Press: Camden New Journal On Camden Council Debate

Press: Camden New Journal On Camden Council Debate

 

‘Lead Us Away In Handcuffs’, Says Buskers Pledging ‘Non-Vioelnt Resistance’ to Camden’s Licence Rules

Published in Camden New Journal: 13 November, 2013 by PAVAN AMARA

BUSKERS say they are ready to be arrested and led away in handcuffs after losing their campaign to stop Camden enforcing a new licence system for street performers.

Street musicians who fail to sign up for a licence face having their instruments confiscated or a £1,000 fine, under a new policy ratified at the Town Hall on Monday.

The policy, which bans amplified music and sets a cut-off time of 9pm, was confirmed after Labour councillors and one Liberal Democrat voted in favour of the scheme at a full council meeting on Monday.

Conservatives, the rest of the Lib Dems and Camden’s Green councillor had opposed amid claims that it was “draconian” and “unenforceable” to crack down on busking in areas like Camden Town, which for so long has been a mecca for musicians and music fans.

Labour leaders insisted the policy, which buskers say they will challenge in the High Court, was necessary to protect residents from being disturbed and accused musicians of “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

The new law will come into force next year, meaning street entertainers must pay an annual fee of between £14 and £49, or risk being fined up to £1,000 and having their instruments confiscated.

Veteran Liberal Democrat councillor Flick Rea told the meeting: “I don’t like the noise of traffic but I wouldn’t expect it to be banned from the street. This policy is nutty. Are we going to have enforcement officers hunting the borough for buskers? It is Cromwellian and absurd.”

Haverstock Liberal Democrat councillor Matt Sanders labelled the legislation a “blind attack” that “targets the little guy.”

He added: “I don’t want the police checking the passports of 14-year-old boys playing their guitars on the Kilburn High Road. If you stand on top of a barge and sing you’re fine. Step off the barge and you get fined.”

But Camden Town Liberal Democrat Chris Naylor broke the party line and voted in favour. He said he had pushed for the policy for months “because residents have been suffering hell – loud, intrusive, late-night noise.”

He added: “The idea people singing on the street should be worried is ridiculous. It’s like the policy we have to stop gangs, that doesn’t affect people meeting for good reason, the police only enforce it when there’s trouble.”

Conservative councillor Jonny Bucknell said the council were “letting down the underdogs” and the Town Hall should simply introduce a code of conduct. “When we lose our freedoms, they are very hard to get back,” he said.

Jonny Walker, who has organised protests against the new policy, said late singer Amy Winehouse would be “turning in her grave at the thought of this.”

He said: “It’s like having a sign over Camden saying ‘Spontaneity and creativity are no longer welcome here.’ This has basically drawn the lifeblood of Camden Town. Any legislation that makes it illegal for anyone to sing in the street without a licence is extraordinarily illiberal, crazy and ill thought out. This is only the end of the beginning. I believe I have a moral responsibility to lead non-violent resistance to counter this divisive policy. I advise buskers to go and busk, do not be frightened.”

He added: “Go with a legal observer and a video camera. We will see what happens to the Metropolitan police’s reputation worldwide when there are images of them forcibly separating musicians from their guitars and marching them with handcuffs into a police van for singing songs. There are plenty of buskers out there who are willing to be arrested in the name of music.”

Resident Roy Walker, who has lived close to Camden High Street for 55 years, said he had spoken to buskers playing music who had refused to compromise with residents “for months.”

“We and the council tried everything else,” said Mr Walker. “The small buskers will have a chance now, because they won’t be drowned out by amps and big bands. My own flat had such a noise problem that I couldn’t hold a conversation. I’m looking forward to my first night’s sleep, so are many of us.”

Labour community safety chief Councillor Abdul Hai said: “Campaigners against this new policy have been making a mountain out of a molehill suggesting that we are trying to outlaw busking. I can categorically say this is not what this policy seeks to achieve. We’re simply implementing light-touch regulation of street entertainment that will strike a balance between the rights of residents to a quiet life and buskers wishing to perform in public places.”

SEE ALSO: Conservative Jonny Bucknell’s ‘freedom’ speech at Monday’s full council meeting.

Mark Thomas/Jonny Walker Vs Councillor Abdul Hai

PUBLISHED by the Camden New Journal, by Richard Osley on 24/10/13

ONE of Camden’s most senior politicians was ambushed by busking campaigners, including the comedian Mark Thomas, as he tried to film a television interview defending a new licensing policy.

Community safety chief Councillor Abdul Hai was in the middle of an interview with BBC London when Mr Thomas and campaigner Jonny Walker jumped in and called for a re-think.

They accused the council of not having enough evidence to justify new controls on busking.

Cllr Hai had decided to allow the interview to be filmed just yards from the scene of a demonstration against plans to demand all buskers obtain a licence to perform in Camden’s streets and a move to ban amplified and wind instruments.

Billy Bragg and Bill Bailey had been among the crowd singing ‘We will overcome’ outside Camden Town tube station.

Press: Ham & High On Camden Kazoo Protest

Press: Ham & High On Camden Kazoo Protest

PUBLISHED Ham & High online, by Paul Wright on 25/10/13

Bill Bailey And Billy Bragg Lead Campaign Against Camden’s Busking Policy

Comedian Bill Bailey and musician Billy Bragg joined campaigners in Camden High Street to rally against council proposals to impose stricter rules on busking.

The duo, who were also joined by comedian Mark Thomas and singer-songwriter Jon Gomm, led crowds in acoustic performances of their own songs as well as kazoo-led renditions of the Star Wars Imperial Death March and Jerusalem yesterday.

The stars’ support for the second protest within weeks came as Camden Council put forward proposals to licence busking following complaints by some residents over levels of noise.

Under the new proposals, amplification equipment would be banned and buskers wishing to perform with wind or percussion instruments – including the kazoo – would need to get permission from the council and buy a special licence.

Those caught without a licence could face a fine of up to £1,000 and risk having their instruments confiscated or even sold.

Mr Bailey, who led the crowd in an up tempo sing-along of California Dreamin’ by The Mamas and the Papas, said the plans were “draconian and set a dangerous precedent”.

“Busking is the ultimate in freedom of expression,” he said. “It’s the first opportunity you get to perform in a public place when you’re first starting out.

“I myself busked around Europe and the UK and Eddie Izzard started his career as a street performer.

“So if you’re putting people off at an early stage then it curtails the arts.”

Mr Bragg, who praised Camden for being “vibrant and alive”, said busking was often the only way for people to get themselves known.

“It’s the central part of not only the British spirit but the human spirit to keep the streets open for people to go out and give things a go.

“That’s what busking is about – it’s like the people’s X-Factor. It would be terrible if Camden ended up becoming another dull and dead backwater place because of this.”

Emily Lee, 26, a full-time musician, who lives in Holloway Road, said her own livelihood relied heavily on public street performances.

Although she usually busks around the Embankment, she said her first time performing in Camden left her in tears.

“I came to sing on Camden High Street back in June and the experience means I don’t ever want to come back,” she said.

“After telling me to turn down my amplifier, which I happily did, community officers threatened me with a £2,500 fine and with having my instruments confiscated.

“I started to cry as my instruments were my livelihood.”

But Cllr Abdul Hai, Camden cabinet member for community safety, said the plans were justified.

He said: “We believe that all forms of street entertainment are an important part of the musical and cultural heritage of the borough.

“However, in recent months we have received an escalating number of complaints from local residents regarding disruptive busking activity, particularly where amplification is used in residential areas.

“When we did our consultation the vast majority of our residents supported the draft policy.”

A vote on the suggested proposals is expected at the full council meeting on November 11.