Liverpool Leads the Way

Liverpool Leads the Way

Two years is a long time in street politics

What a difference a couple of years makes!

In the summer of 2012 Liverpool City Council caused consternation amongst the grassroots cultural community when they introduced a controversial busking policy placing severe restrictions on the right to perform music and art in public spaces within the city. Anybody wishing to busk in the city was to be required to pay a license and to purchase a minimum of £10 million worth of public liability insurance (Usually costing over £100). The policy included a ban on all under-18 performers and what was dubbed ‘the Simon Cowell clause’ which allowed any civic or police official the power to pull the plug on a performance on the grounds that ‘it was not of sufficient quality’. Most controversially unlicensed buskers were to be issued with threats of trespass prosecutions on the public highway for ‘unauthorised’ performances. The Keep Streets Live Campaign was born in opposition to these plans which would have made Liverpool perhaps the least-busker friendly city within the UK. Following a petition, street protests and a formal legal challenge, Liverpool Council listened to the concerns of the Keep Streets Live Campaign and dropped their old policy in September 2012.

Well over a year later in January 2014 the Keep Streets Live Campaign received an invitation from the City Council to participate in talks to design new guidance for busking in the city, this time with the full and active involvement of the wider busking community. An open invitation was issued to buskers to be part of the process and, over a period of 7 months, around 15 face to face meetings were held between buskers, the Musician’s Union, Liverpool BID Company and the City Council to produce guidance that all could agree upon.

One of the key aspects of the new guidance is the provisions for buskers to have regular open meetings both amongst the busking community and with the City Council to discuss issues as they arise. This is to help good relationships amongst buskers and to ensure that buskers and the Council remain engaged in a positive, ongoing dialogue.

Buskers will not be required to get a license before they perform in the city but instead asks them to be considerate and respectful of other users of shared public spaces, and in turn, asks businesses and public officials who have issues with buskers to let them know in a polite and considerate way. It marks a complete watershed in the way that busking is overseen within the City of Liverpool and ensures that this world famous music city is leading the way in its active encouragement of street culture.

Promoting Harmony on the Streets

The Guide to Busking in Liverpool has been produced as a joint initiative with Musicians’ Union (MU), Liverpool City Council, the Keep Streets Live Campaign and the Business Improvement District (BID).

The 12 page best practice guide advises buskers, council officers, businesses and residents on issues such as pitch selection, noise levels and the best way of resolving issues. A laminated advice card is also being produced which highlights guidance and recommendations.

This move represents a new approach to street entertainment in Liverpool. In 2012 a managed system of buskers with licensed pitches was to be introduced but was opposed by buskers and the MU and the idea was dropped.

It is anticipated that that the new guidance will help reduce the number of complaints and lead to those which continue being resolved amicably. It also sets out the procedures for enforcement should this prove necessary.

Morris Stemp, North of England Regional Organiser for the Musicians’ Union, said:

“This is a real achievement for all parties concerned, and I’d like to congratulate Liverpool City Council and the BID for engaging so actively with interested parties and organisations to be with us at the forefront of this initiative.

“The aim of the guide is to foster a vibrant street culture which allows for spontaneity whilst at the same time making provision for constructively resolving any issues that may arise using existing statutory powers, and is an example I anticipate many will want to follow. It also blows apart the myth that busking is in some way illegal.

“This is in stark contrast to some less pragmatic authorities and councils, where heavy handed regulation and over-zealous bureaucracy stifle self-expression. Buskers in Liverpool now have a guide that will help nurture music and other art forms on the streets, with all the benefits this will bring to the city, to buskers and to wider society.

“I believe that collaborations such as this, where street entertainment is rightly valued and encouraged, will be the future for busking in cities, towns and villages in this country. I would urge other authorities to follow Liverpool’s pragmatic approach and let us help them provide a landscape which nurtures the talents which our members can provide.”

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said;

“It represents an entirely new approach to busking in Liverpool, a city famous for its culture and music. By working together with the busking community we will bring our streets alive for the benefit of everyone.”

Councillor Steve Munby, cabinet member for neighbourhoods said:

“I think visitors to the city would be surprised and disappointed if they didn’t find a lively street music culture, given the city’s reputation. But we also know there are complaints from business and visitors about noise and obstructions so we have tried to balance the needs of all parties.

“I don’t mind making mistakes as long as we learn from them. We recognised that an imposed solution was never going to work so we have brought together a range of organisations to produce this guide. This has been a unique partnership which bodes well for the future of street entertainment. I’m really grateful to everyone who’s been involved.

“The guide sets out a positive way forward and if everybody follows the guidance in it we can have a thriving street culture based on good relationships.”

Jonny Walker, Founding director of the Keep Streets Live Campaignsaid:

“The collaborative approach that Liverpool City Council have modelled in putting together this busking guidance makes it a pioneer amongst major cities worldwide in its active support for grassroots street culture.

“The busking community has had the unique opportunity of working alongside the local authority, the BID and the Musicians’ Union to preserve the spontaneity and informality which is intrinsic to the nature of busking, whilst actively seeking to build good relationships between all those who share public space in the city. It is right that buskers should be closely involved in decisions that affect them and it is to Liverpool City Council’s immense credit that they chose to include the busking community at all stages in the production of this guidance.

“The busking community will continue to cooperate with the local authority to ensure the ongoing success of this new approach, and will hold a regular open buskers’ meeting which all are welcome to attend. We are confident that this guidance will help to harness the capacity of busking to transform the experience of shared public spaces in the city, and to continue to play its part in what makes Liverpool such a wonderful place to live, work and visit.”

Bill Addy, Chief Executive of Liverpool BID Company, said:

“We welcome the introduction of this guide. It brings some clarity as to what is expected of everyone to ensure the vibrancy of Liverpool city centre is a cause for celebration and not consternation. Street entertainment can be a huge added bonus to the appeal of a city centre and this guide is a very encouraging step forward in ensuring Liverpool gets the balance right for all parties.”

The new guidance is being introduced in September with the first open busker’s meeting due to take place on the evening of Tuesday 23rd September at 7pm at the Lomax. On behalf of the Keep Streets Live Campaign I urge everyone who cherishes Liverpool’s vibrant street culture to come along, all are welcome.

Jonny Walker

Founding director, Keep Streets Live Campaign

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

29 Comments on "Liverpool Leads the Way"

  • ‘ Liverpool Leads the Way ‘ ( ha! ha! ha! I note these are your ‘own’ words Jonny ). Pure bunkem in relation to my own experience, over 3 years of street performing that more accurately informs me that Liverpool is in fact ‘light years’ away from other towns and cities in terms of setting up successful busking schemes etc.

    For instance Birmingham has had a ‘workable’ busking code in place for over 5 years now and I can personally vouchsafe that ‘open’ communications between Street Performers and Birmingham Retail/City Centre Authorities ( with a ‘few’ exceptions ) have been a mainstay of busking in the city.

    ‘ Liverpool City Council……a pioneer amongst major cities world-wide in its active support for grassroots street culture ‘ ( in your own words again, I note Jonny, ha! ha! ha! ) . Well my understanding, having attended one of your meetings ( in the earlier stages ), is that in truth the issue was politically forced, Liverpool taking action to more or less close busking down ( at the very least seriously restrict its function ) in the city-centre because of endless complaints about noise on the streets during the weekend.

    The reality is your current compromise is an outcome of a pretty vicious and protracted dispute between the council and yourselves/yourself ( ie. Street Performers/Streetperformer ). Hence a simple Busking agreement that could have taken ‘months’ or indeed ‘weeks’ in its working out and completion ( if all parties were ‘truly’ enlightened and of the kind of ‘good’ will as suggested ) in actual fact taking a full on 2 years.

    As for your so called Best Practice Guide, I repeat what I’ve already said elsewhere, it has the rather all too familiar ‘ring’ about it of a ‘consumer watchdog style leaflet’ you might pick up from the CAB, or the kind of ‘ All The Things You Need To Know About X, Y or Z ‘ type popular article you find in womens magazines or on popular TV shows, or in Sunday Supplements. You know what I mean, media ‘filler’ type sections, merely containing common-sense dressed up as profound ‘wisdom’.

    I’m afraid I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Your Best Practice Guide for Buskers in Liverpool? My overall ‘honest’ impression? A ‘personal’ expression of ‘universal’ platitudes! ( albeit with the appearance of the ‘collective’ ha! ha! ha! ) . Yes, thats the crazy truth, from my rather humble perspective, the crazy truth of it all!.

  • I can only say that you come across as enormously complacent about the situation with busking in Birmingham which may be the first major UK city to consider using the new Public Space Protection Orders against buskers in the city. See http://keepstreetslive.com/blog/2014/08/busking-and-public-space-protection-orders

    In Liverpool the local authority are now working alongside the busking community and good will prevails. That’s what activism is. We campaigned against Liverpool’s old policy (which was quite similar to Birmingham’s unworkably restrictive current policy) and they listened to the public outcry and chose to work with us.

    Birmingham may soon face the kind of issues that confronted Liverpool buskers back in 2012.

    • Before my more considered reply ( see below ) a brief though pertinent quote, courtesy of the renowned Islamic Scholar, Sayyid Qutb:

      “Legislation is a most fundamental attribute of Godhead (Lordship). Any human being who claims the right to decree laws of his own for a community of people actually and practically claim Godhead (Lordship), even though he may not put such a claim in words. Anyone who recognises such an authority as belonging to a human being admits that Godhead (Lordship) belongs to that human being, whether he calls it as such or not.” [Fee Zhilaal Al-Quraan [English trans.], 7/24]
      ( Sayyid Qutb – Author, Teacher, Islamic Theorist, Member Of The Moslem Brotherhood)

  • Jonny I think at last its time to point out some real home truths here with regards public order and busking. Counter to what you’d have us all believe, over the last few years Birmingham has had little ( if any restriction ) on busking in the city centre. There has always been a scheme in operation in the city with ‘agreed’ pre-bookable pitches on offer to performers however truth is ‘off-piste’ spots have long existed, and people like myself have long played on them with zero interference from authorities ie. Bham Retail BID, Council or Police.

    In fact, in the main, busking has not been an issue in the city centre with most problems acknowledged as coming from other sources eg Charity Sales Workers ( or Chuggers ), Drinkers, Beggars etc, plus Petty Thieves and most recently Street Preachers competing with each other in terms of loud speaker noise and volume.

    In fact a social experiment ( if you like ) has been going on in Birmingham for quite a while now in terms of super lax regulation regards busking performing. Basically everyone has been allowed to set up where they like, even ‘formally’ so by the police ( I’ve had direct communications with them on the issue ). Of course I’ve always suspected a ‘hidden agenda’ here realising that police detachment from busking etc could lead to potential abuse of public freedoms by others and problems of noise nuiscance occuring as a result of the behaviour of those less responsible Buskers.

    I also have always been very aware that any escalation in ‘percieved’ nuisance from ‘troublemakers’ arising from these very ‘liberal’ conditions could be used as an excuse for more draconian powers and reaction at a later stage. In one sense I think my pertubations on this matter may about to be proved right

    As a result of the lack of sensitivity, selfishness, ego etc of what is only a ‘few’ buskers, noise problems have arisen. The issue here is not one of ‘taste’ or subjective ‘musical’ prejudice as you have ‘mistakingly’ suggested to be the case elsewhere but of objective excessive noise volume. Again it only involves 2 or maybe 3 players but not only have numerous complaints been made against them, their performance antics have unfairly effected other performers.

    For example I turned up recently one Sunday at a spot to find myself immediately being targeted for being drowned out by one persistant culprit. As soon as I began playing he spitefully cranked up his volume in a self conscious, aggressive response clearly aimed at ruining my play. This is’nt just a one off either its the kind of thing that happens on regular occasions, and always involving the same, yes ‘nuisance’ buskers. Of course the perpertrator in turning up his volume laughably does’nt necessarily affect me as much as he thinks, but it does the shops, residents, offices etc particularly those closer to him in the vicinity.

    So case in point, I think it is you Jonny, who is naieve about the problem of busking noise nuisance etc particularly in this kind of context – the Birmingham one!. Indeed I find you wantonly, foolishly naieve concerning the ‘genuine’ complaints this kind of ‘negative’ behaviour does trigger and the kind of powers that can be created by Government for authorities to combat the problem.

    The truth is I’ve seen this kind of public order law being introduced in October coming for a long time and for the very reasons I’ve stated above, and you need to wake up Jonny because this is no simple state conspiracy theory going on here, these laws arise out of some very ‘real’ concerns for public order.

    And I warn you Jonny don’t you be complacent because these ‘new’ public space protection orders are tools readily available for all the UKs towns and cities Liverpool included – and if necessary they will be used by all. In fact you mislead and mis-represent ( I’m tempted to say outrightly lie and distort ) Birmingham today as being like Liverpool of the past.

    The truth is busking down here ( from my experience and comparison ) has always been freer ( and in ‘reality’ still is and prospectively will be! ). Remember you’re not free if you can’t perform because someone has set up 50 metre up the road from you and begin doodling on a loud Trumpet or preaching the end of the world on amplified loud halers. You’re also not free if Shops and Offices and Residents are not free from being persistantly victimised by noise nuisance and common sensibly percieved over loud volumes. I can’t speak for Liverpool but in Birmingham and Stratford upon Avon the creation of ‘official’ pitches has been a Godsend in terms of lessening conflict, interference, confusion and mayhem.

    For a man always harping on about bringing peace to the streets, for a man who claims to be a consientious activist who values social harmony you need to quit the denial of this kind of busking problem, take your head out of the sand and face the reality that noise nuisance can and does exist ( as does human ego! ), that excessive volume is an objective common sense reality ( not simply subjective ) and that if left unchecked can and does harm peoples lives rather like the selfish, sulky teenager whose crazy loud bedroom rock music drives his parents wild.

    Finally I have to say that for a so called man of peace you manage to show an amazing lack of human empathy on these kinds of issues – the major social problem posed by busking being ie, anti social noise problems, a sorry situation in which for many common sense people there are ‘clear’ victims. Not only shopkeepers but busking musicians too can fall foul of a drowning out by other performers.

    In fact its ‘your’ ( and others ) sheer arrogant blindness ( nevermind complacency ) on this perspective that ironically compounds ‘new’ public order law and its use. Time to start garnering that ever wider perspective Jonny, because many common sense people are going to stop buying into your rather paranoid lame excuses for noise, its causes and its effects with regards busking/Buskers and start calling for ( indeed insisting upon ) some of these new ‘control’ orders to be brought into being and with urgent effect. And I’m speaking of the people of Liverpool, York, London, etc not only Birmingham.

  • steve broe says

    I think the response from you, Nigel, is a bit strong particularly on the personal attack front. I also found Birmingham to be less than liberal in it’s approach, having busked there on my way to and from Liverpool, where i don’t recall ever having any interference from police or council. My experiences in Birmingham were not so good, particularly Broad st at night.

    I also have to support Jonny in the work he has led, with many a busker from all over the country uniting to show our outrage at Liverpool’s original scheme and Camden’s current policy. It is unkind to be so dismissive of him, when he has done such a lot of hard work for us all. The complete about face in Liverpool may have taken a long time, but to have achieved it at all, is tremendous.

    Debate is good, information sharing invaluable, unity or at least working together towards a goal that broadly fits all our need is the way to go. We’d have achieved nothing without the unifying force of the Keep Streets Live campaign. There is much to do, a constant struggle. I admire and respect the huge effort Jonny has put in. Not many could have pulled i all together in the same way.

    Steve Broe, London

    • ‘ Debate is good, information sharing invaluable,,,,’ Blah! Blah! Blah ! what is the underlying sentiment that you’re ‘actuall’y expressing here, if not one of more Jonny Walker-like platititudes. Truth is, and its clearly demonstrated here, is that all you’re trying to do here Mr Broe, is join in and gang up on someone who expresses a ‘dissenting’ voice.

      As for Broad Street , well for everyone who genuinely knows the city, its in actual fact Birminghams Night Club District, and attempting to street-perform there simply exposes the truth that you have indeed a very limited awareness of Birminghams Street Performing Scene ( either that i.e you’re very naieve or one possible alternative ie. you’re in fact not a ‘real’ busker at all but a hustler ( and not a very successful one at that! ). I suggest that if police etc approached you in that area it was for your own safety!.

      As for me being unkind to Jonny or dismissive of him well I’m afraid I stand by what I have said i.e. in essence that his claims that Liverpool are the leaders in Busking Policy are indeed laughable, and the claims of the city being a ‘world pioneer’ in street politics, a rather nauseating grotesque exaggeration of the processes that have recently taken place in the city.

      Having personally attended a busking meeting in Liverpool myself with him as main speaker and Chester ( below ) as appointed Chairman ( by Jonny himself of course! ) I add ( as stated elsewhere ) that I did not like his rather ‘despotic’ style of street activist leadership and having investigated ‘ Streetslive.org ‘ further ( incl Directorships, links etc ) furthermore I am very critical of its underlying Christian agenda.

      • *Byetheway Covent Garden is one of the best places I know for ‘Evening’ Busking, I have a friend, a Sax Player, who loves ‘night’ playing, and has played their successfully several times. You’re based in London Mr Broe, so check the place out!

        Note that he and another friend from Bham also played recently at night in the Liverpool dock development area. Said it was a bit ‘boisterous’ down there though ok. Try that area out too!.

  • Chester says

    I feel your argument is undermined Nigel by your tendency to make your points personal and punctuated with sneering, patronising remarks (hahaha etc.). It’s validity is also undermined by the fact that you constantly refer to your 3 years’ experience in 2 towns as giving you a ‘national perspective’ on busking. I’m aware that I’ve also been roped into your personal attacks online despite the fact that you’ve only ever met me once in perfectly amicable circumstances. I suspect that this is due to my ‘support’ for a certain busker in Birmingham with whom you have had differences. I don’t know exactly what has happened between the two of you, but I will always give support to a busker who is physically assaulted and has a private security guard seize their property and threaten to smash it. In this situation whatever history you have with him has no bearing on the matter. If you ever find yourself in the same situation I would have no hesitation in supporting you too.

  • You and along with Jonny Walker et al recently supported a guy ( Street Performer ) who you have described as your ‘ friend from Birmingham’ , who ‘you’ knowingly had not long prior rather maliciously and spitefully stated on the internet eg You Tube that I was guilty of bullying other buskers in Stratford upon Avon. So Chester don’t you condemn me for making sneering and patronising remarks, because I state right out point blankly that in this context you’re a hypocrite.

    Be careful of your accusations of assault also. Can ‘you’ prove assault? have you looked objectively into the circumstances? has anyone been provoked? Has anyone been charged ?. One fact I know is that your so called ‘friend’ from Birmingham has again and again been identified as the source of noise nuisance while out busking in the city-centre.

    Note only that environmental officers armed with recording/measurring equipment have investigated affairs following numerous complaints from residents, offices, shop retailers and even the management of a Hotel in the vicinity. Your ‘friend’ even implicated himself in his own video filmed last Xmas on the German Market eg. agreeing to turn down, following complaints about volume excess. I ask in this context, what kind of a game are you and Jonny Walker etc playing here supporting such a guy?.

    Furthermore I personally have suffered from attempted busking performance ‘drowning outs’ from this guy, who I now describe myself as a ‘social media’ bully. Now I’m not going to give my support to a group of so called Street Performing activists who support such people, whilst dismissing the destructive impact that they can and do have not just on Business’es etc but also other Buskers such as myself.

    The fact that you in a meeting in Liverpool ( one dominated by Jonny Walker, and you as ‘appointed’ Chairman ) refused to listen to what I had to say, in fact you just wanted to brush me aside, means that you have other agendas than simple social justice on the streets regards Street Performers. Your linking with your ‘friend’ from Birmingham appearing coming across as a cynical political relationship and your ‘activist’ support of him as merely an ego churlish attempted publicity stunt rather than genuine objective street justice concern.

    Finally I’ll let you know that I’ve played in more than 2 towns over the last 3 years and have gained some very useful and ‘realistic’ insights into what goes on out there on the streets. Once more I know more than a few people who have been busking many years longer than you or Jonny Walker and that includes worldwide.

    One such long standing Busker from Chester, for instance, who I met in Stratford upon Avon last Summer, a Street Entertainer with 20yrs plus experience busking in Liverpool decribed the city as ‘ chaos ‘ since Jonny Walker got involved with Street Politics. He turned up at a spot in the morning to be told to ‘ f – off ‘ when he returned in the afternoon. This is not freedom Chester, this is abuse! ( and I don’t want any part of it ).

    • *Byetheway Chester on a more ‘positive’ note I do actually like some of the work you have done with Buskers Unregulated for example your confronting and standing up to ‘the beat’ on behalf of Buskers in Greenwich recently. I also like your legal advice for buskers ‘Busk Card’, again much respect here.

      I also identify with your ‘old’ school busking approach to a degree, ok I use an ‘amp’ etc however I do still ‘connect’ with the kind of ‘folk’ purity of your ‘unplugged’ acoustic angle on streetperforming, and you know simply setting up on a street corner somewhere and start playing, this kind of ‘athentic’ street culture spirit indeed ought to remain untouched by the law ( it is the modern ‘bigger/louder’ acts that pose the problems really! ).

      In fact ‘Chester for King’ I’d say! that is if you could convince me a little bit more of your ‘nobility’, because I left that meeting in Liverpool early this year, despite early enthusiasm, a little deflated, thinking to myself ‘ Chester Bingley, now this is a man with no honour!’.

  • Keep Streets Live is about supporting buskers and street performers not attacking them on public forums. We would extend support to any performer who found themselves in difficulties and requested help, without prejudice.

    With regards to Liverpool, the council have undergone a 180 degree turn in their attitude to busking after bringing in a very restrictive policy in 2012 they have chosen instead to work alongside the busking community in a move that can only be welcomed.

    We will be holding open buskers meetings in Liverpool each month which you will be very welcome to attend and have input. The next one takes place a the Brink on September 23rd from 7:30pm.

    • * Byetheway Jonny before my reply ( see below ) just a few thoughts on ‘community’. Truth is, there a communities & communities, ‘artificial’, and ‘imaginary’ communities. If by ‘busking’ community you mean a genuinely ‘artistic’ Bohemian ‘in’ group then I enthusiastically sign up if not I’d rather stick to the notion of no community at all but rather joining a broad political movement focused on fighting for Buskers Rights.

      You see I’ve spent most of my ‘waking’ life outside of the mainstream, happily existing in that parallel cultural universe apart from popular conventional society. From youth all I’ve ever found belonging with have been the cultural formations that are w/c subcultures such hanging around with the ‘Scousers’ in 70’s New Town Runcorn to living as a commited part the post 60s countercultures of Bohemian, Mosely.

      Its funny, I viewed your recent ‘celebratory’ video on Twitter, of ‘evening’ Buskers, 3, 4 acts seemingly banded together like a herd, playing in close vicinity in a Liverpool city centre High Street, during the night hours. Your energetic commentary talks of reaching ‘you’r busking pitch next and playing a version of Oasis’ Wonderwall ‘ why not ! ‘ you enthuse.

      Now I’m not one to call for ‘restrictions’ on Buskers singing Oasis Covers in city centres late at night, good on you all, each to their own, however I myself as a Busker would be hesitant to join you and I have and do play at night as a Street Performer eg Brazillian Choro, Venezualan Valses and Argentine Tango on the ‘nylon’ string guitar are beautiful nightime sounds, some say the ‘authentic’ sounds of Midusmmer Nights Romance – check out Astor Piazollas Cafe 1932, Nightclub etc.

      The main reason I would’nt join you is not a matter of merely musical taste though , no , no nonsense like that. No, its far more a case, a matter of ‘people’ culture and sub/outside cultural belonging for me. You see in my clubbing days it would be more a matter of House Music that I’d be listening to before I went out, certainly not Oasis. Before that time, if I was going to the RumRunner during the New Romantic days, mainstream ‘straight’ city centre club culture for me was avoided altogether and yes looking back on it then, in a rather ‘art’ culturally snobbish way, I did indeed rather ‘frowned’ upon it, yes I even detested the ‘straight’ world of Sharons and Tracy’s.

      No, speaking culturally and ‘authentically’ I would’nt even think, dream or even entertain the idea of listening to Wonderwall on city-centre club nights ( thats if I ever went to the city centre, some of the ‘coolest’ happenings took place elsewhere ) , no if I was in a ‘rock’ mood it would be something like ‘ Kool Thing ‘ by Sonic Youth, or ‘ Going Out Tonight ‘ by post art shoe gaze girl group Sing Sing that I’d be dancing around too.

  • Oh no Jonny, fresh back from your ‘family’ holiday in the USA, home of democracy, so called land of the free and you have’nt changed have you?, you don’t change do you ?, you simply insist on spouting even more ‘personal’ platitudes concerning you, busking and your organisation Streetslive.

    Well I state outright here that as far as I’m concerned, as a Busker, as an ‘individual’, I’m about expressing myself fully as a human being and that includes my rational ‘critical’ intelligence.

    The truth is that both you and a couple of your busking fellows ( or should I say ‘co-dependants’ ) have come out and publicly criticised me for not acknowledging the supposed ‘achievements’ of Streetslive ( and your good self! ). Well vainglory!, all vainglory ! I retort.

    If I honestly felt that I was witnessing something ‘extraordinary’ here I’d be the first to celebrate it. The fact is though, that although it has its ‘intrinsic’ complexities Busking as a practice is not a brain science and it does not take several years of experience to either understand it nor perform it well.

    It also does’nt have to take 2 years of struggle with the local council nor a protacted and long drawn out campaign involving conflicts and difficulties with other concerned parties to sort out busking problems and this kind of situation out. No all of this can be done in a matter of weeks, resolutions found in days even , if the process is open to access by the right kind of personalities and draws upon genuine communication and good will.

    No you, Chester Bingley, Steve Broe and the like are going to have to ‘stretch’ yourselves a lot further, a lot lot more futher, if you are to win the attentions ( and ‘admiration’ ) of many of us out here. You see ‘workable’Busking codes ( including additional busking etiquette ), if you were only to look ‘objectively’ outside yourselves, stretching your imaginations to reach out all around you, are in ‘reality’ nothing ‘new’ at all, they’re commonplace!.

    Bytheway I won’t be attending the next meeting, I will be too busy. That is, busy ‘out’ there submitting my soul to the more ‘natural’ order of things, to that ‘healthy’ kind of chaos that precedes ‘authentic’ growth and being.

  • Oh and one more thing Jonny, I note you don’t mention it here, of course I understand that, no doubt you’re all in the midsts of your own victory celebrations but I thought I’d mention it and raise the question Q. Surely there are ‘conditions’ attached to what you describe as Liverpool Councils 180degree turn-around with regards Streetslive.org and the existence of busking in the city ie. ‘keep the noise down!’.

    In fact I can imagine it, vividly picture it even, the final meeting with Council officials, the apotheatic dramatic reverse turn of the city of Liverpool, the mayor and council leaders ”Yes have as many ‘meetings’ as you like, get together and throw a party even but with one stipulation, you all agree to keep the collective volume down to reasonable levels. We have only one condition Jonny, sign up to this and the streets of Liverpool are yours, ‘keep the noise down!’.

  • So yes, on the question of communities Jonny, there are communities & communities, ‘artificial’, and ‘imaginary’ communities. Truth is Jonny, ‘your’ community and whats going on in Liverpool is one of many communities out there and the moral ‘reality is, there is no good reason why yours ( your type of community ) should predominate.

    Whilst one could argue successfully for the existence of some busking common demominators between places, its just as important ( if not more so ) to acknowledge the differences between towns and cities i.e. what goes on in Liverpool is not necessary suitable for Bath, and maybe in some very ‘real’ senses visa versa, i.e. what goes down in Bath may not be fully compatible with Liverpool.

  • Thanks Jonny W.
    Busking was certainly doomed in Liverpool before you championed the cause.
    Personally, I don’t understand the attraction of playing in big cities, and having to “compete” with multitudes of other buskers.
    You’d be amazed at the appreciation of townsfolk in smaller towns!
    Nigel, you discredit yourself by your constant tirade against Jonny.
    As a busker with 20 years experience, “live, and let live” is the best policy to adopt.
    Chips for dinner, anyone?

    • Sorry Tim but I’m just adhering to the the public role of the Artist as I see it, and of course how other notable social/cultural commentators, of more note than me, have historically seen it eg.*See Mathew Arnold Culture And Anarchy – first and foremost ‘ The role of the Artist is as critic of society ‘.

      I don’t share Arnolds general ‘ Christian’ perspective on man and the human condition but I do think in this particular issue of artistic idententy he’s spot on. Again like Public Intellectual Noam Chomsky wisely said you’ve simply got to take out that what is valuable and simply jettison the rest. And that what I intellectually, philosophically tend to do.

      One thing these wonderful thinkers have in common, and that I so admire about them, is that what they all rather characterfully share, is a strong, unshakable ‘moral integrity’. And what they reccommend so passionately to others through their ‘actions’ as ‘free’ thinking human beings, is that important personal quality of never suspending the integrity of your intelligent ‘moral’ critical faculties for anyone, any cause or anything ( including you ‘own’ inevitable detractors ). This is one dictum Tim, that I’m afraid I ‘do’ adamantly follow!.

  • Finally on the subject of Popular Culture a topic area that Liverpool seems to want to glorify in, echoing the words of one of my ‘intellectual’ heroes Noam Chomsky I am 100% not interested in it. The Xfactor, Britains Got Talent, Hughie Green and Opportunity Knocks I’m not interested, I’d rather read a 19th Century Victorian Novel.

    ( Bytheway I use the term ‘hero’ very ‘lightly’ and strictly for ‘rhetorical’ purposes, I’ve never really liked the term what with its connotation of individual adulation, person worship and suchlike, something that I and I don’t think Noam would want to encourage )

    • * Though please note and I have to say I do like ‘One Directions’ Steal My Girl Video ( 60 million hits on You Tube ) a very interesting ‘collaborative’ effort and fine testament to the ‘collective’ artistic prowess and combined productive power of the ‘Pop Industry’. I also now more fully understand why millions of teenage girls ( neigh full grown women for that matter, including ‘married’ ones ) adore them, these contemporary working class ‘ Lord Byrons ‘.

  • seo guy says

    I have always thoughts buskers and street artists etc can give a city a real sense of character and the change in Liverpool the last couple of years just proves that!

    • * Required Reading

      Well said Seo, though for some further cultural ‘insight’ into the ‘high’ workings of character and entertainment give this book a try, eg.’The Politics of Paradise’ by Michael Foot.

      That rare gem of a work of ‘analytical’ critical literature from a highly intelligent individual not necessarily well known ( outside of politics that is ) for his other creative endeavor ( & highly ‘productive’ role ) ie. that of ‘ a Man of Letters’. Its highly recommended!.

      • Truth is ( don’t be decieved on this issue ) the ‘dominant’ busking culture now found in Liverpool is a ‘perspective’ i.e. one of many ways of doing things.

        Don’t be fooled because like the codes, & schemes found elsewhere, playing in this particular city has its advantages & disadvantages, depending on ‘where you’re coming from’ & what instrument you play etc.

        As I see it, the Liverpool environment most certainly favours ‘circle-acts’ & Pop Acts ( incl; ‘amplified’ SingerSongwriters/’Covers’ Singers ) over the ‘romantic’ guitarist & lone Gypsy, particularly on the High Street where even if you got there first, others would soon arrive, & once set-up, drown you out!.

        • The tragedy in other cities like Birmingham where you can avoid such difficulties by ‘booking’ a spot on the High Street, is that the problem has now been exasperated by ‘Street Preachers’.

          These kind of ‘Christian’ folk are people who think nothing of turning up & standing right next to you & ‘sermonising’ with a loud haler ( or PA system in the case of Moslem Preacher Activists ).

  • * A Quote

    ” I’m not so ‘facile’ that I can accomplish or find
    out what I want to know or explore enough of
    the possibilities & a way of making a painting,
    say, in just one painting or two paintings ”
    ( Robert Rauschenberg )

  • Denise says

    I work on the high street in Liverpool City Centre. The noise levels of the buskers is rediculous. It is unfair to ask the everyday working person to listen to these persons repeating the same noise again and again all day; everyday. I do not jest, it is extremely loud. Customers complain in store to staff who are also unhappy with noise levels. Its a second side to the coin, I can understand why the council are helping but at the same time they don’t have to listen to them everyday either.

    What I don’t understand is, it is a non taxable system. This really needs looking into to stop tax evasion, benefit fraud & illegals. Its not fair on the average working person! I believe that all buskers should have a licence or id card and tell council of all monies earned (as other self employed people do) so they can be taxed like everybody else.

  • Denise says

    I work on the high street in Liverpool City Centre. The noise levels of the buskers is rediculous. It is unfair to ask the everyday working person to listen to these persons repeating the same noise again and again all day; everyday. I do not jest, it is extremely loud. Customers complain in store to staff who are also unhappy with noise levels. Its a second side to the coin, I can understand why the council are helping but at the same time they don’t have to listen to them everyday either.

    What I don’t understand is, it is a non taxable system. This really needs looking into to stop tax evasion, benefit fraud & illegals. Its not fair on the average working person! I believe that all buskers should have a music licence as well as busking licence or id card and tell council of all monies earned (as other self employed people do) so they can be taxed like everybody else.

    I think that there is a fine line between busking & poverty. I really don’t like seeing poverty in my city.
    I think to protect busking, key designated areas sould be established were they can perform safely; taxed according to being an entertainer and must have a music licence as well as a buskers licence. Perhaps very small platforms could be erected to shelter equipment, so that shoppers, should they choose to see an artist perform can do so and leave the high street clutter free. (Areas like Concert Sq & Mathew St. would be ideal & I am sure the old market stall traders would agree with me with this)
    Liverpool music festival was moved out of these key locations; which was a true shame.

Leave a Reply to Tim Parfitt Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>