Reviewing the Form That Targets Black British Music Is Going to Be Messy
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Reviewing the Form That Targets Black British Music Is Going to Be Messy

A closer look at statements from the London Mayor, the police and a DJ make that brutally clear.

This might be a specifically British thing but in a nation well-versed in suppressed emotion, politeness and passive aggression, language can turn into code. "It's fine" can also mean "it's shit", "stop talking to me", "it's not great, but it'll do", "I'm not that bothered" and "it's fine."

The same thing works with carefully edited press release quotes. On Thursday, London mayor Sadiq Khan requested a review of Form 696 – a piece of red tape that makes promoters put certain DJs and MCs on a police database, and disproportionately affects rap and grime acts (read: black and brown people trying to make a living through music). With the news came an official statement from the mayor, and a bunch of quotes from some of the key people on what's known as the London Music Board. They're due to work together with London's Metropolitan Police on finding a way to keep punters and performers safe at gigs without criminalising people who use PAs and microphones in particular (which is literally how Form 696 works now). The form doesn't apply to, say, five-piece rock bands, and instead blows a high-pitched racial dog whistle on the kinds of acts who should be asked to send their personal information to the police, via the event promoter, at the risk of having their event cancelled or postponed if they don't comply.

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Anyway, this review is a welcome move – we've been highlighting the racially discriminatory nature of Form 696 since we made documentary The People Vs Grime Music in 2014. Sadiq Khan may well be the woke moderate able to get the police and promoter/MC communities to see eye to eye. But, if you read quotes from some of the main stakeholders more carefully, it looks like there are going to be A LOT of different perspectives in the room. Behold: decoding what some of the review announcement quotes were versus what they really mean.

SADIQ KHAN

"The safety of Londoners is my number-one priority. It's vital that live music events can take place safely and that the Met can help venues to lessen the risk of violent behaviour. This risk assessment shouldn't compromise the capital's vibrant grassroots music industry or unfairly target one community or music genre, which is why the Met is reviewing their Form 696 process, working together with London's promoters, venues and artists to develop a system that makes sure London's legendary music scene thrives whilst keeping Londoners safe."

What it means: As a centrist leftwing politician in this economy I can't appear too radical (remember, I trashed Corbyn before he was elected) but I'm also chill and into nightlife and clubbing because it makes London more attractive. Form 696 is a bit much but also I can't be seen to be going against the police, so let's get everyone in a room to sort it out so one part of my Twitter mentions calm down. Safety first, y'know.

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SUPERINTENDENT ROY SMITH, METROPOLITAN POLICE

"The use of the Form 696 enables us to provide advice and guidance on the risk posed by an event and suggest measures which can be taken to manage those risks. It is important to note that so far in 2017 no events have been cancelled at the request of the police following the submission of a Form 696. We welcome the opportunity to work with the music industry and colleagues at the Mayor's office to review the Form 696 process and ensure that it remains fit for purpose and to listen to any concerns which are raised. This special session of the London Music Board has provided an important opportunity for us to reality check the process and act on feedback."

What it means: We love Form 696 actually? It's a really useful way to criminalise an entire scene while staying technically legit, soooo what's everyone's problem? Haha but seriously, we're not even cancelling events anymore, we just like having the database of blacks – hmm, "blacks"; we can say that, right? Anyway we'll chat to some music industry types but we're not getting rid of the form.

MICHAEL DUGHER, CEO OF UK MUSIC

"It's great news that Mayor Sadiq Khan has listened to Londoners and responded to campaigners. This long overdue review offers a welcome opportunity to end the damage caused to our music scene by Form 696, while making sure live music events in London are safe for all to enjoy. One of our first campaigns after UK Music was formed in 2008 was to call for Form 696 to be scrapped. The Form wrongly makes performing music a crime and disorder issue. Performers rightly feel it discriminates unfairly against certain types of music like grime and it flies in the face of efforts to make our vibrant music scene even more diverse."

What it means: ITS ABOUT TIME; SCRAP THIS THING, FFS.

DJ AND PRODUCER FUNK BUTCHER

"I think it's encouraging that the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Night Czar Amy Lamé are following through in their commitment to protect our city's nightlife. 696 has always felt punitive for certain parts of the capital's music community. This discussion will be a step in the right direction to redressing the grievances held by the music professionals whilst protecting the safety of the ravers we service."

What it means: Hey, so I just want to delicately reiterate that we've been saying for ages that Form 696 feels horrific and targeted. I hope this results in a compromise that isn't shit for producers and promoters but I don't want to get prematurely excited.

You can follow Noisey on Twitter and watch The People Vs Grime Music right here.