Ham & High: Comedian To Stand Up To Busking Laws As Green Party Candidate

Ham & High: Comedian To Stand Up To Busking Laws As Green Party Candidate

Published by the Ham & High on February 19th 2014.

View the article on the Ham & High here.

A stand-up comedian opposed to Camden Council’s new busking licensing laws is hoping to be elected as a Green Party councillor in May’s elections.


Ben Van der Velde, 30, has been selected to stand for the Greens in Camden Town with Primrose Hill.

The Oxford University graduate, who has lived in Camden Town for four years, performs stand-up routines in clubs across the UK and appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in 2012.

He felt compelled to stand as a councillor following Camden Council’s decision in November to introduce rules requiring buskers to purchase annual licences if they want to perform on the streets.

He said: “The first time I ever visited London on my own I headed straight for Camden Town – it’s a Mecca for music-lovers and young people the world over.

“I had an hour to kill before friends turned up so I got out my guitar and started playing – an innocent, creative and friendly act by a new kid in town.

“Thanks to the ludicrous new legislation put in place, if I did that now I’d be committing a criminal offence punishable by a £1,000 fine and the seizure of my guitar – unless I’d first bought a licence and waited 20 working days for a council panel to decide whether I was a ‘fit and proper person’ to busk!”

On February 27 and 28, busking campaigners will bring a judicial review of Camden Council’s licensing laws to the High Court.

This post was written by
Singer-Songwriter/Professional Street Performer/Campaigner/Wandering Minstrel

1 Comment on "Ham & High: Comedian To Stand Up To Busking Laws As Green Party Candidate"

  • Recogniton to Jonny Walker and all at Streetslive.org for demonstration of much courage and bravery in the field regards the recent High Court challenge to Camden Councils ‘new’ busking reguIations. Senior Judge Mrs Justice Patterson described Camdens policy as both ‘ necessary and proportionate’, despite her jurisdiction and based on my 3 years experience as a ‘jobbing’ Street Perfrormer performing in towns/cities ‘outside’ London I would still call these kinds of council measures ‘draconian’ ( unnecessary ‘extreme’ beauracratic political control ). Based upon my ‘varied’ experiences as a Street Performer working under ‘different’ codes I state here that there are more ‘reasonable’, effective alternatives, simply look elsewhere.

    In fact, I’d like the High Court and top Judiciary to recognise that Camden Council rather than enforcing some kind of ‘light-touch’ policy , are in ‘reality’ guilty of treating Street Performers in the city like some kind of ‘undesirable’ underclass, effectively beauracratically bullying them off the streets and politically ‘steamrolling’ them out of our ‘public’ spaces.

    If the decision is made, and the go-ahead is given ( I state this as a ‘fellow traveller’ not a formal member ) lets see what the High Court appeal brings in terms of a challenge to Camdens licensing scheme ?.

    I’m not sure whether the specific issue of ‘licencing’ is winnable in the High Court on the grounds that busking remain ‘unregulated’, ‘free’ from licencing as a human right. I state this simply because councils and political administrations up and down the country have run ‘licence’ schemes for eternity and its clear that they have the right to do so as legetimate ‘representative’ bodies. Their job is to raise taxes, run and control infrastructure. If voted into power they can more or less pass what laws they want if vetoed in the council chamber, whether you like them or not.
    Unless you have a very clear, ‘convincing’ case for separating busking activities for all other kinds of trade then whether you happen to like it or not busking is legally liable to council licence.

    In terms of how you police, manage, I prefer ‘mediate’ day to day problems such as busking and ‘noise’ nuisance I for one do not think ‘licencing’ is the best remedy. Its can be a cumbersome, overcontrolling, burdomesome, indeed oppressive, bullying tool in the hands of the wrong type of policical power ( cynical ‘petty’ minded little beauracrat – no disrespect to the ‘honest’ hardworking Councillors out there!). The simple ‘rational’ solution being found in the fast ‘response’ City/Town Warden Scemes located elsewhere outside London eg Birmingham.

    Street Performers desire spontaneous access to open public space, Shopkeepers for example like a rapid, ‘on the spot response’ to noise nuiscance as and when it crops up. Its all a matter of ‘healthy’ psychological control over situations that effect your day to day life. Long, drawn out, beauracratic, legal solutions
    suit nobody except the neurotically possessed and should be a last resort for the sane individual, the rational institution.

    You can claim ‘freedom of expression’, others can claim ‘ rights to peace and comfort’. In this context, it appears to me that what might be important in the long-term is not ‘statute’ law and seeking to push your right through over somebody else as a resolution to busking problems but ‘just’ resolution in the form of a good old political balance of intersts within a liberal plural frame. To achieve this you need the right people in power, proper liberal democratic progressives capable of understanding the complexities of both sides of the argument and setting in motion ‘truly’ rational balanced cultural public policy. What you don’t need are a bunch of ‘knee-jerk’ power obsessed control freaks.

    Its in the this spirit, the desire for better politicans and higher standard local councillors i.e. ones that respond to public issues with a more liberal, balanced, progressive perspective, those actually capable of cobbling together a ‘sane’ busking code ( i.e. throws out an open arm, actively welcomes ‘recorder’ players ) that I not only welcome and support the likes of Ben Van Der Velde entry into local politics, I am truly ‘excited’ by the prospect.

    A local guy, a professional entertainer, a busker himself as a youth, a lover of the envronment, understands culture from the ‘ground’, coupled with an interest in issues, politics, history and most imporant of all a Satirist the policical ‘automatons’ greatest enemy, if I was Londoner and living in Camden Town, he very well may have my vote!

    ( * See my addtional views on the issue of ‘licencing’ elsewhere on the Streetslive.org Site. Thanks Jonny for being a true democratic in this sense, and for letting other people to ‘freely’ air their views )

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