Concise Objections

We do not object to the need for a ‘best practice’ guide for street performance in Liverpool. What we do object to, however, is the particular policy which Liverpool City Council’s have rolled out.

The real issue at the heart of our objections to the policy is the unwarranted clamp-down upon spontaneous and vibrant activities in public spaces by private interests, and the disproportionate sway bodies like the Business Improvement District have in policy formation that will deeply impact upon Liverpool’s cultural life.

1. The policy is coercive in nature and lacks a firm legal basis:

  • Performers who do not sign up to the mandatory licensing scheme face nebulous threats of prosecution for trespassing on public land. The idea that it is even possible to be trespassing in a public place is deeply troubling.
  • In addition, trespass is a civil offence requiring time-consuming prosecution in the civil courts and requiring the council to prove they have suffered material losses as a result of the street art and performance. This is the clumsy misuse of a legal instrument.
  • The policy claims that busking is illegal for those under the age of 18, despite the government’s own guidelines stating that busking is permissible for anybody over the age of 14.
  • The policy attempts to bring street art and performance under the remit of the 2003 Licencing Act, but this act does not apply to busking and street performance, a point clarified by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in 2006.1

2. Many of the policy’s stipulations for performers are absurdly restrictive and give council officials endless capacity to interfere unnecessarily with artists and performers. Some key examples:

  • Acts cannot occupy more than a 1.5m radius.
  • Performers are explicitly forbidden from sitting on the floor.
  • Any signage must be A4 or smaller, no leaflets or cards can be given out.
  • Performances or acts can be stopped on the grounds of taste by a council official or police officer.

3. The council did not consult widely enough when it made this policy. The views of street performers and artist were ignored. The Musician’s Union were not consulted.

4. The policy is unnecessary as it stands. There are already a number of laws and statutory powers which enable the police and council to take action when they receive complaints about noise and nuisance. This policy gives the council additional powers to unduly interfere in street art and performance.

5. The allocation of scarce council and police resources to enforce this draconian policy is highly questionable at a time when resources are scarce. There are more pressing, but more difficult, issues to tackle: Poverty, homelessness, access to housing, cuts to essential services, violent crime/drug abuse, binge drinking culture, littering, problem venues and unemployment, particularly common amongst 18-24 year olds. In some parts of Liverpool, more than 25% of young people are unemployed.

6. Spontaneous street art and street performance are a vital part of Liverpool’s cultural life. It adds animation and colour to streets. It creates a positive and exciting atmosphere for visitors to the Liverpool and is part of what people expect in a city with Liverpool’s cultural legacy. This policy jeopardizes Liverpool’s deserved reputation as a city that nurtures culture and the arts.

 

Footnotes

  1. The DCMS 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.” in ‘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.