York welcomes buskers with new guidance designed to promote harmony on the streets

York welcomes buskers with new guidance designed to promote harmony on the streets

York City Council have followed on from Liverpool to become the second major UK city to adopt new collaborative guidelines for busking. The Council worked closely with the local busking community, the Musician’s Union, the Keep Streets Live Campaign and local businesses to produce a document designed to encourage and welcome buskers from all over the world.

You can read an online version of ‘A Guide to Busking in York’ by clicking on the following link: A Guide to Busking in York-print artwork

Busking in York

 

‘A Guide to Busking in York’ is very different in tone and content from busking policies in many UK towns and cities, which all too often see busking as a potential problem to be managed and restricted, rather than as a grassroots cultural activity to be celebrated. York’s new approach recognises that the busking tradition is characterised by informality, spontaneity and democratic access to public space. The new guidelines replace a cumbersome and coercive regime where the local authority used to charge buskers for permits and hold auditions. Once upon a time, buskers without permits were moved on and many would-be performers were turned away because the system of obtaining a license and attending an audition put people off from coming to York to perform. Until an online petition was started by the Keep Streets Live Campaign. It was signed by over 4000 people and called on York to scrap their restrictive policy and work with the busking community to produce new guidance. The new guidelines are the result of that successful campaign and replaces the old permit and audition system.

Now, no ‘license’, ‘permit’ or audition is required to busk in York. Instead, ‘A Guide to Busking In York’ sets out some simple principles for buskers based upon common sense, consideration and good will. The guidance also sets out practical steps for resolving potential issues between buskers and others who share public space in the city before problems have a chance to escalate. This new approach safeguards spontaneity, whilst allowing appropriate action to be taken whenever issues do arise.

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York have also taken the welcome step of publishing a condensed guidance document aimed specifically at city centre businesses and residents to help them resolve any busking-related issues amicably and to explain the busking guidance clearly. It asks those who may have an issue with a busking performance to politely speak to the busker themselves and reach a compromise before making a formal complaint. Most situations can be resolved in this way. For those that can’t be, a council officer will attend and assess the situation. If the busker is deemed to be at fault and the issue persists then the busker can ultimately face enforcement action but this will only ever be as a last resort. You can follow this link to see an online copy of the guidance document aimed at businesses: York Busking Guidance businesses – final

York’s new guidance for busking further enhances its deserved reputation as one of the UK’s leading cultural cities. Importantly, the new policy safeguards the spontaneity and informality that are key to the busking tradition, which will help to attract high quality busking acts from all over the world and animate the city’s streets. The new guidelines have removed unnecessary and costly bureaucracy and stand in direct contrast to regressive approaches in other places, such as: Camden’s coercive license regime and Oxford City Council’s ill-thought out proposals to use draconian ‘Public Space Protection Orders’ to criminalise ‘non-compliant’ buskers.

By drawing up busking guidance alongside the Musician’s Union, Equity, the Keep Streets Live Campaign, local buskers and businesses, York Council have pioneered a radically different, collaborative approach to the oversight of street culture, setting a high standard for cultural policy that other towns and cities in the UK and beyond would do well to follow.

 

 

 

 

A Significant Anniversary

A Significant Anniversary

 What a journey! The Keep Streets Live Campaign was born two years ago with a simple but vital mission to advocate for public spaces that are open to informal offerings of art and music and to seek to build positive relationships between local authorities and street performers whilst developing policies that support and sustain street culture. The campaign was a response to Liverpool Council’s plans to introduce one of the most restrictive busking policies of any major UK city in July 2012 which included threats of trespass prosecutions against unlicensed buskers on the public highway, bans on under 18s and huge restrictions on where and when people could perform. 2012-08-22 16.20.332012-08-22 15.14.12 http://www.liverpoolconfidential.co.uk/Culture/Ged-Gibbons-v-Johnny-Walker http://www.liverpoolconfidential.co.uk/News-and-Comment/Exclusive-Liverpool-busking-policy-thrown-out

Challenging their decision with creativity and passion Liverpool’s grassroots cultural community asked the council to work alongside them and not against them to design a policy based on preserving spontaneity and openness to public space for art and music and using dialogue and communication to resolve disputes. To their immense credit, the council listened and just two years later they have partnered with Keep Streets Live to introduce a scheme based on partnership between buskers, the council and local businesses which will make it a pioneer amongst British cities for the way it encourages and nurtures buskers. An open busker’s forum will be held in Liverpool to which everybody is welcome to discuss ongoing issues. We will also meet regularly with the council to maintain positive relationships.

 

In March 2013 the campaign successfully challenged York City Council’s restrictive compulsory license scheme which required performers to apply in advance, audition and pay £40 per day if they wished to make CDs available. York Council abandoned their license scheme in response to our challenge but there is much work still to be done there to improve relationships between the council and the busking community. An open busker meeting is going to be held at El Piano, Grape Lane, YO1 7HU, in York at 6pm on Monday 14th July to discuss these issues. All who care about preserving street culture are welcome to this open meeting. Feel free to join the facebook event page and to invite friends along: https://www.facebook.com/events/264543563738841/

Lastly, our challenge to Camden Council’s Cromwellian anti-culture law continues. Lib Dem Peer Lord Clement-Jones, a well-known supporter of live music who brought in the Live Music Act in 2012 as a private member’s bill, has proposed the effective repeal of the law underpinning Camden’s draconian busking legislation in the House of Lords. Meanwhile the Court of Appeal will consider our ongoing legal challenge on the 6th of October. We will not let this unjust and repressive law remain unchallenged. Read more here: http://keepstreetslive.com/blog/2014/07/busking-laws-and-the-lords The Keep Streets Live Campaign is part of a London mayoral taskforce with a mandate to, in the words of Boris Johnson, make the capital into the ‘world’s most busker friendly city’. We will keep you posted on all developments and have much work to do in the capital city where attitudes towards buskers are best described as medieval! Meanwhile if you have any questions or comments or want to get involved with the campaign in any way, please feel free to reply to this email. There are regional Keep Streets Live facebook groups which you are welcome to join to keep in touch with our work.

With thanks,

Jonny Walker

Director of Keep Streets Live Campaign

jonnywalker@me.com

http://keepstreetslive.com

Liverpool https://www.facebook.com/groups/keepstreetslive/

Camden https://www.facebook.com/groups/keepstreetslivecamden/

Yorkshire and Humber https://www.facebook.com/groups/KeepstreetsliveYorkshireandHumber/

London https://www.facebook.com/groups/keepstreetsliveinlondon/

Why the campaign to Keep Streets Live in York really matters….

Why the campaign to Keep Streets Live in York really matters….

It is just over two weeks since my busking badge was ‘suspended’ by York City Council because of my refusal to pay the punitive rate of £40 per day they want from buskers who display their CDs. I had made mine available for a suggested and voluntary contribution instead and had brought upon myself the wrath of six public officials in the process. The heavy-handed treatment I received and the suspension of my buskers badge, without any kind of due process or right of appeal, convinced me that the way busking is governed in York has broken down beyond repair and needs to be replaced. I helped set up ASAP! (Association of Street Artists and Performers) last year to campaign for policies that help foster grassroots art and culture in public spaces, and to constructively oppose schemes that stifle it. We successfully campaigned against a damaging policy in Liverpool and won. It was clear we were now needed in York.

Our call to end York’s current busking rules is grounded in simple and clear values. We believe that public spaces should be places of spontaneity and diversity which allow for serendipitous experiences. We believe that in these fractured and uncertain times, policies that allow a sense of urban community to flourish are particularly important. Busking is a cost-free addition to the grassroots artistic and cultural life of the city. York City Council’s busking permit scheme, however well-intentioned it might have once been, is stifling street culture when it should be supporting and nurturing it. In addition, the Council seems to have granted themselves special powers, above and beyond the law of the land, to control which activities are allowed in the shared spaces of the city. They also appear to expect the police to act as their enforcement arm. This is the mis-use of scarce public resources at a time of austerity and needs to stop.

So what are we asking for?

1.) We want York City Council to scrap their restrictive busking policy and to replace it with a fairer and more open scheme that supports a vibrant and diverse street culture.

2.) Street performers, artists, musicians and professional bodies like the Musician’s Union should be involved in drawing up the new policy. Firstly, because it directly affects them, and secondly, because their input will be valuable in drawing up a policy with an impact on the cultural and social life of the city. Any subsequent changes to the scheme should involve consultation between all parties.

3.) The new busking scheme should be open and easy to access. Buskers should not have to fill out forms in advance and wait for an audition before taking to the streets (Though the council may wish to collect information about performers for their own records once they have busked in the city). At present people sometimes have to wait for months for an audition and are often told that there are no badges available. The council clearly lacks the resources to administer and enforce their current policy properly. This acts as a barrier to spontaneity and also discriminates against acts that are visiting the area for a short period of time and only perform occasionally.

4.) The scheme should be based upon cooperation between all the shared users of the public spaces of the city, and should aim to create a sense of urban community and belonging. People who wish to complain about a busker should be encouraged to talk directly to the performer in a polite manner rather then calling the council or the police in the first instance. In their turn, buskers should be considerate and cooperative in their use of shared space and responsive to the reasonable requests of public officials.

5.) Issues that arise from street performing should be dealt with fairly and transparently. The council should not grant themselves additional powers above the law of the land when dealing with buskers, such as restricting access to public space and removing busker’s badges without right of appeal or due process. Street performers provide a valuable addition to the urban landscape and deserve to be treated with respect. Buskers whose behaviour is unreasonable and inconsiderate will likely already be in breach of existing legislation such as the Public Order Act, the Environmental Health Act and the Highways Act. With the correct and proper application of existing law, there is no need for additional legislation.

6.) Musicians should be allowed to make CDs containing recordings of their own work available for voluntary contributions for no charge. If musicians wish to sell CDs the charge for a street trading consent should be reduced from it’s current excessive level of £40 per day to a fairer and more proportionate amount no greater than £10 per day. This will enable musicians to share their work with a wider audience at a time when traditional music venues are closing, and provide a vital civic and cultural outlet, both for performers and their audience.

There is nothing in these requests that it unreasonable or unworkable. A new busking policy could be worked out in the space of a few weeks at little to no cost to the local authority. York City Council have a unique opportunity to create a policy that sends an unmistakable signal to the world that they support their street artists, performers and musicians. By working together in a creative and collaborative way, we can offset some of the damaging economic trends that threaten the future of our high streets and our public spaces. A vibrant grassroots cultural scene is vital to the life of the City, and it starts on the streets. Work with us not against us York City Council, and Keep Streets Live!