on google and it appears there's no library closures being mooted in Pembrokeshire, there are no news stories about library closures, there are no council documents, there's no easily findable evidence that this phone box library has come about because of library closures. As no local libraries have been closed in Pembrokeshire and no skilled information professionals have been made unemployed, its not "not so good".

Its not a zero sum game, there has never previously been a public library in Brynberian, but there is one now.

This has however pointed me in a new direction in documenting these phone box swop libraries, I can find out how far away the nearest council run libraries are and the proximity of library closures, and then see statistically if there is any correlation.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Library in a Phone Box #24 Arkesden, Essex

The Saffron Walden News reports on the opening of a new phone box library in the Village of Arkesden near Saffron Walden in Essex:-
Telephone box walk-in libraries are becoming all the rage as another one pops up in our region.
The unusual High Street accessory was featured last week at Henhan and now villagers in Arkesden are enjoying their newly-acquired collection of books.

BT asked for a donation of £1 to purchase decommissioned phone boxes, which Arkesden Parish Council took them up on earlier this year.

The council then invited residents to decide on a new use for the iconic red box.
Suggestions included a shower, parcel collection box, local information point, history archive, tea stop (with kettle and provisions), art gallery and an honesty grocery shop.

But it was Arkesden resident and mum-of-three, Jemma Macfadyen’s winning library idea that was voted the most popular and usable.

She has since moved temporarily abroad with her family, but thanks to her idea, villagers can now borrow books anytime, day or night and replenish the library with unwanted books from home.
Cllr Jane Chetcuti, from Arkesden Parish Council, said: “Unfortunately, the traditional red phone box has become redundant in modern Britain.

“BT’s great idea for councils to adopt local kiosks not only saves the iconic red box from extinction but also enhances communities.

“Jemma Macfadyen’s book exchange idea provides a lovely focal point where people can meet and swap books they have enjoyed.”

Children's books are also available and a notebook is provided to encourage book reviews and comments.

Beti Newton, ex-postmistress in Arkesden, who has lived next to the phone box for 37 years said: “I used to be paid 50p to clean it every week!

“The library is such a lovely idea and very well-used. I borrowed a book, recommended to me by a friend, just this weekend.”
Looks like a fine example of a four shelf phone box library, although the shelves are less full than other examples with no stacking on top.

After discussing matters with a few acquaintances, I feel I should point out that I have never bought a red phone box from BT, given it a fresh lick of paint, installed shelves, filled it with books and painted on a sign that says "Phone box Library".

However dozens of other people across the UK have done for various reasons, and I'm not such a self-righteous, pompous and condescending prick to tell them that they are wrong, these things are not "libraries", and how dare they use that word for a glorified book-swap, take it down at once, return those books to their private homes and leave public access book exchange facilities to trained professionals and elected officials who clearly and demonstrably know better than village-dwelling little people.

If the patrons of the phone box libraries wish to refer to them as phone box libraries, then that is fine with me.

Forsooth, there have never been public libraries in the villages Thruxton, Cowlinge, Haybridge
and Little Shelford. But now there is at least one structure that bears the word "library".

The existence red phone box libraries, swear down, are not and have never been a reason to close public libraries, or to justify their closure, or excuse their closure, or mitigate their closure, they are merely a serendipitous parochial reaction to the availability of redundant red phone boxes.

Perhaps I'm wrong, The Saffron Walden News, The South Wales Argus, The Warrington Guardian and the BBC too, perhaps we should not be reporting on such trivial matters.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Library in a Phone Box #9 Staplehay, Somerset

Its not often I find myself driving round the 'west country', so whenever I am there, I try to take advantage of the situation and visit as many phone box libraries as I can.

I was on the A5, heading north, and put Staplehay into my sat nav thing. It took us off at junction 26, then on a bit of an adventure through windy country roads when I could have just headed to Taunton and the town of Trull. Anyhoo, we emerged into Staplehay, pulled up at The Crown Inn, and before me stood the mighty Staplehay Book and Info Exchange.

There's four shelves packed with books, and more stacked on top, children's books in a box on the floor with a selection of larger books. Around 150 books in total I reckon.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Library in a Phone Box #23 Haybridge, Wells

Found this one on the way to Wookey Hole, Haybridge is the village just before you get there. Its little more than a street with a few houses and some kind of works depot on the other side, anyhoo, when I spotted a phonebox I hadn't seen before I had to stop and get my camera out.

Its a dusty looking phonebox, still awaiting a fresh lick of paint, but it had a rather fine collection of books, four shelves of a custom-made bookcase, bolted on where the phone used to be. Around a hundred books, with children well-catered for.

Haybridge is about three villages east of Westbury-sub-Mendip, which let me remind you, was the first documented phonebox library. Although when I drove through Westbury, I could see no phone box.