We have launched a new petition to safeguard London’s buskers from laws that threaten cultural freedoms. Please sign it via this link:
Cultural Freedoms Under Threat
The future of spontaneous performances of art and music on London’s streets is seriously under threat because of bad laws which strangle grassroots culture and criminalize artists and musicians. If we act now we have a unique opportunity to lift the burden on culture-makers by supporting Lord Clement Jones’ amendments to the Deregulation Bill which is going through Parliament at this moment, and striking this outdated legislation off the statute books for good.
Why the law needs to change
On the 9th April 2014, Boris Johnson launched the #backbusking campaign with the aim of making London ‘the most busker friendly city on earth’ by reducing some of the red tape and restrictive laws that have turned London into a ‘no go’ area for buskers. He was joined at the launch by the winners of a mayoral competition set up to find ‘London’s best buskers’, a young band called “The King’s Parade”. A month later that same band were arrested by the Met Police for busking in Leicester Square under Section 54 of the 1839 Metropolitan Police Act which makes it an offence to use a noisy instrument ‘to gather alms’ on the street. The same law also makes it an offence to fly kites and ride sleighs, and yet this antiquated legislation was used to hold four talented young musicians in custody for six hours after arresting them in front of a shocked crowd, despite the fact that they represented the very best of London’s busking talent.
It gets worse…
In November 2013, Camden Council passed a resolution that made it a criminal offense to sing or perform any kind of music on the streets without first paying for a license even if the music making is undertaken with no intention of collecting money. Any person who wishes to play music in public spaces anywhere Camden must pay a fee of up to £47, wait for up to 20 working days, submit to a public consultation and be deemed ‘a fit and proper person’ to busk after a police check. They were able to introduce this intrusive and restrictive policy because Section V of the London Local Authorities Act 2000 allows local authorities in London to criminalize spontaneous street performance, impose fines of up to £1000, confiscate musical instruments and to sell them to pay the fines. This restricive policy is being challenged in the Court of Appeal but meanwhile other London Boroughs such as Kensington and Chelsea and Southwark are considering using this law to control street culture and it could quickly spread amongst all the 32 London Boroughs if the underlying legislation is not struck off.
Why Should We Stand Up?
London is one of the world’s great cultural centers with buskers making a signifiant contribution to the cultural and visitor economy of our capital city and yet young musicians can face lifelong criminal records and the loss of their livelihoods and precious musical instruments simply for playing music on the streets, this simply cannot be justified.
Live music contributes £632 million to the UK economy each year and busking provides a vital forum for young British artists to gain valuable performance experience in that most democratic and open of forums, the streets! Artists as diverse as Ed Sheeran, Jessie J, Passenger, Eddie Izzard, Bill Bailey, Billy Bragg, Rod Stewart, Paul Simon and even US founding father, Benjamin Franklin cut their performing teeth on the streets. Would they have started busking if they faced arrest and a criminal record for doing what they loved?
Section V of the London Local Authorities Act 2000 and Section 54 of the 1839 Metropolitan Police Act threaten the survival of a great British cultural tradition in our capital city, London. They must be taken off the statute books.
We Need Your Support.
Lord Clement Jones – the author of the 2012 Live Music Act and a passionate supporter of grassroots art and culture – has proposed an amendment to the Deregulation Bill to repeal London’s anti-busking legislation. With government support this is a unique opportunity to force London’s Boroughs to come up with a more creative and supportive stance towards their musicians and artists. The Greater London Authority has convened a taskforce to develop a code of conduct for busking across London. Councils and the police have all the powers they need to tackle genuine noise nuisance and obstruction from busking without criminalizing spontaneous street performance and introducing blanket prohibitions. We are calling on them to work alongside buskers, businesses and professional bodies such as the Musician’s Union to develop a code of conduct for London that supports and nurtures a fine cultural tradition instead of stifling it by turning artists into criminals.
This approach works
The Keep Streets Live Campaign is a not for profit organization that exists to protect informal offerings of art and music in public spaces. We successfully challenged restrictive license schemes in Liverpool and York and are now working alongside the local authority and business groups alongside professional bodies like the Musician’s Union to develop codes of practice for busking which promote harmonious relationships between buskers and businesses whilst preserving spontaneity and openness by spelling out how existing laws can be used to target genuine nuisance. We are challenging Camden Council’s restrictive busking law in the Court of Appeal and working with the London Mayoral taskforce to develop a pan-London code of conduct that simplifies busking rules across London. You can find out more about us by visiting http://keepstreetslive.com