Harmony outside Bath Abbey?

Harmony outside Bath Abbey?

There have been heartening developments in the stand off between Bath’s busking community and the Abbey. There has been a hugely welcome outbreak of dialogue and mutual respect. Bath Abbey and the buskers have released a joint statement.

We hope that this is the beginning of a beautiful and redemptive relationship between the two communities, united in appreciation for the wonderful city of Bath. I have had some choice words for Rev Edward Mason but he is to be hugely commended for being willing to sit down with buskers and work towards a generous and open-hearted compromise. Let’s hope that this spirit of co-operation now extends to the leadership of the council who earlier this week had signalled an intention to introduce harsh new restrictions on the busking community. We hope this will now prove to be unnecessary. Instead, with buskers, the Abbey and the council working together for the common good, busking in Bath and the rich cultural life of the Abbey can be safeguarded for years to come.

Joint statement from Bath Abbey and street musicians (25 September 2014)
In light of recent events and the consequent media interest, Bath Abbey Rector Edward Mason and colleague Claire Robson met with street musicians Jack Morgan and Ben Powell today.

The meeting provided an opportunity to share how distressing the last few days have been for both the Abbey and the street musicians.

Apologies were given and received and both parties explored how they can work together towards resolving this issue.

Both agreed that the Abbey’s first concern continues to be the needs of the people who enter this holy place.

Both recognised the contribution street musicians make to the life of the city.

Both recognised the need for a workable system that allows street performance to flourish while respecting those who live and work in the city.

The meeting concluded warmly with a mutual determination to draw a line under the past and foster good relationships in the future.

Bath’s Buskers Under Threat-Keep Streets Live Stands With Them

Bath’s Buskers Under Threat-Keep Streets Live Stands With Them


Busking has been described as  an “urban ritual that challenges the way in which we think about public space by promoting spontaneous, democratic, intimate encounters in some of the city’s most “routinized and alienating environments” (Tanenbaum cited in Simpson, n.d., p. 3). It is hard to think of a less alienating environment than the public square outside of Bath Abbey where buskers have performed for many decades in the shadow of that beautiful church building. The high culture of the choral evensong has long mingled with the ‘low’ culture of the musicians animating the streets outside in the intermingling of cultural and social currents that characterises so many cities. Relationships between the buskers outside the Temple gates and the rector of the Abbey broke down in dramatic fashion when he decided to call a halt to Evensong because buskers could be heard inside the church and penned an emotive article for the Western Daily Press. In the words of Rev Edward Mason:

How do I feel? I feel like weeping. Truly. Weeping for a city ruined by the clamour of music. Weeping for choirs that are victims. Weeping for my staff subjected to music every day. Weeping that we human beings just cannot resolve conflict. (Let’s not look at Syrians and condemn them when we can’t even sort out music amicably!) Weeping for an Abbey that has had a superb ministry of peace, healing and quiet for hundreds of years and which is being subject to the violence of noise.



In talking about the noise from a few buskers Rev Mason writes about the ‘violence of noise’ and draws comparisons with the Syrian conflict. We could speak of the ‘violence’ of his rhetoric and could also question the necessity of his actions in calling a service to a premature close. In any event his words and actions were ‘amplfied’ by the intersection of the social media age with the traditional press and a local dispute had become national news alongside his prominent calls for Bath Council to impose strict controls on the busking community. Almost immediately the Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for neighbourhoods David Dixon was modelling kneejerk local democracy by promising to use new legislation to bring in blanket controls against buskers in response to these complaints and was using Twitter to make his intentions clear.



Bath Council seem to be intent on using the new Public Space Protection Orders to restrict busking in the vicinity of the Abbey. It is highly regrettable that they are considering the use of these illiberal, controversial blanket powers, which will make it very difficult for buskers in Bath to make a living, in response to complaints about the actions of a small minority of musicians. It is a form of collective punishment which harms all buskers and will have a detrimental impact on the cultural vibrancy of Bath which is famous for its diverse street culture scene.

Fortunately there is an alternative. The council have a wide range of existing legal powers that they can use in cases of noise nuisance or obstruction and could target enforcement action against any busker who was causing a genuine problem whilst leaving the vast majority to carry on. In Liverpool the busking community has worked alongside the local authority and the business community to develop busking guidance that promotes harmony between all users of shared public spaces in that city. Instead of blanket bans the council should work alongside the Abbey and the buskers to work out a code that they can all agree upon together. The guidance we produced in Liverpool by working with the council can be seen here and could be a useful template for resolving issues that arise from time to time amicably: http://keepstreetslive.com/uncategorized/2014/09/best-practice-busking-guide

We will write more about this in the coming days but will close for now with a statement released earlier by the busking community of Bath:

‘Bath is a beautiful and vibrant city with a renowned, long standing street music scene that needs to be protected. We’re saddened by the events of the past week and hope we can sit down and reach a positive solution for all parties involved. We still support the mutually agreed code of conduct, which most buskers follow. The issue now is ensuring it is followed by all buskers, so live performance can continue to be enjoyed in Bath.’

Work with the buskers and not against them Bath Abbey and Bath Council! The Keep Streets Live Campaign will be watching this unfolding situation very closely.




Read more: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Bath-s-buskers-make-weep-Bath-Abbey-rector/story-22963092-detail/story.html#ixzz3EHL3IIpk
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Read more at http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Bath-s-buskers-make-weep-Bath-Abbey-rector/story-22963092-detail/story.html#EbOzPkEHL0cZ81XE.99

Best Practice Busking Guide

Best Practice Busking Guide

This best practise guidance has been jointly produced by the Keep Streets Live Campaign, Liverpool City Council and Liverpool Business Improvement District. It aims to preserve and safeguard a vibrant, open and spontaneous street culture whilst at the same time giving businesses, residents and buskers alike the tools to deal with issues that sometimes arrive at street level. We believe that buskers and local authorities working together towards the common good is the best way of safeguarding the street performing tradition and keeping public spaces open to the arts. We are certain that Liverpool’s forward-looking approach will be followed in other towns and cities in the UK and beyond.