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Obtaining an Event Licence for Music Festivals in the UK

Andy Robertson

It was only recently that a large-scale music festival promoter had their licence application refused leading to cancellation of the event. The rules and regulations laid down by government and implement by local councils are complex and sometimes vague. What can organisers do to ensure a successful licence application.  


Although the guidance issued by the government relating to Section 182 of the Licencing Act 2003 is meant to provide a framework for local councils and event organisers it can be open to interpretation by all parties. What are the key elements of this guidance and what do music festival organisers need to do to submit an application with the best possible chance of success?

Key Guidance Elements.
The current guidance contains 155 pages of information and covers just about every aspect of licence applications. The key elements that will be considered include: 

  • Public Safety.
  • Safe Departure From an Event.
  • Maintenance and Repair.
  • Safe Capacities.
  • Public Nuisance.
  • Protecting Children from Harm.

It is these that need to be addressed by the applicant for consideration by the licensing authority who in turn will seek advice from local police, emergency services and Environmental Health Authorities. 

Application Contents.
Any music festival organisers should fully understand what activities need licences and ensure that each one is applied for with as much relevant data as possible. The guidance provides more information on exactly what is licensable and for a music festival will generally include alcohol sales, regulated entertainment and the provision of late-night refreshments. Much of this is covered by the premises licence which relates to the selected location. These applications usually fall under the Temporary Event Notice (TEN) which is subject to various limitations mainly being that the event must have no more than 499 visitors.

Music Festival Specific Guidance. 
Although still strictly called a TEN the provisions for festivals vary slightly and music festivals can be classified as High Volume Vertical Drinking establishments (HVVDs), which may receive additional consideration relating to a cap on attendance and the requirement for security staff to hold the appropriate SIA licence for example.

Planning an Application.
As with most planning activities for any sizable music festival an application should be submitted to the local authority responsible for granting all relevant licences well in advance. Although the TEN application process specifies a period of 10 working days this really only relates to events with less than 499 visitors. A comprehensive application should be submitted at least 6 months in advance as this enables all parties involved to raise questions and objections which can then be addressed in good time. 

An application submitted to the local authority is considered at their discretion, it therefore makes sense to include every conceivable detail that may raise an objection. This is where the guidance gets a bit vague as any application approval is open to subjective assessment. Music festival organisers should have their application processed by someone who has comprehensive experience in successful application submissions. Submitting an application with missing information and only 4 weeks before a large event will inevitably lead to a refusal.

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like
Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering. 

Photo by
Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels

Andy Robertson
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