Nigel Adams, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Music, tabled an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill, with cross-party support, to introduce controls over flares and fireworks at concerts and festivals. His proposal was heard on the floor of the House of Commons, on the 26th of April. Though the House did not vote on his amendment, Ministers responsible for the Bill subsequently confirmed that the Government had decided to add the new clauses to the Bill as it is sent back to the House of Lords for the next stage of debate. The Bill is expected to ultimately pass through the House, meaning that Nigel’s proposals would become law in time to protect fans at next year’s festivals.
An increase in unsafe use of flares, fireworks, and smoke bombs by audience members in recent years has caused serious injury for fans. While such articles have been banned at football grounds since 1985 (under the Control of Dangerous Articles Act), music fans have not previously been afforded the same protection – meaning that while there were 255 incidents involving these articles at music events in 2014, there were only 3 at football grounds in the same time period.
Mr Adams previously raised the subject in a Ten Minute Rule Motion in the House on 12 April 2016, and took the opportunity to advance the issue at the earliest opportunity by tabling an amendment, which has been accepted. The new clauses would empower judges to impose fines or prison sentences of up to three months on those convicted of either carrying or using a flare, firework, or smoke bomb without authorisation at a music event – in line with the penalties for similar actions at a football ground.
Speaking about the motion, Mr Adams said:
“I am very pleased the amendment has been accepted and that we are able to make tangible progress towards providing a safer environment for music fans so quickly. Music audiences deserve the same protection under the law as sports fans. This measure has support across the board: from fans wanting to focus on the music, performers wanting to put on a good uninterrupted show, and organisers wanting to provide a safe event – as well as from MPs right across the House. It’s time we make the law on these dangerous articles consistent at both music and sporting events.”
Many in the music industry have offered their enthusiastic endorsement. Live Nation have been campaigning on the issue for a number of years, and the CEO of trade body UK Music, Jo Dipple, said: “Safety at live music events is paramount. Music fans should be protected from risks that could result in significant harm. UK Music strongly supports this legislation and applauds Nigel Adams’ successful campaign.”
Melvin Benn, of Festival Republic, added: “As much as you try to stop them coming in, without the legislation you just don’t have the power.”
Rob da Bank, of Bestival, said: “Bestival strongly supports the Government taking action against the use of flares and fireworks at festivals. As the promoters of a 50,000 capacity festival, audience safety is always at the forefront of event planning and we would like to see our fans offered the same protection as those attending sporting events. There are increasingly more incidents and the time is right for the Government to act and support organisers in minimising risk and providing a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone attending.”
Flares and fireworks burn at between 1500 and 2000 degrees Celsius, and can cause severe injuries. Currently, while those under 18 are banned from using fireworks on public property, most music events occur on private property, and adults are not banned from their use unless it can be proven that there was intent to cause harm. Flares are not covered by firework regulations because they are not designed for entertainment. This amendment does not seek to change the current rules allowing artists and organisers to use pyrotechnics in their shows – only to prevent them being carried or used by audience members.
You can watch Nigel’s speech explaining the new clauses he introduced here.