Our White Paper, produced with We Are The Fair and the NTIA, examines the Home Office’s guidance on licensing…


Some events require a licence, some don’t. Following the Home Office’s important Revised Guidance on the 2003 Licensing Act (issued in April 2018), here’s a list of events that are broadly licensable and those that are not:

Events that are generally licensable

1. Music
This includes any playing of recorded music. In live music, this category includes classical music, and, in their own unique ways, musicals, musical theatre and opera. Apart from the live music played in clubs, this category obviously includes live acts at music festivals.

The website Music Festival Wizard lists 97 of such events for 2019, in these sub-categories:

a. Electronic
b. Rock
c. Country
d. Psytrance
e. Hardstyle
f. Jam
g. Metal
h. Hip-Hop
i. Bluegrass
j. Blues
k. Folk
l. Jazz
m. Indie

2. Boxing and wrestling

Events that are broadly licensable in principle, but from which exemptions can apply (see below):

3. Plays in performance
4. Dance performances
5. Full, for-profit film shows
6. Indoor sports events
7. Events on local authority, hospital and school premises 8. Events on community premises
9. Circuses.

Different kinds of events

Events that are generally not licensable

10. Amplified live music between 08.00 and 23.00 on premises authorised to sell alcohol for consumption there; or, in unlicensed workplaces; or in unlicensed but consenting local authority, hospital, school and community premises. Audience sizes must be below 500; Unamplified live music between 08.00 and 23.00

12. Educational – teaching students to perform music or to dance 13. Plays and dance performances between 08.00 and 23.00 with audience sizes below 500
14. Indoor sports between 08.00 and 23.00 with audiences sizes below 1,000

15. Greco-Roman or freestyle wrestling between 08.00 and 23.00 with audiences below 1,000, and with both wrestlers and audience wholly inside a building
16. Morris dancing and accompanying music, or similar

17. Garden fêtes not done for private gain
18. Games played in pubs, youth clubs, etc – for example, pool, darts and table tennis)
19. Stand-up comedy
20. Provision of entertainment facilities – for example, dance floors.

Now: dividing up events like this might appeal to neo-Victorian enthusiasts for classification – after all, the Revised Guidance itself carefully discusses combined fighting sports, in which boxers or wrestlers add, to their craft, ‘one or more martial arts’. Yet as we already saw from the prestigious international mixed-media events listed in Box 1, the market for events has already evolved beyond simple classifications. In Bournemouth, for example, the Bournemouth 7s appeals to men and women aged between 18 and 25 with a heady mix of rugby, netball, dodgeball, hockey and volleyball – all alongside DJs, bands and beer.

It’s true that innovation is much more than a simple combination of what has gone before. At the same time, however, informal events will likely be even more eclectic in 2030 than they are today.


There are other kinds of events to consider, too. These can be subject to some restrictions, but are not covered by the Revised Guidance:

21. Fashion shows
22. Food and drink events

23. Art, design and architecture events 24. Debates, literary festivals
25. Live, on-site computer games contests 26. Cookery demonstrations

27. Flower shows
28. Street markets and farmers’ markets 29. Parades, demonstrations and protests.

Right away, we can expect some of these informal events – not the cookery or horticulture shows, but perhaps the debates, and certainly parades, demonstrations and protests – to come more under the regulator’s gaze. After all, there has already been a strong trend toward exhibitions, as well as museums and theatre plays, becoming the subject of censorious protests.

Given the likely impress of regulation over the years to 2030, the key distinction to be drawn about events is not between those that legally require licences and those that don’t.

The key divide is between those which can obtain licences easily, and those which cannot. Indeed, one way that divide pans out today is the trend for clubs to try to obtain day licences for outside areas, car parks and the like, because late-night licences have become so hard to get.

The Political Economy of Informal Events, 2030 was commissioned and published by Mash Media. Foreword by: Julian Agostini, (MD, Mash Media), Alan D Miller, (chairman, The Night Time Industries Association) Nick Morgan (CEO, We Are The Fair). It was written and edited by James Woudhuysen, visiting professor, forecasting & innovation, London South Bank University. (Advisory team: Tom Hall and Paul Colston).

The print version of report is available for £7.99, but it can be viewed for free online now.