Brassed Off: Curious tale of the MP, a �21 licence, Christmas carols, March band, and council leader’s pledge

A BRASS band who paid �21 for a licence from Fenland Council to play carols in Wisbech town centre is to gets its money back on the instruction of council boss Alan Melton.

Cllr Melton said he was “absolutely horrified” to hear from MP Steve Barclay that March Brass 2000 forked out for the licence to play in Horsefair last Saturday.

“I find this unacceptable and this practice of charging should end immediately,” Cllr Melton has told Fenland’s chief executive Paul Medd. He has also told Mr Medd to refund the �84 March Brass has paid to perform elsewhere in Fenland.

“March Brass has been performing on various market places, and are visiting older people’s accommodation to entertain and to raise money for charity,” said Cllr Melton.

“I understand that every time the band performs, we charge �21; we have already taken �84.”

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He told Mr Medd: “I am sure we can accommodate this. So much for the Big Society!”

Mr Barclay said: “I was surprised to learn that the band has to pay �21 for a temporary licence just to play music for shoppers in the town centre. This is daft.

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“With Christmas approaching, it would be great if the council could thank the band for their Christmas music by returning this money.”

A council spokesman said: “The law on performances is complex and we have to abide by it.

“In some circumstances a Temporary Event Notice (TEN) is necessary; in others, it is not. In this case there was some confusion about what the specific events entailed. We are happy to refund the payments.

“We always encourage all charities and community organisations to speak with the licensing team in plenty of time before the event so that they can be advised whether they need a notice or not.

“We will continue to encourage organisations to do this”

Mr Barclay added: “The Fenland rivalry between March and Wisbech is well known but I liked the idea that there seemed to be some sort of truce on Saturday, as the March Brass Band ventured to the Horsefair in Wisbech to play Christmas carols for shoppers.

“Despite the cold weather, which required some of the band to wear gloves, the band played a wide range of favourite Christmas music”

He said he had discovered that March brass band has over 30 members with ages ranging from as young as 9 to over 70 years of age “ although a smaller contingent were out at the week-end”.

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