Fundraising To Save Freedom Of Street Culture

Keep Streets Live has just launched a fundraising campaign via the platform IndyGoGo, with a rather splendid five minute video of what we are about and explaining the terrible situation we are fighting in a legal battle. Check out our campaigning fundraising page now.

This is the crux of what we are pitching…

Who and Why:

My name is Jonny Walker. I am a Liverpool-born singer/songwriter, musician, a full-time street performer and the Founding Director of ASAP (Association of Street Artists and Performers).  I have spent the last twelve years travelling the country as a wandering minstrel, playing music in the towns and cities of the UK and beyond. I have seen the power of informal, street-level performances of art and music to create a sense of colour, vibrancy and urban community at first-hand. I started the Keep Streets Live Campaign to protect and preserve informal community uses of public space, as it is now under threat.

Why We Need Your Help:

Sadly, in recent years, many local authorities across the UK have introduced highly-restrictive policies and laws that criminalise street performance and threaten the future of shared public spaces that are open to the arts and music. On November 11th this year, Labour-led Camden Council voted to bring in one of the most stifling street music laws in modern British history. Under this new law even singing in the streets for fun, if done without a license, is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000. Musicians face having their instruments confiscated on the street by the police, or council officials, who will have the power to sell them if the fine is not paid within 28 days.

Why This Matters:

This draconian new law will do great damage to Camden’s cultural and social well-being, it will scare and intimidate musicians away from the streets, and it will set an incredibly damaging precedent for towns and cities across the UK, if it goes unchallenged. It comes as a bitter blow at a time when many traditional venues for live music are closing down. The streets have become a vital and democratic forum for musicians to be heard, whether they are just starting out, gaining experience or actually making a living.

The Bigger Picture:

At the very time when our high streets need a helping hand to stay vital in the face of rapid social and economic changes which have seen record number of businesses close their doors forever, policies are being implemented that damage the communal lives of our towns and cities. Free street art and live music is one great way of keeping our high streets alive. It’s more important than ever before that local authorities channel their limited resources to support and sustain creative and grassroots communities in our urban centres, instead of heavy handed and misguided clampdowns. By supporting this landmark campaign you will be helping to protect the cultural freedoms of our towns and cities and giving us the resources to work alongside local authorities in the future.

What We Are Doing About This:

I started a petition, so far signed by over 6000 people, asking Camden Council to rethink their damaging plans. Our campaign arranged protest events which were supported by comedians Bill Bailey and Mark Thomas, and the musicians Billy Bragg and Jon Gomm amongst many others. We even set up the Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra as a light-hearted rebellion against the irrational banning of wind instruments. I made presentations to the Cabinet, Licensing Committee and full Council. The Musician’s Union released a statement nationally asking Camden Council to preserve their musical heritage and to abandon their contentious policy. Despite this chorus of constructive opposition the Council passed this policy into law in a narrow vote in November. Our options were running out so we contacted a leading Human Rights law firm Leigh Day who told us that this new law was so unfair and over the top that we had a good chance of challenging it in the High Courts. The Human Rights Act protects freedom of expression and this applies to performances of music as well as to speech and the written word. We now had the basis for a historic legal challenge.

We have set up a not-for-profit organisation the Keep Streets Live Campaign andlaunched formal legal proceedings against Camden Council, asking a High Court judge to strike down this legislation and to send a powerful message to other local authorities: protect and nurture grassroots culture, don’t stamp it out!

Why Help?

I am a working musician with a young family. Running a campaign takes up a huge amount of time and I can’t do this alone. Camden Council have an in-house legal team and a budget of millions of pounds, whilst we are a very small and committed team of musicians and campaigners. We urgently need to raise funds. Our solicitors, Leigh Day believe in our case and are working on a conditional fee arrangement. In addition, we’ve applied for a Protective Costs Order asking our liability to be capped at £5,000. You can see my witness statement applying for this order at this link. However, if this is not granted and we don’t have the necessary funds, we would have to abandon this legal challenge and allow a huge injustice to stand uncorrected. We think this is too important an issue to walk away from.

How You Can Help:

We are seeking to raise £25,000 to cover potential legal costs and the costs of running this campaign over several months, in order to demonstrate to Camden Council that we can take this all the way. Any amount of money we raise up to and beyond that amount will demonstrate to the Judge hearing our case, and to Camden Council that we have the resources needed to see this challenge through.

People from across Great Britain have already volunteered their time and gifts so we can offer you fantastic perks for supporting us: from virtual cuddles, kazoos signed by celebrities, Skype concerts, Busking Masterclasses, House Concerts and campaign nights we have a range of exciting perks to offer you in exchange for donations towards our campaign as we seek to Keep Streets Live.

How Your Money Will Be Used:

In the event of a win in the courts where we are not liable for legal fees, or a situation where we are unable to continue with the legal challenge because we haven’t raised enough, all the money raised will be used to develop the newly founded not-for-profit organisation, the Keep Streets Live Campaign, with a specific mission to protect community and grassroots uses of shared public spaces nationally by working alongside other bodies and providing training and support programs. You can see the articles and mission of this organisation by following this link. This money would be vital in realising our vision for an advocacy body for grassroots street culture. We want to train street performers in first aid, create support networks between performers and the homeless, and design creative and fair policies for street performance that local authorities can implement quickly and at low cost. We want to be part of creating a national culture of collaboration and mutuality between local authorities and the grassroots which would make heavy handed laws like Camden’s a relic of the past. We want to turn the difficult situation we now face into an opportunity to make a positive change on the streets of the UK.

And, It Works!

Last year in Liverpool, a city synonymous with live music, I helped lead a campaign against a license scheme similar to Camden’s which threatened street musicians with trespass prosecutions, banned under 18s from playing music and placed severe restrictions on the life of the streets. Our campaign was successful and the new law was overturned. We are now working with Liverpool Council and the Musician’s Union to draw together a fair and open ‘best practise guide’ for street performing that balances the needs of all the users who share public spaces. Thank you to everyone who supported this campaign.

In York we set up a petition calling on the Council to scrap a highly restrictive license scheme and to make the streets more open. Again, as a direct result of our campaign, York’s civic leaders made significant changes to their policy and invited musicians, street performers and other bodies to be part of an ongoing dialogue.

Join In:

We are a growing community of artists, performers, musicians and people who value public spaces that are open to the arts. Even if you are unable to contribute financially at this time, we would still love for you to get involved. From handing out leaflets, gathering signatures, playing the kazoo at protests, performing pop-up gigs and helping us send out perks, there are lots of ways in which you can get stuck in and we are very open to suggestions. Join the Association of Street Artists and Performers for free here: http://streetslive.org/join

In a nutshell…

This is a landmark legal challenge which will set a precedent for the use of public space in the United Kingdom. Join with us as we seek to protect and preserve the ancient freedoms of the street and find creative ways to build urban community and to Keep Streets Live!

Join our Facebook Group and follow our page

https://www.facebook.com/groups/keepstreetslivecamden

https://www.facebook.com/KeepStreetsLive

http://keepstreetslive.com

Witness Statement For PCO

Witness Statement For PCO
  1.  
  2.  
  3.  
  4. IN THE QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION
  5. ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
  6.  
  7. BETWEEN
  8.  
  9. KEEP STREETS LIVE CAMPAIGN LIMITED
  10. CLAIMANT
  11.  
  12. and
  13.  
  14. LONDON BOROUGH OF CAMDEN
  15. DEFENDANT
  16.  
  17.  
  18.  
  19.  
  20. Witness Statement of Jonathan Walker
  21.  
  22. I, Jonathan Walker of Director and Founder of Keep Streets Live Campaign Limited, Suite 157, 33 Great George Street, Leeds, LS1 3AJ, will SAY AS FOLLOWS:
  1. I make this statement in support of my application for a protective costs order for Keep Streets Live Campaign Limited.
  2. Personal Background
  3. I am a Liverpool-born singer songwriter, musician, political activist, and a professional street performer.
  4. I am the founding director of The Association of Street Artists and Performers (ASAP!) a community organization which exists to protect shared public space as a legitimate forum for informal and spontaneous performances of art and music by advocating for supportive public policies, and by seeking to build relationships of cooperation and mutuality between local authorities, street artists and performers and other interested parties.
  5. I am also the founding director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign Limited, a not for profit organisation set up to be a fundraising and campaigning vehicle to protect community and grassroots uses of shared public spaces.
  6. I am a volunteer citizen advocate for Leeds Advocacy a not for profit service which speaks out for people with learning difficulties, and I am a patron of the Norwich-based charity Musical Keys, which provides music and movement for children and young people with special/complex needs.
  7. I became a street performer whilst studying towards a Politics degree at Durham University and have been performing music on the streets throughout the UK and Europe ever since.
  8. I have seen the power of informal, street-level performances of art and music to create a sense of urban wellbeing, and to foster opportunities for positive encounters between people from all walks of life, at first hand.  These experiences have demonstrated to me that street performance has a significant part to play in the communal life of our towns and cities, and that supportive local authority policies have an important part to play in safeguarding grassroots culture. To that end I have helped local authorities develop policies for street performance in cities such as Liverpool and York.
  9. This Claim
  10. In August 2013 I received an email from Camden Borough Council inviting ASAP, to take part in a consultation about the Council’s plans to introduce compulsory busking licenses throughout the Borough.
  11. When I saw their proposed policy I was extremely concerned about the effect it would have on the future of street art and performance in Camden.
  12. For many young musicians and students, playing on the streets is their first taste of live performance and can provide a valuable forum for gaining experience. For others, the streets provide a platform for social interaction and confidence building at a time when many indoor venues for live music are closing because of economic and social changes.
  13. I was concerned that young people would be unable to afford the Council’s proposed license fee, and would be deterred from playing on the streets because of the formality of the license application process and the length of time required to apply. A ‘special license’ application can take up to 20 working days to process.
  14. Whatever its intentions, it was clear to me that Camden Council were on the verge of making a decision that would have an extremely adverse impact upon what is currently a vibrant and diverse street art and music scene. Their proposed policy was going to make it very difficult for people to perform in the area without threat of prosecution.
  15. I knew I had to do all I could to persuade the Council to change it proposals. I completed the consultation exercise and a copy of my response is at pages B1-B7. I also made my response available on my campaign website: http://keepstreetslive.com/policy-objections/2013/10/our-response-to-camden-councils-consultation
  16. In September 2013 I had a meeting with Tony Hawkes the Senior Licensing Officer at the Council, who developed the policy, at which I outlined my many concerns. However, he informed me that the Council wanted to implement the policy in order to address the concerns raised by residents about noise nuisance and public disorder.
  17. I began to lose hope that I would be able to change the Council’s view alone. So I set up an online petition addressed to the leader of the Council Sarah Hayward asking them to reconsider their decision and to invite professional bodies such as the Musician’s Union to work out a best practice guide for busking in a more collaborative way.
  18. The petition which I started in September has so far been signed by over 6000 people. It can be accessed via this link: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/camden-borough-council-don-t-stop-the-music-keep-streets-live-in-camden
  19. On behalf of all the people who have so far signed the petition, as well as the 500 people registered as members with ASAP, I made three formal deputations to the Council outlining the reasons why I believed their policy to be damaging to the well being of Camden and asking them to rethink their proposals.
  20. These deputations were made at the Cabinet Meeting of October 23rd, the Licensing Committee Meeting of October 29th and the Full Council meeting of November 11th at which the Council voted to adopt the resolution with a vote of 26 for to 17 against.
  21. Throughout this period I communicated with all of Camden’s councillors and sent examples of the way in which other local authorities manage street performances without compulsory licenses and the level of restrictions Camden proposed.
  22. Specifically I sent them copies of Bournemouth’s policy and a copy of Liverpool City Council’s draft busking policy worked out in collaboration with the Musician’s Union. These policies set out a best practice guide for buskers and explain that powers can be used under existing laws to deal with performers who cause problems and can be found at pages B202-B210.
  23. In practice, these policies, similar to the majority of policies in place across the UK have proved well-suited to the oversight of busking performances.
  24. However, all these attempts to change the Council’s proposals failed and having exhausted the political avenues I turned to Leigh Day for advice about the viability of a legal challenge against Camden’s policy.
  25. As the leader of an advocacy body for street artists and performers, and the person who started a petition with over 6000 supporters, as well as a concerned citizen and former resident of Camden, I feel a moral duty to challenge Camden Council’s decision in the courts.
  26. For many visitors and residents, street music is an integral part of Camden’s cultural identity. Camden’s policy would make it extremely difficult for people to access public space for informal performances of music, especially if they were visiting for a short while. In common with many other concerned groups and individuals I believe the Council’s decision to be detrimental for the cultural and social well-being of Camden’s shared public spaces.
  27. Furthermore, Camden Council has described the character of Camden Town specifically, as follows:
  28. “Camden Town is one of London’s most well-known areas. It is home to a vibrant and diverse local community, as well as a thriving economy with a focus on music, design, creative media, arts and culture. This rich mix of activity has made Camden Town a world famous visitor destination, with over 10 million people coming to enjoy the town centre every year”.[1]
  29. My understanding is that the Court must assess the issues raised here against that background.
  30. Finances
  31.  
  32. As a self-employed musician with a young family I have very limited personal financial resources available to risk on this claim.
  33. Section regarding household income removed for data protection reasons.
  34. For this reason, there is no possibility of me being able to risk a costs order from the Council if my claim is unsuccessful.
  35. As a community group that has never charged for membership, ASAP also has no funds which it can risk on this challenge. It currently has no funds whatsoever.
  36. I knew therefore, in order to take this case forward I would have to single-handedly try to raise money towards the risks of a judicial review claim.
  37. Of course, I hoped the Council would agree to reconsider its decision in light of my letter before claim. But it has chosen not to, so these proceedings have now proved necessary.
  38. I take this claim in the name of my newly founded not for profit company, Keep Streets Live Campaign Ltd, which has started to receive donations already in order to continue with this legal challenge.
  39. To date, we have £750 in a holding account which has been collected from online donations via ASAP’s website and through fund-raising busking events.
  40. I am confident that within the next few months we will be able to raise at least £5000 from a variety of different sources. I will be approaching all the people who have signed the petition and asking them to contribute to our fund. I will be launching an internet based ‘crowd-funding’ campaign, a tool which enables members of the wider public to contribute to a cause that they wish to support. I also intend to hold a number of fund raising events at various locations across the country in the next couple of months with other musicians and buskers.
  41. The campaign has already attracted significant interest from members of the UK’s cultural community – for example, the well-known comics Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey and the musicians Billy Bragg and Jon Gomm, so I am confident that a crowd-funding campaign about this issue will gather attract interest amongst the musical and wider cultural communities in the UK.
  42. However, I don’t think I will be able to raise more than £5000 in this current economic climate.
  43. Of course, if this proves (and I certainly hope it does prove) incorrect, I will let the court and the defendants know immediately that more has been raised.
  44. Without a PCO limiting the company’s risk to £5000 at this stage, I will not be able to continue with this claim. I simply cannot afford to do so.
  45. It is for this reason that I make this application for an order limiting my liability and I hope the Court will recognise the general importance of this claim and allow it to continue.
  46. I believe the contests of this statement are true.
  47. Signed:
  48. Dated:

  49. [1] http://www.camden.gov.uk/ccm/navigation/environment/planning-and-built-environment/place-plans/camden-town/

Our Not-For-Profit Organisation Is Born

Our Not-For-Profit Organisation Is Born

It’s a historic day in Leeds! We’ve just had the first director’s meeting of the newly-incorporated Keep Streets Live Campaign Limited, a not-for-profit company with a mission to protect access to public space for informal community uses. Co-Directors John H.Walker, Philippa Morgan Walker and Jonny Walker are at the beginning of an exciting journey…first stop, Camden Town. See the Keep Streets Live memorandum and articles of association here. Watch this space… We are currently working on an IndyGoGo campaign to raise fighting funds for the legal challenge and to help set-up the resources of the company, so that we can serve grassroots communities and be in a professional dialogue with councils, police and other creative advocacy bodies that nurture street culture. If you would like to help our campaign and start-up of this company with donations or offerings of expertise, time or ideas, then please get in touch. Email jonnywalker@me.com. Thank you and wishing you a very merry Christmas. Philippa, John and Jonny :)

Help to Keep Streets Live by signing our petition.