The European Entertainment Corporation, the largest circus operator in the UK, has decided not to put Cottle & Austin's Electric Circus on the road next year partly because of the expense of having to file separate licence applications with every local authority on a packed tour schedule.
Now other entertainers are telling similar tales of expense and bureaucratic woe - from Punch and Judy artists who have been told they must take out £200 adverts before they pitch their booths on the beach, to music venues that would rather close their doors than install expensive soundproofing, to samba musicians who fear that without the correct £600 permit they will be ejected from carnivals and street festivals
"It's the low season for us now but come the spring and summer it's going to be chaos," predicts Mick Pycke, a member of the UK Samba Association and director of Bloco do Sul samba group based in Dorking, Surrey. "Most samba bands charge about £600 for a performance, which is the same as the cost of a licence. If we have to come up with that kind of money we simply won't be able to afford to play."
Peter Luff, MP for Mid Worcestershire, argues that in its concern to ensure there were no public order problems associated with all-night licensing, the government overlooked specific exemptions which it had promised circuses. Mr Luff, a childhood friend of Gary Smart, the grandson of the legendary circus entertainer Billy Smart, says he now intends to reintroduce an amendment in the new year recommending that circuses should only be required to obtain one licence.
"Touring circuses need to be flexible - if bad weather makes a field unusable or a competitor exhausts a particular market they have to be able to change their itinerary at the drop of a hat," he said. "The last thing they need is another layer of bureaucracy."