Busking and Public Space in the Busybody State

(A guest post by Jack Lowe) Last month, Havering Council announced their proposals for a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in Romford town centre. If their plans go ahead, busking with an amplifier, or anywhere apart from locations designated by the council, would be a criminal offence punishable by a £100 Fixed Penalty Notice or a fine of up to £1000 if taken to court. What might seem like an exceptionally draconian response to performing in public space is an increasingly familiar story in towns and cities across the UK. Not only has busking been regularly included in plans for PSPOs, but…

Busker issued with ‘community protection notice’ banning him from busking

Thomas Mumby, a 28-year old musician in Retford, has been issued with a ‘community protection notice’ prohibiting him from busking in Retford town centre. A ‘community protection notice’ can be issued if a person’s behaviour is judged to have a ‘detrimental effect’ on the ‘quality of life’ of an area (the notice can be issued by council or police officers, and creates a criminal offence). Mr Munby is continuing to busk, however, as this is his livelihood. This means a real risk that he will be taken to court. See a video here of his encounter with the police ; there is…

Westminster Council – stop the prosecution of young musician Dan Wilson

A guest post by Jonny Walker, director of Keep Streets Live On Wednesday 20 August at 10am a talented young musician who has represented Great Britain in the world loop championships appeared in court in Westminster answering criminal charges of ‘illegal street trading’ and using a speaker in the street, for a 10 minute busk in Leicester Square early this year with a couple of CDs of his own music with a sign saying ‘suggested donation £5’ and giving details of his Facebook page. This was his fourth court appearance relating to this one incident of spontaneous live music and he now…

Leicester Sq busking crackdown funded by private company

The band King’s Parade were arrested while busking in Leicester square in May. Reports from a Westminster Council meeting (1) now reveal the context for this arrest. The crackdown on busking in Leicester square is part of Operation Spotlight, which is funded by the private business association the Heart of London. The minutes report: ‘Operation Spotlight is a HoLBA (Heart of London Business Alliance) funded initiative aimed at deterring performers/buskers, pedicabs with amplification, persistent beggars and ticket touts.’ The council minutes reveal that this business association, in effect, bought police time, including a police sergeant, two PCs and a noise officer to…

Camden buskers defy council ban

Camden buskers took to the streets on the first day of the council’s new licence scheme – under which unlicensed busking becomes a crime, punishable with an £1000 fine. Specifically, percussion and wind instruments – all of them! – are banned, and will not be licensed except in exceptional circumstances. In this video, a protesting unlicensed percussionist ad libs on libertarianism, including the lines ‘I walk within my own authority; nobody stands over me'; and (on bureaucrats’ ‘shite’): ‘when you stand up to it, it’s insubstantial’. Interestingly, there wasn’t a council officer in sight; which was great, and suggests that the council…

Camden Council’s war on buskers

The Campaign group Keep Streets Live is challenging Camden Council’s draconian new busking law in the High Court. The new law is extraordinarily severe, anathema to this vibrant and chilled part of London with a lively street music scene. Not only will buskers have to apply in advance and pay for a licence, there are also strict rules and conditions for busking which will make the activity all but impossible. The very notion of a licence undermines the nature of busking which is – in the words of Keep Streets Live director Jonny Walker – ‘an informal and impromptu form of entertainment’.…

Government u-turn on cutting red tape for live music

The UK has a truly absurd system for licensing ‘entertainment’ – under which any pub wanting to host a single guitar player, or poetry reader, or choir, or just about any other form of performance needs to get a council licence, which comes with high costs and piles of forms. The coalition government has made very encouraging promises that it would cut this red tape, and indeed has been feeding suggestions to the press that it would abolish music licensing altogether. Now the Live Music Forum – the campaign group that has been leading the rebellion against these ridiculous laws – reveals…