The Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra’s Debut Protest

The Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra’s Debut Protest

By Philippa Morgan Walker

On 14th October 2013 the pavement outside Camden Town tube station, where fleeting meetings usually occur, was the location for the Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra’s debut public performance and peaceful protest against Camden Council’s draconian busking policy that would see all wind and percussion instruments banned. Instead of falling prey to such a ludicrous policy and standing idly by as Camden Council erected a wall of red tape around public space; musicians, comedians – Mark Thomas, Ben Van Der Velde, to name but a few – and those with social conscience hit the streets with instruments to send out a considered message to the council: DON’T TAKE THE MUSIC FROM OUR STREETS.

READ MORE ABOUT CAMDEN COUNCIL’S PROPOSED BUSKING POLICY and ASAP’s response

SIGN THE PETITION AGAINST THE POLICY

All photographs by Gavin Mills

Jonny Walker playing Here Comes The Sun, rather ironically, in the rain

Jonny Walker playing Here Comes The Sun, rather ironically, in the rain

The Citizen's Kazoo Orchestra tunefully played songs such as Star Wars Death March, All You Need Is Love and The Great Escape theme tune

The Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra tunefully played songs such as Star Wars Death March, All You Need Is Love and The Great Escape theme tune

The Citizen's Kazoo Orchestra on the rainy streets of Camden, protesting against a draconian policy that would make playing wind instruments on the streets of Camden illegal

The Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra on the rainy streets of Camden, protesting against a draconian policy that would make playing wind instruments on the streets of Camden illegal

Kazoos, voices, violins, morris dancers and trombones joined the throng of peaceful protesters

Kazoos, voices, violins, morris dancers and trombones joined the throng of peaceful protesters

Jonny Walker challenges Camden Council to rewrite a fair policy for buskers

Jonny Walker challenges Camden Council to rewrite a fair policy for buskers

ASAP's Jonny Walker in action

ASAP’s Jonny Walker in action

Camden Council propose to make morris dancing illegal on the streets of Camden, so ASAP invited...

Camden Council propose to make morris dancing illegal on the streets of Camden, so ASAP invited…

A morris dancer joins in the protest to Keep Streets Live in Camden

A morris dancer joins in the protest to Keep Streets Live in Camden

ASAP Director, Jonny Walker makes an effusive political speech about keeping public space open to creativity

ASAP Director, Jonny Walker makes an effusive political speech about keeping public space open to creativity

ASAP's Associate Director, Philippa Morgan Walker

ASAP’s Associate Director, Philippa Morgan Walker

Artists and musicians joined the peaceful protest and entertained crowds of smiling onlookers

Artists and musicians joined the peaceful protest and entertained crowds of smiling onlookers

Wind instruments would be illegal in the borough of Camden, if this legislation goes through...

Wind instruments would be illegal in the borough of Camden, if this legislation goes through…

The CKO performing the Star Wars Death March

The CKO performing the Star Wars Death March

ASAP! and the ‘Simon Cowell clause’

ASAP! and the ‘Simon Cowell clause’

Photo: pj_in_oz.

As the assembled crowd sang along at the ecstatic climax of Hey Jude, it was absurd to think that what we were doing was now technically criminal.

So observed Tom George about the campaign’s first ‘celebratory busk’ in a recent article in Seven Streets. Tom has been busy promoting the campaign, appearing most recently on Bido-Lito’s recent podcast to give his views. Skip to the 14:40 mark to listen:

Being the humble and obliging fellow that he is, Tom has given us permission to correct him on a small, but common, inaccuracy about the true nature of Liverpool’s policy: The so-called ‘Simon Cowell clause’ does not require performers to pass a formal X-Factor-like audition before they are granted a license. What the clause in question does state, however, is that police and enforcement officers are now entitled to stop performers on the grounds of taste alone. If they don’t like what they see or here, in others words, they now have the power to move performers on, potentially turning officials into a “poor man’s Simon Cowell”. Contrary to Ged Gibbon’s condescending insistence that the policy is about helping buskers, this clause would be the death of street performance in Liverpool.

But there was much truth is Tom’s article, much that we would do well to bear in mind three weeks after the policy’s introduction:

If we are to achieve a repeal of this law, it is vitally important for the campaign to build momentum from here on. A street performers’ group is being established that will give us the collective voice and weight to negotiate with council when they realise that street performers are not going to kowtow to their autocratic ways.

And what, you ask, is this group? The Association of Street Artists and Performers (ASAP!) launches this week.

Get in touch to find our how you can get involved!

More Media from Monday’s Celebratory Busk

More Media from Monday’s Celebratory Busk

Photo: Christian Eriksson.

April Armstrong–Bascombe from the excellent Seven Streets reported on the detrimental social and human cost of this policy’s implementation (‘Busker’s Fear End of Liverpool’s Street Culture‘). Armstrong–Bascombe spoke to performers whose livelihoods stand to be decimated by the new policy, an aspect of the policy which mainstream media outlets have thus far failed to recognise.

Bay TV sent their film crew to report on Monday’s celebration (‘Buskers take streets back in protest at new legislation‘). Unlike a similar report for BBC North West Tonight, Bay TV did not shy away from tackling the many real issues at the heart of Liverpool City Council’s absurd new policy.

The blogosphere was also alight, with standout reportage from Richard MacDonald and Matt Swift. It’s the continual support of individual bloggers like these which will really help to keep Liverpool’s streets live!

And a last big thanks to the MerseyMongoose for the following video, which accurately captures many of the performances of the day (but viewers beware: The views expressed by individual performers do not reflect those of ASAP! or the KeepStreetsLive! campaign as a whole):