Licensing Act 2003
The Licensing Act has not significantly changed the definition of "play" used in the Theatres Act 1968. Punch and Judy shows were previously licensable under the 1968 Act and continue to be licensable under the Licensing Act when performed publicly, or for members and their guests of a qualifying club in relation to the provision of regulated entertainment, or to a private audience for consideration and with a view to profit by the organiser.
However, if a children's party was staged for friends and the Punch and Judy entertainment was provided by the host (the child's parents) for their guests for free (as it would be normally at a party), then no licence would be required. Anyone wishing to stage a Punch and Judy show for the general public must ensure that the site is covered by a premises licence or temporary event notice.
We are encouraging local authorities to consider seeking premises licences from their licensing authority for public spaces within the community in their own name. This could include village greens, market squares and seaside promenades, for example, on which many cultural and traditional events take place. No additional licence would then need to be obtained by puppeteers or anyone else carrying out licensable activities covered by such a licence, although the consent of the local authority holding the licence would usually be required and permission given to use the land.
What are the consequences of not obtaining a licence to cover regulated entertainment?
A person guilty of the offence of carrying on, attempting to carry on or knowingly allowing to be carried on an unauthorised licensable activity is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding £20,000 or to both.
If in doubt - check with your local authority.