The deputation from the Stop PEL Changes in Edinburgh campaign consisted of Neil Cooper and Morvern Cunningham. Neil gave an impressive speech about the history of grassroots arts, drawing attention to the fact that such cultural icons as the Traverse grew out of small, free readings in bookshops. At the end of it you could feel the artists in the gallery restraining themselves from clapping.
The Committee then asked a number of questions about the impact of the PEL changes on grassroots arts and explained that amending their Resolution to extend the list of specifically exempt activities would take nine months. They could do that, or instead they could specify which activities actually do require a license. Or they could still decide that small scale events need to be licensed, even if it’s without a fee – that is still a possibility, and it’s still certain that six weeks’ notice would kill the spontaneity of grassroots arts so we really need to keep the pressure on to make sure we don’t end up with that.
However, no decisions can be taken before the next meeting, which is on April 20th. Yes, that’s right, nearly three weeks after the new rules come into force. Small free performances which take place between the 1st and the 20th will require a license. The fee will be waived. You might spot a bit of a problem here – it’s 10 March. April is just over three weeks away. How do we give the necessary notice?
The implication at the meeting was that prosecuting artists for putting on gigs in cafes and galleries really isn’t a priority of the Council’s, but technically any such events held license-free between 1 and 20 April will be illegal, even though we can’t possibly get licenses in time.
One thing that was never explained was why Glasgow seems to be able to halt the march of the PEL while they carry out a review (which Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t seem to have a problem with) but Edinburgh can’t.
Surely if it’s not against the law for one council, it’s not against the law for the others? But never mind. The point is that they’ll make their decision in April, so we need to keep working with the Council to ensure that it’s a workable, sensible decision, by which I mean ‘a decision that exempts small free events from licenses, not just from fees’.