Accrington Busking Guidance


Busking Best Practice


Hyndburn Borough Council values the contribution made by buskers and street performers in helping to create vibrant and enjoyable town centres. However inconsiderate busking can cause disturbance to businesses who may find it difficult to serve customers or use telephones due to loud noise.

Hyndburn has after appropriate consultation drawn up this code of good practice. It is intended to assist artists, performers, police, the local authority, residents and businesses alike.

The aim is for this guide to promote good and neighbourly relations between users of shared public spaces in the Borough.

The guiding principles of this code are:

  • Community
  • Consideration
  • Compromise

Hyndburn Borough Council encourages street performers, local businesses, residents, public officials and members of the public to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve any issues that may arise through compromise and co-operation.

Most complaints about ‘busking’ apply to a small number of performers and relate to noise levels, repetitive performances and obstruction.

Such issues can and will be dealt with using a framework of existing statutory powers such as the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Highways Act 1980 and the Public Order Act 1986. If this Best Practice Guide is observed it may make formal legal unnecessary.

What is Busking?

For the purposes of this code, ‘busking’ will be used to describe a performance of art, theatre or music in a public space with the intention of entertaining or engaging with members of the public.

Typically a busker is not paid or hired directly for their performances.

In essence it is the public element of performance that defines its nature.  A vibrant busking culture is often an important attraction for visitors to a town, adding colour and enjoyment to shared spaces. 

Busking performances are normally impromptu, informal and spontaneous.  The aim of this Best Practice Guide is to foster a vibrant street culture whilst making provisions for premises owners and the local authority to resolve issues that may occasionally arise around street art and performances.

This Best Practice Guide Busking seeks to take into account the diversity of busking acts by making sure that guidelines are not unduly restrictive and allow for a vibrant, attractive and varied street culture scene.

Pitch Selection

When a busker sets up on a street they become part of a street-side community.  It is composed of passers-by, street traders, shop, businesses and residents.  As busking is often an impromptu and incidental activity, it is important, especially when arriving somewhere for the first time, for a busker to make themselves known to the people/community who are sharing the space in which they intend to perform. 

For performers

Accrington is a relatively small town so it is preferable if you do not visit the area more than once a week in order to preserve the diversity of performers and prevent acts monopolising the limited space available.

Choose your pitch with consideration for others.  Be certain not to block pathways or shop entrances.  Allow plenty of space for people to walk past you.  Be aware of the time of day and the nature of the space you intend to perform in.  Be prepared to change location if your act is unsuitable for the available space on a given day or for any reason.

Introduce yourself to the proprietors/managers of nearby shops and businesses and tell them that you intend to perform in the vicinity.  Tell them your name, the nature of your performance and assure them that you do not wish to cause any intrusion.

Ask them to speak to you directly in the event that they have a problem, or need to ask you to make any adjustments to your act.  This should establish a good, co-operative relationship between you and the people around you.  It also makes it likely that any future communications will be good natured and makes complaints less likely.

Always be courteous to members of the public, council officers and police officers in the event that someone needs to speak to you.  A calm and polite demeanour will only be of benefit to you.  Remember that you are a public ambassador for the wider street art and performance community. Always behave in a responsible manner.

For local authorities/businesses/residents

If there is a street performer in the vicinity of your place of work or residence, and they are causing you a disturbance of some kind we advise that you make yourself known to them. In the majority of cases, the performer may not be aware that they have caused you a problem and will want to resolve it quickly and amicably.

Ifyou do need to speak to a busker about their work, wait for a suitable interval in the performance and introduce yourself to them for if you do intervene during a performance it will likely upset them.

            Explain your problem to them in a polite and calm way as they will probably not    be aware that they may be causing a problem. They may be able to adjust      their volume, or move to a different location if necessary.

            It is in everybody’s interest to have a good and positive relationship with the          other users of the shared public space.

Noise or Nuisance?

Noise is all around us.

A busker needs to be heard above the level of ambient street noise, within a certain radius, for their performance to be effective.  Many complaints made about buskers relate to noise and mostly about the intrusiveness of a sound – and not its volume alone.

Performances that are repetitive in nature are more likely to be experienced as intrusive and lead to complaints.  An unpleasant sound can be experienced as louder than a pleasing sound which is actually at a higher noise level.

For local authorities/businesses/residents

If you find you are disturbed by a busking performance, it is preferable first to make yourself known to the performer and politely let them know.  Try to reach a compromise if possible.  For example could the busker adjust their location, or could you both agree a time period for the duration of their performance?

Buskers may be able to adjust their performance upon polite request. It is often not necessary to make a formal complaint.

Feel free to draw a busker’s attention to this Best Practice Guide if necessary when there is a natural break in their performance.

For performers

Noise levels in smaller and quieter places need to be lower than on busy thoroughfares with more ambient noise. Always show consideration for the other users of the shared public space and for other performers.

Use variety in your repertoire.  Do not repeat your performance in the same pitch.  Instead, move to another pitch.

Always show consideration with the sound level of your performances and be prepared to adjust your volume if asked.  As a guide, your level should be just above the level of ambient street noise, but not intrusively so.  A small, battery powered amp should be sufficient for most busker’s needs.

Takeregular breaks between performances. Continuous noise, however pleasant, can be experienced as intrusive.

If backing accompaniment is part of your act it should be secondary and unobtrusive.  Pre-recorded sounds can be experienced as intrusive.  If you are not actually performing, do not leave a backing track running as continuous noise can cause unnecessary irritation.

Some Dos and Don’ts for Buskers

Some do’s

Doenjoy yourself and communicate that enjoyment to passers-by.

Do select your busking pitch with consideration for other.  Always ensure that there is room for people to get past you comfortably. Be prepared to move if necessary.

Do always be considerate to those around you.

Do introduce yourself to shops and businesses near to where you intend to perform before starting your performance.  Explain, in advance, that you would be willing to move somewhere else if required.

Do be courteous and respectful in all your interactions.

Do be aware of the setting and context of the public space where you are performing 

Do use variety in your set.

Do play acoustically if possible. You are far less likely to cause a disturbance than if you use amplifiers or backing tracks

Do be considerate with your volume.  Be willing to turn down your volume or move to a different pitch if necessary.

Do comply with requests from Police or Council Officers.

Do be enthusiastic and confident.  It is a great privilege to perform in public spaces, ENJOY IT!

Some Don’ts

Don’trepeat the same material in the same public space. Be prepared to move between pitches.

Don’tset your volume to a level that is well above street ambient noise.

Don’t block doorways or set up near fire escapes or cash machines.

Don’t obstruct the public highway.

Don’t ignore comments from complainants.

Don’t set up within 50 metres of another performer.

Don’t offer merchandise (e.g. CD’s posters etc.) for sale.