Red tape strangles folk festival

By Benedict O'ConnorA LANDOWNER has blamed a web of Government red tape and a "tax on fun" for the demise of a music festival.John Agnew, of the Rougham Estate, near Bury St Edmunds, criticised the bureaucracy involved in obtaining a public entertainments licence, on which he blamed the cancellation of the Rougham Airfield Folk Music and Storytelling Festival.

By Benedict O'Connor

A LANDOWNER has blamed a web of Government red tape and a "tax on fun" for the demise of a music festival.

John Agnew, of the Rougham Estate, near Bury St Edmunds, criticised the bureaucracy involved in obtaining a public entertainments licence, on which he blamed the cancellation of the Rougham Airfield Folk Music and Storytelling Festival.

It had been due to take place on September 10 to 12 with about 15,000 people expected to attend, but Mr Agnew has reluctantly cancelled the event because of the prohibitive cost and "bureaucratic nightmare" involved in obtaining a licence.


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"It's terribly disappointing and disheartening, not just for us, but for the many people who have expressed an interest in the festival. We are trying to provide something for local people and there are huge barriers in the way," he said.

"In order to get a public entertainments licence you have to predict how many people will attend an event and you have to pay a certain charge per head, but if that number doesn't turn up, you've got no comeback.

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"Also the paperwork for the licence is like a bible and you need an expert to guide you through it, which is even more expense – there's virtually a form for every single lead you plug in.

"We put on events here throughout the year and I think we've proved we're responsible and capable organisers, but simply because this is music instead of traction engines or an air show, we have to go through this rigmarole."

Mr Agnew said the licence, which arose out of the clampdown on illegal raves during the 1980s, was a "tax on fun" and had been designed to "stop young people enjoying themselves".

He added: "The amount of work involved in obtaining a licence is ridiculous – it's just another example of the nanny state we're living in that, that you have to jump through these hoops simply to provide live music for responsible adults.

"I'm not suggesting for a minute that we should be lax on health and safety and I acknowledge these licences have been around for sometime, but we are just trying to organise relatively low-key events in an area where there is not much else of this kind of event.

"Nor am I criticising St Edmundsbury Borough Council, who are simply bound by law to enforce the licensing requirements, and have always been very helpful.

"The whole idea of opening up the airfield for events was that they would be away from residential areas and people could make a bit of noise, but when we are basically paying for our next event on the profit of our last event, it becomes untenable."

Mr Agnew said the many other popular events at the airfield would not be affected by the cancellation of the festival as they did not require the same type of licence.

benedict.o'connor@eadt.co.uk

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