Policing and security

Two men in high visibility jackets, with 'Steward' and 'Security' on their backs

Security at HUB festival 2008 © Sara Cohen

Music sites and scenes in Britain and abroad are continually policed. In Liverpool for example, the police ensure that music venues are licensed and are obeying the terms of their licenses, they patrol and monitor music festivals, and they sometimes search music venues and audiences for illegal substances.

These actions have sometimes provoked hostility amongst those who participate in local music scenes. In the early 1980s the police invaded the club Eric's, a central venue for Liverpool's post-punk scene. The invasion was tape recorded by one club-goer and above the general scuffle the angry shouts and shocked screams from musicians and audience members can clearly be heard. Sometimes however, the presence of the police is welcomed by scene participants. They may want the police to be on hand to prevent trouble or to help in the event of emergencies.

In London some music scenes have been affected by the risk assessment strategy of the 'Clubs Focus' initiative. This is particularly the case with the scene based around grime, a style of breakbeat music influenced by hip hop and various other musical styles, such as UK garage and punk. Clubs Focus demands that club owners and promoters pass the names of DJs and live performers to the police several weeks in advance of their appearance at the club. The police often advise against the appearance of certain acts and DJs and even against certain types of club nights. Gun crime is a growing problem in major urban centres but scenes based around hip hop, grime and other forms of so-called urban music have suffered from being associated with such crime. For example, as a result of the Clubs Focus initiative successful grime acts such as Dizzee Rascal and Roll Deep have enjoyed fewer opportunities to perform live.

The policing of a scene can mean much more than the actions taken by the police themselves. In Liverpool music scenes are policed far more widely, and with far greater effect, by a perhaps unspoken but still concerted policy of restricting the music on offer to paying customers. The local grime scene for example, is relatively small and unknown within the city and this has less to do with police action and more to do with the door (and music) policies of city centre clubs. Many clubs and bars play predominantly a mixture of house music and chart pop. Live music is overwhelmingly rock with some jazz and electronica on limited occasions. Any form of urban music is difficult to find although there are one or two notable exceptions and the city now hosts an annual festival of urban music known as the HUB festival.

Urban music has also been a part of the 'Dry Bar' nights promoted by Liverpool's Picket music performance venue and local youth organisations. These are nights for those under 18 years of age when no alcohol is served on the premises. They have been attended by many young Black people, indicating the existence of a local urban scene. Yet some urban musicians complain that local policing and security policies have prevented this scene from flourishing, as happened with Jungle and Drum and Bass in Liverpool during the 1990s.