Westminster Council
Leicester Square Flyering Ban 2010


& The Brighton & Hove Promoter Tax

as explained by Dame Shirley Porter


What is flyering?

Flyering is the ancient art of disseminating information to the public on glossy or poorly photocopied pieces of paper known as Flyers


Flyering is the unromantic grunt work embarked upon by promoters (and their employees) and political activists (and their potential potentates) in streets, squares and shopping centres  the world over to disseminate information about events and to express opinions to other people in a concise holdable format on (usually) a single A4 or A5 piece of paper.  It is an effective way of targeting people who regularly utilise (but do not live in) a particular area.  Flyerers are the annoying bits of human spam that try to give you pieces of paper as you wander from A to B.

What's up?

Leicester Square is the tourist heart of London. 

To quote the Council Themselves

"Westminster boasts the greatest concentration of creative industries in the country, employing more than 64,000 people, with a turnover of £14.9 billion. The creative industries contribute to London’s "buzz" which strengthens Westminster’s position in the international labour market, and also has a positive effect on other sectors such as tourism and leisure,
helping to attract inward investment."

People flock to it in search of entertainment - many of them not knowing exactly what kind of entertainment they want.  As it attracts a lot of tourists with money to burn in their pockets it naturally attracts a similarly large number of promoters and their flyerers attempting to tempt them to dispose of their income.

Here is a picture of Charlie Chaplin who started out as an open spot at Pear Shaped in 1901 flyering passing tourists in order to try to get them to visit a poorly attended open mike night to facilitate him in learning his trade...


Some comedy clubs who operate round Leicester Square have been moaning in the media recently that they have having some problems with Westminster council being extremely officious about comedy and other promoters flyering in Leicester Square.  Basically telling them that they can't do this at all which is complete nonsense and probably illegal too.

We would like to encourage readers to read
this article
which explains the issues more cogently than we can and
sign the petition

While I am the first to admit that there are problems with the comedy "industry" ...
...it is completely unreasonable for Westminster City Council to try and tell all promoters they

can't flyer at all. 


Of course authorities love flyering when their message is boring so presumably this is a case of
"do as we say not as we do"?

Flyering is one tool in the Promoter's armoury and it is something that has always been part of the promoting industries.  It also creates much casual employment for those that want it.
About 1/3 of ticket sales at some clubs round Leicester Square are last minute to tourists.

Some clubs put on open spots faster if they are prepared to work as flyerers - at others the job of flyering is done by people hired specifically for that purpose.  And some clubs cant be bothered at all - like us ... as although it can increase the number of people coming through the door the more flyerers you send out the more the cost of hiring them eats into your bottom line.

Now there are some famous (or infamous) people who exploit the goodwill of the public such as Mr Greedy who charges a tenner to put on the least expensive acts he can find and simply pockets the cash.  But most promoters are respectable and honest and do actually fulfil an important role of bringing people into licenced premises that are having a very hard time attracting custom at the moment.   Particularly now the supermarkets are engaged in a booze throat-cutting price war...

Why should I give a toss about this

Well, ...

If you are a comedian

It's not exaggeration to say that if things go on like this many venues will at the least lose staff and at worst close.  Promoters will be less likely to be able to find venues to work from.  Fewer gigs will start up and there will be less gigs and less employment.The people who will ultimately suffer the most are the new acts as establish acts will be spread about fewer gigs and fewer clubs making it harder to climb the ladder.  Without promoters to bring in punters even more pubs and bars will close meaning there will be less places to put gigs on in.

So What can I do?

Please help us by suggesting to Westminster City Council that they are being a bit heavy handed and there is a trade off between putting up with having to sweep up some fliers and the increased revenues going into pubs.  Which lets face it...


...are having a pretty hard time already - as Andrew Pelling explains with the help of a soap star and a human pint glass... If you want some more stats:

pub closures

It's harder than ever to get people in pubs and clubs since supermarkets have long been using booze as their main loss leader

So you may consider...

Raising the issue with your MP

It is easier than ever to pester your MP by electronic mail using the website

Enter your postcode and this website will tell you who your MP is and allow you to email them direct.  You can also complain/bother your London Assembly Members and if you have a club within the precincts of Leicester Square or Westminster it can also give you contact details of your local responsible councillor.  This is useful general information for anything your wish to moan about.

If you are so minded you can also complain to Westminster City council using this form

You may wish to reference Mr Mulholland's artical.  The URL of which is
Remember, you may be ignored, but if you dont speak no one will hear.

If you are a Promoter

Please behave responsibly.  Westminster Council actually do have a point with regards to some of the more unethical promoters who lean on their flyerers to behave aggressively.  The overly aggressive distribution on flyers does not of its self increase a clubs turnover.  If promoters cannot regulate themselves eventually the politicians will do it for us - probably in the most heavy handed insensitive, ignorant manner.

Then again, can we blame them for being ignorant if we never talk to them?

In an attempt to create something more akin to a dialog and less like a series of protracted vicious arguments (punctuated by hilarious misunderstandings) between promoters and the local authority we would like to encourage any promoter who has a gig within the Central London area (not specifically Westminster) to turn up in person to the various pub watch meetings and ask difficult questions...  These are only held once a month on Wednesdays so it really shouldn't be a huge drain on anyone's time to turn up now and again ...


If you are wondering what the "Heart of London" is it is your local BID. 

A business improvement district (BID) is a public-private partnership in which businesses in a defined area pay an additional tax or fee in order to fund improvements within the district's boundaries.  BIDs in England and Wales are funded by a levy on the occupiers rather than the owners of the properties within the area. If voted in by local businesses, the BID levy is an extension to existing non-domestic business-rates.  the devolution of limited political authority to the private boards of these districts effectively privatizes the public spaces of the city.  In answer to the Comedy Store's assertion that they do not see Pear Shaped or any other Promoters represented on the Heart of London BID we would point out that we have tried to invite ourselves to their meetings but although vast amounts of taxpayers' money has are channelled into the promotion of the BID companies' directors business interests whilst their competitors has been left unsupported we suspect that despite being forced to pay a BID levy, membership of the Heart of London BID requires the approval of its directors - this can be witheld as in the case of the Plymouth City Centre Company.

BIDs have come under increasing criticism that they are a method of Privatising Public Space and perform functions such as policing which innocent members of the public like the Women's Institute probably still believe are financed through the rates.  They in effect have their own police forces - like the "City Guardians"

Your Privatised Police Force

over whom they have direct financial and political control who's job it is to monitor the movement of people within the Heart of London area and make sure that under no circumstances should anyone like Tom Cruise meet anyone like Dizzy High...


...as we wouldn't want the Comedy Circuit to allow homeless people a way to rediscover their self respect or achieve any social mobility through flyering a comedy gig.

These are the Business Police - they are here to make sure that if you do risk your own money promoting or running a small business then your small business is kept small.  They are the deletion of the traditional system of policing by consent and you will only find them in areas of commercial shopping activity not West CroydonIn contradiction to Sir Robert Peel's...

Sir Robert Peel

... belief that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it, they seek constant and maximum visibility at all times even writing to me personally to tell me that they need to hang out down the bottom of my garden. 

Rakosi Matyas

Of course if you told the public upfront that you were going to Privatise Public Space and the Police they'd probably tell you to get stuffed so these changes have been introduced piecemeal over the last five years local authority by local authority using Salami Tactics in an attempt to Nationalise the Promoting Industries by stealth and delete any eccentrics.

Rolly Moe

the most massive changes in the public right to access public space
since the Enclosure Acts of the 1850s

forced people off farms and into the cities
 are stealth legislation cunningly concealed in minor pieces of "routine" legislation
like Environment Acts and Local Government Acts ...hived off to local government to implement -
as local Government's job is to take the blame for all the most unpopular legislation.
Specifically to avoid

If you live around the borders of Westminster

While we would not pretend that there are no problems associated with flyering including aggressive flyerers and possible increases in litter... at the end of the line if Westminster City Council are overly officious this will not stop promoters promoting - many of the worst promoters will simply move to another area ….


...where the local council is more understanding/naive depending on your viewpoint.

Fitzrovia is one of the nearest such areas - In theory I could send a whole team of flyerers to work Leicester Square and there is absolutely nothing Westminster Council could do to stop me because I'm 500m outside their remit...?  This also means I can say anything I like about Westgerrymander Council without fear of political retribution.  They are twits.  There, I said it.

The results may be firstly that Westminster will simply lose revenue to other parts of London and secondly this NIMBY driven legislation may make ALL Westminster’s most unscrupulous promoters move to other areas where any associated antisocial activity and litter problems will become YOUR problem and your local council is unlikey to have a turnover of £14.9 billion to pick up any extra fliers with.

The result will be one by one ALL local councils will be forced to ban flyering because adjoining authorities already have so even more promoters are flocking to the ever fewer local authorities left

that dont constantly threaten of Licence Revocation or
draconian £2500 fines

This is ALREADY happening...

Other Flyering Bans

Westminster Council are not alone in wanting to control Flyering. 
Brighton already has a licensing system in place for flyering (a snip at £150 a year).
This system is implemented under existing legislation as explained by this FOI
and is highly controversial resulting in protest groups
and petitions
and venue closures
and accusations that it restricts freedom of expression
and is in effect a

"Promoter's Tax"

that is not enforced against large multinationals with access to legal representation but against small time promoters wanting to break into the market and/or put on riskier ventures.  It has also been attacked on the grounds that none of the money generated by the licensing system is financially reinvested in clearing up the litter it allegedly creates.

Of course since the advent of Free Newspapers the amount of free distributed paper is larger than ever before.  But you wont see anyone campaining to ban these ....

See Ban History Evening Standard petition...

...because they are a form of social expression over which politicians can exhibit political interference. 

Leicester City Council have already implemented a full flyering ban but have had some problems with the obvious illogicality of trying to host a comedy festival at which no one can flyer - which has led to something of a U-turn  - insanely they let visiting promoters flyer during festivals while preventing local promoters flyering at all ....where is the social justice in that?

Newquay also has a complete flyering ban although political and religious organisations are exempted

In Newcastle, there's a bit of council legislation that means you have to have a license to hand out free literature. The permit costs £45 a day.

I could go on but you get the point ... it's a nice little earner for the local authority
A totally arbitarily rated Promoter Tax
in effect an entertainment specific Jobs Tax

So be Warned

It's not Just London
It's not Just Us

DO these Many flyering bans also extend to political and religious organisations?
According to Brighton and Leicster Councils's they don't but
does that stop people being arrested?
I mean, does it?
Does it?
At the moment political organisations may be protected under the Human Rights Act
but for how long...?!

If you are a politician / pressure group

You  may find come the next election you cannot flyer to express your views or you have to pay the local council for a licence or that your activists are prosecuted  simply for handing out bits of paper.  Or you are stopped by policemen for handing out flyers... Flyering is also a popular method of political expression - To prove which here's a picture of Mary Honeyball Labour MEP doing her own flyering


and boring a person in Greenwich
and for balance here's a picture of a lot of smug Tories


inflicting leaflets on people who've gone out for the day to avoid being canvassed at home.
And just so they don't feel left out here are some Liberal Democrat flyerers...


...I think you can make up your own punchlines to this one.

If you think people cant be arrested for the dissemination of political flyers in a democracy, here's a picture of Kenya Suzuki....


...Suzuki was arrested at Nakano Station in central Tokyo in July, 2008, for flyering and spent 8 months in prison as a result?

Of course even if political flyering is exempted that does presuppose that a direct straight line can be drawn between artistic political expression that is self funding through being interesting enough to sell tickets and party political expression that is so fundamentally boring it constantly seeks new and innovative ways of taxpayer subsidy in order to perpetuate its self.  It pre-supposes anything that politicians or the state has to say is automatically more important than what comedians have to say even when clearly no one wants to pay to hear it.

So... in an attempt to make Pear Shaped more political in order to make our flyers boring and political enough to qualify for central government subsidy and important enough to be distributed on the streets without fear of political persecution this article will now expand to examine political flyering and leafleting, how it is paid for and it's cost to the ecconomy and democracy...

Yes, politicians love leaflets and flyers...

In the era of the TV debate and the Twitterati and Arsebook it is easy to forget that the single most important and expensive tool in the politician's arsenal is good old fashioned direct mail flyer (or so they think).  Political parties like soap brands must (or feel they must) maintain their brand image by constant exposure and relentless repetition - the thud thud thud thud thud thud of crap on my doormat... Yes, the legislation has been very careful to make sure that MY DOORMAT is not treated with the same respect at the street ...


because political flyers land on doormats and not the street that's okay?!?

Surely the result (someone has to pick this lot up and throw it in the bin) is the same?


Particularly so because of the sheer volumes concerned (see below)

And let us not forget political flyering is expensive!
Probably one of the biggest expenses political parties have to pick up

When they talk about the extra litter collection costs created by street flyering
perhaps they should consider the extra cost in man hours to home owners in marginal constituencies
of picking up their relentless stream of fliers off my doormat.

According to the Labour Party's website:

£5 - pays for leaflets for two streets 
£50 - pays for leaflets for twenty streets 
£500 - pays for direct mail to 2000 voters 
etc etc etc


Up until November 2009 they could get  £10,000 of propaganda printed for free by the tax payer. This was abolished in the aftermath of the expenses scandal ...  One of the most famous examples of the abuse of the communications allowance came via previous Croydon Central Labour MP           Geraint Davies ...


...who infamously managed a bill £38,750 for postage...? which caused even disgraced ex-speaker Michael "turn a blind eye" Martin to wonder that ....


Other famous exploiters of the Communications Allowance included
Siobhain Ann McDonagh's £126,833 on postage alone in the four year period 2003 to 2006, 


an average of almost £32,000 per year
When adding in stationery costs, her expenditure was close to £50,000 in both 2004-05 and 2006-07 McDonagh sent 120,000 letters in one year alone - 800 for every sitting day of Parliament.
An impressive letter every 2 minutes every hour of the day... she must have some serious RSI
Needless to say the allegations and counter allegations for the inventive use of Commons Stationary were endless...  Despite  the Conservatives determination to scrap the allowance Cameron himself still claimed for £2,200 last year and George Osborne...


now our new expenditure cutting chancellor spent  £9,965... nearly the maximum. 
Still it's gone now!  (To be replace by another smaller £4000 grant?) ...

All this was on top of the already ridiculous sums spent by the main parties on propaganda.
In 2008, when local Tories confirmed Gavin Barwell


as their election choice for Croydon Central my own marginal constituency, spending leapt massively to £43,362.  Of which £23,577 was spent on directly pushing Barwell ...
in an estimated 300,000 flyers and leaflets
probably 10 times more than the entire London Comedy Circuit Produces in a year

That's 3 leaflets per voter per year (assuming all voters are targeted equally and it's not just all sent to the ones that are on the


Merlin swinglist).

Effect on Democracy of Almost LIMITLESS Political Flyering...

Of course, these huge volumes of printed matter have made All the parties ever more dependent on a few big donors like Lord Ashcroft (the Conservative Party's biggest donor)


who donated £10,000 directly to Pelling (Mr Barwell's predecessor) 's 2005 campaign - mostly, you've guessed it, for flyers.

Ashcroft set up his own fund to finance the saturation direct mail flyering of marginal candidates
 - in reality, he was running an independent political operation to maintain his hold on the Conservative Party.   When Cameron became party leader he absorbed Ashcroft's organisation...


(Lord Ashcroft’s wife was the biggest donor to David Cameron’s campaign
 to be Conservative Party leader)

...deciding he'd rather have Ashcroft on the Inside than the Outside.

As the control of large donors over the parties has got stronger in an attempt to produce ever more and more printed propaganda so has the number of bitter deselection battles as activists have lost the power to select their own candidates and political party membership shrinks - an important power in effectively a two and half party system - the effect of First Past the Post....?

Conservative officials insist that Ashcroft (the Party Chairman up to the general election) has "no role and no influence" in shaping Conservative policy despite his presence at William Hague's side at meetings but really who needs control on policy its self when you have almost direct control/veto on who the Candidates in almost every marginal constituency will be....?  All of which sits oddly with Mr Cameron's claim that he's giving US the choice of how to run things.  It's not an accident we have organisations like COPOV pressure group or the Labour equivalent CLPD trying to explain and prevent the gradual centralisation of political power.  And for balance here's a picture of the Labour party's non-dom equivalent to Lord A, Lord Paul


....who I'm sure also has no say on policy either as Labour is a democratic party...  **cough**

The Electoral Commission

Of course to sort all this out we have the Electoral Commission...... a body that draws up rules but has no actual physical control over how Local Authorities implement elections  till it's all cocked up  - in case you are wondering why your polling station ran out of ballot papers and staff.   You may think there are  limits on Electoral Spending?  There are.... But while the spending  rules during a campaign are very stringent... the rules between elections are much more lax.  However, not lax enough for the Conservatives ....


Does bombarding people with endless Direct Mail flyers actually work?

Good question.  It's actually very debatable as despite their "target seats" campaign the largest swings to the Conservatives seem to be in the constituencies where they did no campaigning at all and the smallest in those they saturate with propaganda. Maybe we're not as stupid at they all think we are....  I think it was Frank Branston Independent elected Mayor of Bradford who said


And Finally...

Let us not forget the important military applications of flyering.  If you think London, Brighton, Leicester or Edinburgh during the festival has a litter problem spare a thought for the people of Afghanistan.  The M129E1/E2 Psychological Operations Leaflet Bomb weighs 200 pounds and can disperse some 60,000 to 80,000 leaflets which are scattered by a length of detonator cord... except when it fails to detonate and falls on top of a little girl squashing her to the thickness of a flyer...


Perhaps the days of the civilian flier as a Promotional tool are over.
Clearly civilians cannot be trusted with such a dangerous military tool.
Psychological Operations should be preserved for war.