UK Grime Artists Say Police Racially Target their Shows with Discriminatory Form

Form 696 makes artists and promoters divulge personal information for "risk assessment."
March 27, 2017, 7:50pm
Photo of grime MC P Money courtesy of the artist

Artists and promoters in the UK grime community say that a police risk assessment document, called Form 696, is being used to racially profile their events, according to an investigation by the BBC. The criticism of the form has now led to the UK's culture minister calling on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to review the process.

"You're targeting a certain genre of music that you know a certain demographic is gonna listen to," grime artist Jammz told the Victoria Derbyshire program. "They can say it's not racist, but it's definitely targeted, which to me is the equivalent." Artists and promoters the BBC spoke with also said they feel required to fill out the form even though it is supposed to be voluntary.

Form 696 is a voluntary risk assessment document that the London Metropolitan Police as some promoters to fill out on the grounds that the information helps the police "violent crime". However the form is recommended only for events featuring "DJs or MCs performing to a recorded backing track," which has drawn heavy criticism because it is seen as targeting predominantly Black genres such as grime, garage, and R&B.

The form asks for the names, stage names, phone numbers, and addresses of all promoters and artists participating in an event. The police then research the information presented in the documents in order to assess an event's "risk grade," a process which the BBC said likely involves criminal background checks. Some grime artists have said that information communicated via the form has led to the cancellation of their gigs, sometimes at the last minute.

Grime MC P Money said that the form feels like a "race thing." He said that he only has to fill it out when he's performing for predominantly Black audiences, and that he doesn't have to do the form when performing in whiter parts of the country. "We know they're just trying to shut down grime, because if it was anything else they wouldn't have this issue," he said.

Although the form was first introduced in London in 2005, at least 15 police forces across England have since created their own version of a risk assessment form, with some modeled on the Form 696.

Until 2009, the form required promoters and licensees to state the ethnic makeup of the audience and the genre of music being performed. Although these questions were later removed following criticism that they led to racially profiling, some police forces such as Leicestershire Police still include them.

The London Metropolitan police denied that the form targets any genre of music or demographic of people.

UK culture minister Matt Hancock today published an open letter to London mayor Sadiq Khan asking him to review Form 696. He wrote it in response to claims that the form targeted grime and R&B artists, and thinks it may have a negative impact on London's music scene.

"Our priority is to keep Londoners safe and support a vibrant night-time economy, and this means ensuring that all performances have the most appropriate security and safety plans in place," said the London mayor's office. "We have supported a number of events that bring together the Met, music venues, and promoters to try to improve the understanding of when and how Risk Assessment Form 696 should be used."

The London police reviewed Form 696 in 2009, but did not take the recommendation that it should be reviewed annually.

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