ASB and Policing Act 2014, PSPOs what do they mean for public space?

ASB and Policing Act 2014, PSPOs what do they mean for public space?

Keep Streets Live – protecting cultural freedoms and access to public space for the arts

Sweeping new powers hidden in the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 come into force on October 20th, and already local authorities are planning to use them against buskers. This act gives councils the power to introduce PSPOs (Public Space Protection Orders) which can be used to ‘ban’ activities in public spaces, even if they are not illegal. The Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods in Bath, David Dixon, has stated that PSPOs will be used against buskers in that cityafter the Rector of Bath Abbey Edward Mason brought an evening service to a halt because of the noise he claimed street musicians were making. I will be taking part in a public debate about civic freedoms and public space with Rev Mason and Councillor Dixon this Saturday at the Battle of Ideas event held at the Barbican in London. Tickets are still available. Keep Streets Live will be at the forefront of scrutinising these new powers and their impact upon cultural and civic freedoms in the months and years ahead.

Meanwhile it is a year since the Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra and the Church of the Holy Kazoo were founded as a protest vehicle against Camden Council’s criminalisation of busking in that previously vibrant corner of London. Our ongoing legal challenge against that policy reaches the Court of Appeal on November 13th with a permission hearing. On Sunday 19th October we will be taking to the streets of Camden for an anniversary protest busk. Because busking is a sacred act for the Church of the Holy Kazoo, and our hymnbook is every piece of music ever written and performed, our protest busk falls under the exemption granted by Camden to ‘music that is part of a religious service or ceremony’. Join us on Camden High Street from 1pm onwards. This is a link to the facebook event: All are welcome! Camden, we are not giving up on you!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1474664902822738/

Keep Streets Live exists to promote good relationships between buskers, local authorities and all users of shared public spaces. Whilst we oppose the use of blanket powers against street culture that criminalise harmless activity we recognise that councils need guidance for the oversight of busking. We are proud to have worked alongside Liverpool City Council and the Business Improvement District to produce a Best Practise Guidance document for street culture. We are now part of a London Mayoral Taskforce for the oversight of busking where we have been sharing the contents of the Liverpool document with the Mayor’s team. We believe that the principles in this guidance provide a working template not just for Liverpool but for other towns and cities in the UK and beyond that want to encourage harmonious relationships between those who share our public spaces whilst preserving a vibrant street culture. In a free society, freedom of expression must be protected and this guidance is a clear and workable alternative to the criminalisation of street culture and the application of coercive legal powers that some local authorities turn towards all too readily.You can see that document here: http://keepstreetslive.com/uncategorized/2014/09/best-practice-busking-guide

Thank you for your continued interest and support. We hope to see you on a street filled with music some day soon!

Love,

Jonny Walker

Director Keep Streets Live Campaign

http://keepstreetslive.com
https://www.facebook.com/groups/keepstreetslivecamden/
http://facebook.com/jonnysongs

Harmony outside Bath Abbey?

Harmony outside Bath Abbey?

There have been heartening developments in the stand off between Bath’s busking community and the Abbey. There has been a hugely welcome outbreak of dialogue and mutual respect. Bath Abbey and the buskers have released a joint statement.

We hope that this is the beginning of a beautiful and redemptive relationship between the two communities, united in appreciation for the wonderful city of Bath. I have had some choice words for Rev Edward Mason but he is to be hugely commended for being willing to sit down with buskers and work towards a generous and open-hearted compromise. Let’s hope that this spirit of co-operation now extends to the leadership of the council who earlier this week had signalled an intention to introduce harsh new restrictions on the busking community. We hope this will now prove to be unnecessary. Instead, with buskers, the Abbey and the council working together for the common good, busking in Bath and the rich cultural life of the Abbey can be safeguarded for years to come.

Joint statement from Bath Abbey and street musicians (25 September 2014)
In light of recent events and the consequent media interest, Bath Abbey Rector Edward Mason and colleague Claire Robson met with street musicians Jack Morgan and Ben Powell today.

The meeting provided an opportunity to share how distressing the last few days have been for both the Abbey and the street musicians.

Apologies were given and received and both parties explored how they can work together towards resolving this issue.

Both agreed that the Abbey’s first concern continues to be the needs of the people who enter this holy place.

Both recognised the contribution street musicians make to the life of the city.

Both recognised the need for a workable system that allows street performance to flourish while respecting those who live and work in the city.

The meeting concluded warmly with a mutual determination to draw a line under the past and foster good relationships in the future.

Criminalising Culture in Leicester Square

Criminalising Culture in Leicester Square

Westminster Council-stop the prosecution of young musician Dan Wilson aka ‘Dawson’, support your street artists.

On Wednesday 20th August at 10am a talented young musician who has represented Great Britain in the world loop championships (http://youtu.be/Zh2gvYsWZP4) appeared in court in Westminster answering criminal charges of ‘illegal street trading’ and using a speaker in the street for a 10 minute busk in Leicester Square early this year with a couple of CDs of his own music with a sign saying ‘suggested donation £5’ and giving details of his Facebook page. This was his fourth court appearance relating to this one incident of spontaneous live music and he now faces a fifth court hearing in November.

If convicted this graduate of Leeds College of Music will have a life-long criminal record which will affect his ability to travel aboard, an essential part of life as a touring musician, and face heavy fines.

Westminster Council’s determination to prosecute Dawson comes against a backdrop of the Mayor of London’s #backbusking campaign launched in April with the intention of making London ‘the most busker-friendly city in the world’. Boris Johnson has convened a task force designed to remove obstacles to performing in the capital city which includes Westminster Council, the Musician’s Union and the Keep Streets Live Campaign. Despite this, Westminster Council have decided to spend thousands of pounds on a heavy handed criminal prosecution against Dawson perhaps to make an example of him lest any other musician decides to commit the ‘crime’ of playing music in Leicester Square. The extravagant waste of scarce public resources involved in using the police and courts to criminalise an activity which actually brings colour and enjoyment to the streets of our cities is very troubling

If you share the view of the Keep Streets Live Campaign that this protracted prosecution is a scandalous misuse of public time and money and that it represents a campaign of legal harassment against a promising young musician please email the cabinet member for Public Protection at Westminster Nickie Aiken on naiken@westminster.gov.uk and also the Head of Legal and Democratic services at Westminster Peter Large on plarge@westminster.gov.uk who, bizarrely, maintains that it is in the ‘public interest’ to spend thousands of pounds prosecuting Dawson. Politely point out to them that it serves no ones interest to criminalise culture and that the public don’t need protection from music makers who are bringing enjoyment and colour to public spaces.

In response to emails they received when this news went public, Joseph McBride, Cabinet Officer for Communications and Strategy for Westminster stated that ‘…street performance can give rise to real problems for local residents and businesses and in such cases it may be necessary to ask buskers who are causing a public nuisance [emphasis mine] to desist and, in exceptional circumstances [emphasis mine] make use of our legal powers as a last resort’.

Dawson had never performed in Westminster before and only played for a matter of minutes on the evening he was challenged. He is an accomplished musician and was not causing any nuisance, so why is he being targeted?

Metropolitan Police have justified police action against buskers in Leicester Square by claiming that ‘Spontaneous, unauthorised, unlicensed street performing causes anti-social behaviour and is a driver of crime’. Repeated requests for evidence of this claim under the Freedom of Information Act have been fruitless. However, it may be of interest to note that recent police crackdowns on buskers in Leicester Square, including the well publicised arrest of The King’s Parade, winners of the Mayor’s GIGS competition to find ‘ London’s best buskers’ have been partly funded by Heart of London Business Improvement District, picking and choosing legislation to use against buskers on an arbitrary basis. This is a troubling example of private interests hijacking civic and cultural freedoms. On its website the Heart of London BID states that it promises  ‘quality, licensed street entertainment’ but Westminster do not issue busking licenses resulting in the absurd situation where award winning musicians who have represented the UK internationally are criminalised under the pretense of targeting antisocial behaviour. This is a Kafka-esque farce in which the police claim, entirely without evidence, that unlicensed busking causes anti-social behaviour in which a private company funds police action against buskers whilst claiming to support ‘quality, licensed entertainment’ and in which Westminster Council do not even issue licenses for busking so that even if a musician wished to obtain one, they couldn’t! London can, and must, do better by its musicians and culture makers if it wishes to avoid a descent into a dull, authoritarian conformity on its streets.