Memorandum submitted by The European Entertainment Corporation

 

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Re:  The Licensing Act 2003 - The Circus Industry

 

The European Entertainment Corporation is the largest operator of travelling tenting circuses in the UK.  We promote the tours of The Moscow State Circus and The Chinese State Circus, both of which tour for 40 weeks in each year and also the Continental Circus Berlin which tours for a shorter period.  All of our circuses will usually visit a different town each week, although occasionally they will visit two towns in a week and very occasionally stay in a town for two weeks.  The seating capacity of our tents is above that permitted under the Temporary Events procedure and consequently we require a Premises License for each of our circuses for each week that we operate.  Our circus tours, which are planned on a three year cycle take us throughout England and Wales and for a few weeks into Scotland where the licensing system is much easier because it is largely based on  theHealth and Safety standards of that particular circus and not of the circus site.

 

Some of the circus sites which we have used since the introduction of the Licensing Act have been licensed by the owner, usually the Local Authority, but a larger number are not licensed and we have had to make our own applications.  We have never had a licence refused and there appears to be little concern about the way reputable circuses conduct their business.

 

We are fortunate that, unlike some circuses, we operate a permanent office but the staff needed to keep up with our licensing applications and the amount which we have spent both on making and then advertising the application has been excessive.  It must be remembered that we are having to make a separate application for every unlicensed site which we use, often three in any one week, whereas premises selling alcohol only need to make one application.  This is unfair and results in a considerable financial burden that my company has had to carry.  We are still applying for licences either because we are finding alternative circus sites which we want to try or we are visiting smaller towns where our circuses have not previously been seen.

 

You have received a submission from our trade body, The Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain, which I wholeheartedly support.  It highlights, in addition to the cost of licensing which the industry is having to carry, the problem of the lack of flexibility.  There are situations where a circus site becomes unusable because our visit follows exceptionally wet weather but we are unable to move to an alternative site because we are out of time to apply for a Premises Licence for it.  The overheads in running each of my circuses runs into tens of thousands of pounds each week and these expenses are largely the same whether or not we are able to open for business.  It is not just the wet weather that can make the inflexibility of licensing unfair, there are often other factors.  The circus routes are planned a long time in advance so that we minimise the distance which we have to travel between towns.  Often a Local Authority will, at very short notice, ask if we would change our dates because they realise that we are going to clash with an event that they are organising in the same park and as our business is dependent on a working relationship with those Councils, we have no option but to agree.  iInstead of being able to move to a different site in the town, which we would have done prior to licensing, we have insufficient time to apply for a licence and must travel to a town where we know there is a licensed site.  Similarly, we are operating in a very competitive industry and many towns have more than one circus site.  It is not uncommon for us to find that one of our competitors is using a site in a town which we were planning to visit only two or three weeks later.  In commercial terms, we cannot follow a circus within such a short period and again we have to look for an alternative, and often less satisactory, site but we are limited because it must be one which is already licensed for a circus.  There cannot be any other sector of the leisure and entertainment industry which has been so restricted by the Licensing Act in the ordinary course of it's business.

 

I have been operating circuses for almost forty years and I cannot recall any problems which arose because circuses were not being controlled through licensing.  As most of our sites are owned by Local Authorities, any control is contained within the agreement for the use of that site.  At times, the Licensing Act has reduced my business, which is normally exceptionally well organises, to chaos.

 

I consider that the responsibility for all of these problems is with the DCMS.  It produced legislation which does not state that circuses are licensable, but then in its Guidance notes says that because there is an element of music, circuses should be licensed.  Music is only played to accompany acts as background to a display of circus skills and in two of my circuses I rely entirely on recorded music.

 

I hope the committee will understand that circuses are being licensed only through the opinion of the DCMS and that this licensing is too restrictive, too inflexible, too expensive and too onorous for this traditional industry which for several years has been struggling to survive.

 

 

September 2008