Join us today to Celebrate Liverpool’s Street Culture

Join us today to Celebrate Liverpool’s Street Culture

Photo: Bad bokeh.

As of today, it will be illegal to busk in Liverpool without first signing up a to highly restrictive set of terms of conditions which Liverpool City Council have produced in what can only be described as a sham consultation.

Besides attacking the ‘soft‘ target of buskers – many of whom are vulnerable – in a time when real issues like social deprivation and street violence are on the rise, the enforcement of the Liverpool City Council’s new policy is a mis-allocation of scare council funds and resources at a time of European-wide recession.

If, like us, you value spontaneous street performance, then come join the swelling mass of people and media organizations who are set to converge on Church Street @ 12 noon where they will celebrate Liverpool’s vibrant street culture with a mass busk!

With your help today we can challenge the council’s new policy in a peaceful and vibrant fashion, and help to keep spontaneous street performance alive!

Our Reply to “Councilstaff”

Our Reply to “Councilstaff”

Photo: Syncretism Associates.

The Liverpool Echo ran a story on our campaign (‘Liverpool busking rules attacked by buskers as ‘highly restrictive‘) in which a Liverpool City Council spokesperson attempted to downplay the true nature of the new policy, and the extent to which it seeks to prescribe every little aspect of Liverpool’s street scene:

What is being implemented [in Liverpool] is standard practice in other major UK cities, including Manchester and London.

But sadly, however, this is untrue. We responded in the comments section on Liverpool Echo’s website that there is no policy in place in Manchester which resembles the one to be rolled out across Liverpool as of today, Monday 9th July, 2012.

Our point did not meet well with all of the Echo’s readers. One reader calling themselves “Councilstaff” responded with a quotation from Manchester Council‘s website:

Busking in Manchester city centre.

Please be aware that busking as live music is considered regulated entertainment under the Licensing Act 2003.

The quote went on to describe the areas in Manchester where busking is permitted.


We think our response merits quoting in full:

Hello “Councilstaff”, and thank you for your comment.

In reply to your quotation, the terms and conditions of Manchester Council’s street performance policy differ significantly from the terms and conditions of the policy that is to be rolled out by Liverpool City Council this coming Monday. It would be disingenuous to suggest or imply that they bear any similarity. There are at least four differences:

1. Manchester Council’s street performance policy is voluntary – street artists and performers are not legally required to sign up to it. Liverpool’s policy, in contrast, is mandatory – any person caught performing on the street without signing up to the new scheme stands to be prosecuted for trespass upon land underneath the public highway, land which Liverpool City Council claims it owns.

2. Street performers in Manchester were not issued with trespass notices from council officials in the run-up to Manchester Council’s implementation of their street performance policy. Performers in Liverpool, in contrast, have been issued with trespass notices from council officials in the run-up to the policy’s implementation.

3. Street performers in Manchester are not required by Manchester Council’s policy to be placed on a central database or to hold a valid photo-card identification. Nor, indeed, are they required to carry individual licenses in order to perform. In contrast, all of these requirements must be met in order for individual’s to perform on the streets of Liverpool under Liverpool City Council‘s new restrictive street performance policy.

4. The key difference, then, between Manchester’s street performance policy and Liverpool’s is that whilst Manchester’s merely spells outs the principles under which street performance is expected to occur, Liverpool’s consists in a set of arbitrary and coercive policy guidelines, guidelines which grant absurd powers to enforcement officers (the power to stop a performance if they think the performer is not good enough, for example, or if they take the performer’s act or attire to be ‘offensive‘). In contrast to Liverpool City Council’s new policy, then, Manchester’s policy gives street artists and performers scope for manoeuvre. Unlike Liverpool’s new policy, Manchester‘s policy does not descend into arbitrary policy stipulations.

But just because Manchester council do indeed have a policy which regulates street performance and busking (albeit on a voluntary basis), that is no reason to conclude that Liverpool’s new policy must therefore be legitimate. Quite the contrary. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport‘s position as of December 2006 is that busking is not one the activities which falls under the intent of The Licensing Act 2003. They have published the following commitment:

To make clear in [Licensing] legislation that the policy intention is to exclude e.g. carol singers, buskers, puppet shows for children and poetry readings, from requiring a licence. This measure would most likely be delivered via regulation / and or Guidance.1

The attempt by councils to bring busking under the provision of that act, both in case of Liverpool and of Manchester, is therefore legally questionable at the very least.

In light of this, we feel that Liverpool and Manchester councils stand to benefit from working with streets performers and the Musician’s Union in a genuinely consultative process to find a non-coercive busking policy that works for all sides.

Best wishes,
Keep Streets Live

  1. ‘Lifting the burden – Improving and realising community capacity’, DCMS December 2006, ‘Areas to be explored to achieve further reductions in administrative burdens’, p23, para H.

Liverpool’s Policy and Our Objections, Part 4

Liverpool’s Policy and Our Objections, Part 4

Photo: jp3g.


They say:

15. The entertainer must take all reasonable steps to manage the audience to ensure that they do not block the highway or any public place including when appropriate reminding the audience to leave a clear access along the highway, footpath or pedestrianised area. The entertainer must stop the entertainment immediately if the highway is obstructed by the street entertainment or the audience or if a risk arises to the safety of any individual or damage to the highway or adjoining structures.


We say:

Most of this is common sense and we don’t take issue with it. However, we would point out that crowds take seconds to form and seconds to disperse. They are composed of people, dynamic living beings capable of moving quickly. A person is not an ‘obstruction’. In addition, in the absence of any other legal remedy, the Council will sometimes ask the police to threaten arrest for ‘causing an obstruction’ when no actual obstruction is taking place. This kind of abuse of the law does not help build good relationships between street performers and the relevant authorities.


They say:

16. The entertainer must maintain public liability insurance covering any performance and must, if requested to do so by a Police Constable or Council Officer (or to an officer of the land owner if performing on private land), produce proof of such insurance.


We say:

Public liability insurance is a good idea. It is often included with membership of other groups like the Musician’s Union (a group which we would strongly advice any serious musical performer to join). Other performing groups like Equity offer access to public liability policies too, or they can be bought through a broker. However, whilst we recommend that performers do get public liability insurance, we also ask for a common sense approach here. Does a squeeze box player or an acoustic guitarist on a side street really need £5 million worth of public liability insurance before they be permitted to play in public? In this matter we feel that a distinction should be made between performers using more equipment and playing on more prominent pitches, and those who are not using much equipment and are playing in less prominent locations. We would hope that common sense would prevail at all times and that public liability insurance does not become an absolute requirement for street performance of all sorts.


They say:

17. Amplification

  1. Amplification of music or singing will be permitted, but not such where the volume gives rise to complaint; entertainment must not be audible beyond 30 metres of the performance above the normal level of street noise.
  2. Where amplifiers are allowed, they must be battery powered; mains or generator powered amplifiers are not permitted.

We say:

Amplification raises many issues and divides opinions. In our view, amplification is not the major issue. It is what is amplified that counts. We don’t believe that amps are the enemy – after all, there are plenty of louder unplugged instruments like bag-pipes, drums and saxophones. The principal issue here is that of consideration. Performers should take account of the time of day, the street setting and the nature of the surrounding businesses when setting volumes. However, we do not find a specified distance limit to be useful. 30m is an arbitrary specification. Sound travels differently according to wind direction, height of buildings and volume of people in the vicinity. An agreed upper decibel level would be more useful. Furthermore, we cannot state strongly enough how unrealistic it is for a local council not to receive complaints about performers, whether about the volume or some other, more subjective, feature of a performance. We therefore urge to council to strive for a fair balance between a small proportion of expressed complaints, and the unexpressed enjoyment of the overwhelming majority.