Friday, December 05, 2008

Form 696

Form 696 sounds like the name of a Belgian industrial outfit (oh no that was Front 242) but is actually a pernicious example of bureaucracy - to be precise it is a form that the Metropolitan Police (Clubs Focus Desk/Clubs & Vice Unit) in London is 'asking' all licensed premises to fill in for music events. The promoter and the venue are required to list 'all artistes, the acts, sound systems, other promoters performing' (including DJs) with details including name, address, telephone number and date of birth.

It is not actually a legal requirement to complete the form - not that you would know that as it states 'This form must be completed by the licensee in consultation with the promoter'. The reality is that if the police express concerns about a venue's license it is likely that the license will be taken away - so when the form says that ' full co-operation is regarded as demonstrating positive and effective venue management' everybody knows that this is an implied threat. In England and Wales, the Licensing Act 2003 requires venues to have a license from their local council to sell drink and/or allow music and dancing - and councils are obliged to take into consideration the views of the police.

Controversially, the form singles out particular kinds of black music, asking 'Music style to be played/performed (e.g. Bashment, R'n'B, Garage)' . As I said before when discussing the Met's apparent crackdown on grime, this is a bit more complex that 'the man trying to stamp out the kids' music'. People really are being murdered at some club nights - at the seOnelub in October for instance - and it is true that some kind of music nights seem more likely than others to attract this kind of violence. But the police already have the powers to stop people carrying guns and shooting people - so is it really necessary to label entire genres of music as implicitly criminal and to require police approval for the the simple human act of making music and dancing?

Pressure group UK Music (headed by ex-Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey) is seeking a judicial review of the use of the form, arguing that it will discourage venues from putting on music (see article in Independent). A facebook group Stand Up to Form 696 already has over 3000 members and there is also a Scrap 696 petition. You can read the actual form here.

No comments: