Specific performance: court rejects application for an interim injunction or specific performance in relation to musicians’ contract

Ian Felstead

In Ashworth v The Royal National Theatre, the High Court rejected an application by a group of professional musicians for an interim injunction in relation to or specific performance of their contract with the National Theatre.

The claimants were engaged to play live during the theatre production War Horse. However, the defendant decided that the production should use recorded music and sought to terminate the claimants’ contract. The claimants sought specific performance of their contract and to be re-engaged until trial.

The court, applying the American Cyanamid test, decided that, while there was a serious issue to be tried as to whether the defendant was in breach of contract, an award of damages would be an adequate remedy for the claimants and the balance of convenience lay firmly against granting the interim relief sought.

This case demonstrates once again the difficulties involved in claims for specific performance or analogous injunctions where personal service by the claimant(s) is involved. More interestingly, in this particular case there was additional reason why the court would not grant the application. It held that requiring the defendant to use musicians, rather than recorded music which was their preference, was an interference with the defendant’s right to artistic freedom under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (therefore bringing into play section 12 of the Human Rights Act 1998).

Ashworth and others v The Royal National Theatre [2014] EWHC 1176 (QB)

Post By Ian Felstead (2 Posts)


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