Nine comments

Informal, friendly, Thursday night tune session, starting at about 8.30pm. Great location - right on the beach. Good food and guest ales.

very welcoming session when we visited in summer 2005

Cove House Inn, Portland, Dorset

Still going strong in December 2006.

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Cove House Inn, Portland, Dorset

Still strong and welcoming to everyone. As well as playing well-loved Irish tunes, they throw in a couple of non-trad melodies, and the odd bluegrass and Shetland tunes. There is a great variety of musicans at different levels. The audience is great and there are no requests for Fields of Athenry. This pub is beautifully located and there are great views of Chesil Beach just outside, but you can watch the sun set through the two very large windows of this old public house. On top of that, a great platter of free sandwiches is being brought out half way through the session. Simply perfect. Well worth the trip from London to Weymouth for me.

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A little bit of history.

My wife and I started this session on 7 December 2000. Officers of our Council advised that it to be (more than) two performers in a public entertainment and were determined to prevent the session unless the licensee obtained additional entertainment licensing.

The licensee never considered the session to be licensable but was faced with written threats of prosecution with a possible £20,000 fine or six months in prison. Mainly because conventional entertainment was staged on Friday nights, the licensee did obtain this licensing and this ensured the session’s survival. The usual outcome of such disputes was that a licensee ended the session. Many thanks must be due to this licensee and to the next licensees and also to the current licensees. No thanks are due to my local authority.

In December 2010, the session will be ten years old. There is much cause to celebrate this.

However, any celebration is tainted by the fact that despite a major reform of licensing legislation, my local authority still advises that the only way such sessions can take place is with additional Premises Licence Entertainment permission, as a performance of Regulated Entertainment which cannot benefit from any of the exemptions contained in the Licensing Act 2003.

Such advice, presents serious and unnecessary risks. It places participatory sessions in direct competition with conventional entertainment for available nights.

My view is that the music making in such sessions are not performance. It is only performance which is licensable.

The relationship between performer and licensee is one of temporary employee and employer. Where a performer is under some obligation to the licensee to stage a performance, customers participating in sessions are under no obligation. All a pub’s customer needs to make music for their own enjoyment, is the licensee’s agreement.

The point is recognised locally when indoor sports become licensable performances but no similar distinction is made for participatory music making.

I am trying to get my local authority, to adopt a policy which treats participatory music making in pubs in the same way as participatory games of indoor sport.

It would be helful if anyone wishing to help ensure that The Cove session’s ten years can be celebrated as the valuable social and cultural activity that it undoubtedly is can write to the Mayor of;

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council,
North Quay
Dorset DT4 8TA
Telephone +44 (01305) 838000

I have recieved two assurances from the Government Minister the responsible. The first assurance was made in reference to participatory pub sessions in general and the second was a specific answer concerning the the Cove House Inn session, recorded in Hansard, during the Standing Committee stage of the Bill.

Number 1.Extract from Mike Harding’s BBC Radio 2 show 17 July 2002. Published in The Rose Of The Ribble Valley by Graham Dixon ISBN 1-84294-100-3.

Dr Kim Howells was then Minister in the DCMS responsible for introducing what later became The Licensing Act 2003.

Mike Harding Kim, if I can just go on to some questions we’ve had sent in from listeners, very quickly, because I do realise you’ve got to get off to the house and various other things…Roger Gall has emailed to say, and I quote, "When you introduce this new licensing system, if pubs don’t have an entertainment licence, will sessions and singarounds be banned?"

Dr Kim Howells MP Yes, i suppose they would be. The landlord would need to get an entertainment licence to cover himself or herself….

Mike Harding But this is not for gain, is it, you were talking about…

Dr Kim Howells MP Oh, I see, I am sorry, I thought that you meant it would be professional musicians being paid ….

Mike Harding No, just sessions and singarounds, people just playing for their own fun.

Dr Kim Howells MP No, they certainly wouldn’t and I’m very keen that we should make sure that that facility is there. There shouldn’t be a problem. As long as money is not changing hands, then there’s no reason why they should have to have a licence.

Column No: 070

Jim Knight: I would not have become interested in the subject if it were not for Roger Gall, a constituent of mine, who lives on Portland, where there is a folk jamming session on a Friday night in a pub called the Cone House Inn. It became known that the landlord was comfortable with people coming along on a Friday night and playing their music. These sessions were not advertised. Such an event, which is not advertised or actively encouraged, may be a passive part of the atmosphere of the pub, and it may begin to build up business and become a substantial attraction and profit maker for the publican. Would the Minister regard such an activity as one that should be regulated under the Bill?

Dr. Howells: It seems that that is largely a spontaneous activity, to which people turn up occasionally, and it seems also that the word has spread that people can hear some nice music. However, as the hon. Gentleman says, the licensee does not spend money on advertising. If it is clear that music is being played in the corner of the pub, that would be incidental in my book. I do not know whether that gives him any comfort.

Often, if it is intended that the everyday meaning of a term be used in legislation, it must be judged commensurate to the circumstances of each case. I know that that has drawn some guffaws from Opposition Members, but I hope that the combination of the term ”incidental” and the explanation that I have tried to give, taken together with the guidance that the Department will issue, will be sufficient to ensure that licensing authorities give due consideration to whatever music is being performed.

.As of this week, The Cove House Inn’s trad tunes session is now 10ys old!

Any celebrations are on hold until Weymouth and Portland Borough Council no longer insist that it is a performance of licensable Regulated Entertainment, which cannot benefit from any of the Act’s exemptions and finally recognise it as the valuable cultural activity that is undoubtably is.

Thursday Session has died :(

Sad to say that the Thursday session at The Cove has died a death. The musicians voted with their feet when the new management made it quite clear that they weren’t interested in traditional music in the pub…which like many other pubs appears to have gone down the route cramming the place with tables and turning what was a beautiful traditional drinking pub into a virtual restaurant.