Response to Bath and North East Somerset Council Busking PSPO Consultation

Response to Bath and North East Somerset Council Busking PSPO Consultation


Bath and North East Somerset Council are consulting on using a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) to ban all amplification in key busking pitches in the city. PSPOs are a controversial power contained in the Police, Crime and Antisocial Behaviour Act 2014 which has been described as a ‘law against nearly everything’. This would mean that any street performer who used amplification to support their performances in these areas would be committing a criminal offence.

The Keep Streets Live Campaign opposes the use of a PSPO to ban amplification in the vicinity of the Abbey. The PSPO will not address the root issue which is that the Abbey want ALL street music to be banned outside the Abbey whether amplified or not and have even mentioned xylophones as a source of noise nuisance! We see this as an attempt to ‘privatise’ the public spaces in the vicinity of the Abbey through the criminalisation of grassroots culture.

We oppose a blanket ban on amplification because it affects all buskers, not just the minority who have caused issues for other people. We propose an alternative solution which uses existing legislation to prosecute individuals who cause noise nuisance rather than criminalising buskers collectively. We would like to see Bath and North East Somerset Council follow the example of Liverpool, York, London, and Canterbury amongst others by adopting a code of conduct approach to busking which protects spontaneity and openness and promotes harmonious relationships on the streets. This is the best practise guide agreed in Liverpool between buskers, businesses and the local authority. It is a template for resolving disputes without the need for new legislation or coercive blanket bans.

You can respond to Bath’s online consultation here. If you agree with our points and would like to see buskers find a workable compromise with the Abbey and the Council please follow this link and fill in the short questionnaire emphasising that you don’t want the council to ban amplification:

Here are the answers we submitted to the consultation:

Question 1

Which of the following best describes you? Tick all that apply

Busking advocacy organisation

Question 2

Are you responding on behalf of an organisation? If so, what is the name of the organisation:

Keep Streets Live Campaign

Question 3

Have you ever been adversely affected by amplified music / sound from street entertainers in Abbey Church Yard, Kingston Parade or Abbey Green?

Please tick one


If you answered ‘yes’ to this question, on average how frequently were you affected by amplified music/ sound in these locations?

Please tick one


One a week

Once a month

Less often; please write in

The structure of the survey ‘begs the question’.


The phrase ‘adversely affected’ is vague and nebulous and is open to an enormous range of interpretations and bias. Some respondents may consider busking ‘per se’ to have an ‘adverse affect’ upon their ‘quality of life’. How will the council establish what constitutes a significant enough threshold of ‘adverse affect’ to implement a PSPO with all the curtailment of the cultural life of the city that entails?


For balance a supplementary question should be included with the words ‘Have you ever been positively affected by amplified music/sound from street entertainers? If you were positively affected please tell us how this affected your quality of life’.


If you were affected, please explain in the space provided, telling us how this affected your quality of life:


Question 4

Do you think that the noise level from amplification in the areas specified above is unreasonable at present?



Don’t know

Please tick one

You can use this space to expand on your answer, if required.

The question is not specific enough to be meaningful because it does not differentiate between the hundreds of different musical acts that incorporate some amplification in their performances the vast majority of whom do so reasonably without creating an adverse impact upon the quality of life of those within the vicinity. On the contrary, their performances have a positive effect on the local environment and make a valuable contribution towards Bath’s growing visitor economy. If any individual performance incorporating amplification is unreasonable than enforcement action under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 against such a performer is available to the local authority and enables the council to respond to a specific issue of noise nuisance without targeting the majority of performers who are not causing problems.

Question 5

Would you support a ban on the use of amplifiers by street entertainers in Abbey Church Yard, Kingston Parade, and Abbey Green?


Question 6

Please use this space to list any benefits or drawbacks you see from proposals to ban amplification in the three areas of Bath city centre mentioned above, or to add any other comments:
A ban on amplification will have an extremely adverse effect on the vibrant and diverse street culture scene in Bath and marginalise its talented street performing community. Amplification is a significant part of the toolkit of the modern street musician. An enormous range of instrumentalists and musicians incorporate amplification to support and enhance performances. Many musicians use electric instruments and music technology which can’t work without amplification. These include electric violins and guitars as well as loop pedals which are an increasingly common part of contemporary musical performances. The use of amplifiers allows musicians to play and sing more quietly and still be heard just above the ambient street noise. This is especially important for vocalists who can face voice damage straining to be heard over the sounds of the street. It is not difficult to find a volume level which is not intrusive and volume levels can always be adjusted upon request. A ban on amplifiers to be consistent would logically have to extend to wind, percussion and brass instruments, all of which have the potential to be significantly louder than ‘amplified’ sound depending on the context. The issues in Bath, such as they are, have been caused not by amplification per se, but by excessive volume on the part of a few individual performers. The local authority should target enforcement action against performers who have caused a persistent issue with noise nuisance, whether amplified or unamplified, using their existing statutory powers such as the power to issue noise abatement notices and confiscate musical instruments under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. A blanket ban is a blunt instrument which strikes the wrong note.



This post was written by
Singer-Songwriter/Professional Street Performer/Campaigner/Wandering Minstrel

48 Comments on "Response to Bath and North East Somerset Council Busking PSPO Consultation"

  • One of the very enjoyable aspects of visiting the city of Bath
    Is for me and many others the street entertainment.
    I lived in bath for many years and enjoyed the street musicians and entertainment provided by so many different types of acts.
    It would be a real shame to lose such a positive aspect of the city we all love.
    James Crisp

    • You know theres ‘good’ order, ‘bad’ order and best of all ‘spontaneous’ order i.e. no order all together ( * see Austrian Economist Friedrich Hayek ). Then its just a matter of ‘fit’ to taste.

      It is it possible that Bath join the ‘few’ places left in this country where you can do just that, that is play ‘freely’ and just as importantly do so without the ramifications of finding yourself being ‘dumbed’ down and consequently ‘submerged’ by urban Mass Culture ( See The Frankfurt School eg Theodor Adorno and ‘The Culture Industry’ )

      • *Please Note
        Its only a ‘few’ days after I talk (see above) of there being ” only a ‘few’ places left in this country where one can play freely…” and not be ‘submerged’ by ‘mass’ culture!, when I note Jonny Walker has turned up in the Lake District ( the small village of Keswick in fact ) and has already got into ‘confict’ with one of the local Buskers.

        According to his Twitter page it seems Jonny’s turned up first to play on a commonly used busking spot in this beautiful, charming lakeland village, to be confronted later by an ‘irate’ local busking Clarinetist ( who Jonny rather dismissively desribes as playing Colonel Bogey music )

        To be fair ( I’ve faced the same predicament in Birmingham ) so Jonny – if telling the truth and not merey ‘smearing’ the guy – has got a point the guy is ‘out of order ‘ . Its always a matter of ‘ first come first serve ‘, however one can’t help but feel a little sorry for the chap who probably has been playing ‘unintrusively’ on that spot for months or even years – and then Jonny turns up!.

        Whilst this sad little episode does not bode well for the ‘natural’ peace and tranquility of the ‘English’ Lakes district, nor for Jonny and’s claim to be about ‘sharing’ public space with the whole community, it does shed a ‘positive’ ( & progressive ) light on busking set-ups ‘worked out’ ( evolved! ) *elswhere.

        * Not in larger cities such as Birmingham or Liverpool ( where this type of ‘sharing’ scheme may not/need not apply! ) but ‘smaller towns where they prove very ‘practical’ and particularly useful eg. See Stratford upon Avon and its 2hr revolving spot busking scheme.

        Speaking from experience the great advantage of playing in Stratford upon Avon under this type of busking code is that a lot of unnecessary ‘conflict’ between Buskers can be avoided by ‘mutual’ understanding and ‘sharing’ space in this way.

        Of course this particular way of doing things has its ‘downside’ eg. you may arrive early in the morning at 10am/12am just begin to make some money when some busker lazily strolls into town at mid-day and demands the spot from you.

        The scheme can also be disadvantagious to those who cart around ‘heavy’ equipment, PA’s etc, and be a ‘challenge’ to ‘all’ of us afflicted by natural human weaknesses eg. inversely lazy and ‘anxious’ when its comes to moving on and locating other spots yourself.

        Of course all these ‘shortcomings’ can be overcome with the ‘right’ attitude and a touch of ‘in the field’ practical experience. You don’t need heavy equipment in Stratford, in fact it impedes you getting around what is a relatively ‘small’ town despite its large Tourist appeal. eg Opera Singers manage huge reach across the River Avon Bancroft Park with a medium ‘Roland’ amp.

        In terms of the lazy turning up late and demanding spots, this does happen however over the ‘law of averages’ this is rarer than you might think plus there are ways ( fair/ethical methods ) to sqeeze in an extra hour as ‘bonus’ for showing drive and intitiative and turning up early. So on balance this ‘negative’ possibility of finding oneself the unfair ‘victim’ of others acidie, sloth and mediocrity can be justly reduced in Stratfrord upn Avon.

        ( * This is not the case of course with the set-up as I understand it in Bath where buskers simply turn up and meet at a pre-designated place/time and draw ‘lots’ for spaces. This for me this is the worst kind of busking arrangement of all, I view it as anti-Art, anti-human potential, anti- growth and anti-human motivation. It merely ‘rewards’ laziness and ‘fosters’ worst still the growth of ‘in-group’ narcissism. There are ‘players’ out there I never want to see, nevermind meet up with in the morning! )

        The most dangerous problem I’ve met with over the last 3 years playing in Stratford upon Avon have been the ‘rare’ instances when ‘newcomers’ have turned up in the town and started trying to set up an run their own ‘cartels’ eg taking up all the spots and selfishly ‘sharing’ it between themselves via ‘mobile’ phone etc. Theres even evidence to suggest that they were ‘actively’ trying to viciously ‘break-up’ the existing scheme or what most common-sense people would no doubt see as the more civilised ‘working’ state of affairs.

        Its no irony that on the 2 occasions when this has happened both parties following investigation have turned out to be related to Streetslive in some way, in contact with Jonny Walker on his Facebook page, and had already gained some busking ‘notoriety’ for creating ‘noise’ nuisance in other towns and cities elsewhere eg Bath and Birmingham.

        • Jonny says

          Nigel, did you receive the email I sent to you recently with the final draft of York’s busking guide produced in consultation with Keep Streets Live, the MU, businesses and local buskers?

          If you did indeed receive it you’ll be aware that it mentions two hours as a recommended time to share pitches without being overly prescriptive about it.

          When we did our presentation to Bath’s consultation workshop one of our key recommendations was that the ‘pitch booking’ system and performer draw be scrapped in favour of an enlightened ‘first come, first serve’ policy.

          In every town and city there is the potential for tension between buskers who are travelling through and buskers who play there regularly. This can be avoided through good manners and compromise.

          Intriguingly I have heard from several different people that you are not so keen on the ‘2 hour rule’ when people want to share with you. Having never seen you busking I’m not in a position to make a judgement on the truth of these statements, but they cause me to reserve a certain skepticism about your not infrequent pronouncements on busker etiquette.

          • I’d like to know who those several people are Jonny, as I’ve never ‘refused’ to share my spot with others in Stratford upon Avon once I’ve completed my 2hrs. So on this point Jonny you are ‘very’ misguided, I claim here mischievously so.

            There are times when I have played in certain locations for longer than the time schema but only when there are no other performers around ( this is the same with others, which in this ‘context’ I deem it fair and have no complaint ). Never have I failed to pass over a ‘spot’ when requested, after my time period and I have ‘always’ acted in this sense, without fail, in line with the ‘good’ spirit of the code of actively ‘sharing’ spaces

            In terms of general principles and reflecting again on your ‘conflict’ in the Lake district with a local Busker, there is of course a case to be made for a possible exception to the rule regards ‘ First come first serve’.

            Some may argue, very convincingly that in the instance of ‘small’ villages that the local musicians be given priority over visiting ‘newcomers’ with regards spaces. Many would argue it a matter of ‘moral’ propriety that the public space rights of small ‘organic’ community take precedent over city folk who are simply ‘passing’ through the area, or just performing there for the day.

            A few may extend that argument strongly assert that it is quite ‘ignoble’ for a younger city musician such as yourself to take the space of an ‘older’ local muscian whether you appear ‘first’ or not and who’s music whether you like it or not is more adequately tailored towards entertaining the kind of Tourist, more elderly, family demographic most likely to frequent such a place.

            I also notice that one of my evident ‘detractors’ based in Birmingham ( the accused ‘noise’ nuisance who you have supported via and the one who hypocritically tried to ‘smear’ me as bullying other buskers in Stratford upon Avon ) has turned up again on your Facebook page, supporting your ‘actions’ towards the elderly Busker in Keswick ” let him know he will get nowhere…” .

            Again what a hypocrite, this is a guy who turns up in Stratford upon Avon breaking all the ‘code’ rules, playing way too loud on a small town street, claiming to have been given permission to play for over 3hrs in thw same spot by town wardens, and behind my back tries to ‘smear’ me when the Town Host Manager and Police turn up on the scene called by Shopkeeprs shouting aggresively how everyone in Birmingham hates me, and how they allow me to play whereever and for how long I like etc.

            Now this guy who I’d never seen in the town before not only has clear ‘issues’, he was suffering from a virulent kind of busking envy of me, and looking up the defintion of ‘bullying’ and human rights abuse in European and ‘race’ law is clearly guilt trying to bully and intimidate me!.

            Note during his shouting and screaming match on the street he shouted at me in front of witnesses how he’d ‘ see me in Birmingham ‘. Now I’m telling ‘you’ he’s very lucky here because if I was in another frame of mind I would have taught him a lesson about bullying he would never forget!. And that is’nt necessarily through the use of violence by by other ‘just’ means.

            So Jonny, again why do you insist on listening to such rubbish, is it simply because it serves your own ‘selfish’ interests. And again what hypocrisy!,

            This particular guy is also the Busker who ‘himself’ turned up one Sunday morning whilst I was playing on a particular spot in Birmingham and sent a yg boy ( apparantly carting around his equipment around for him, a kind of ‘buskers’ caddy ) to tell me to remove myself from the spot as he always played there.

            Furthermore it wa on prior Saturdays that him and the Busker ( I refer to him above ) who tried to set up and perform over me, so as to drive me from the spot some weekends earlier, regularly practiced ‘mobile’ phoning each other so as to ‘monopolise’ the space between themselves.

            The first thing I pointed out to ‘police’ when they ‘turned up’ and moved the guy on ( he’d had previous ‘warnings’ ) was that nobody ‘owns’ the public space in Birmingham ( or elsewhere! ), its a matter of ‘First come first serve’ – very fair, especially in the less organic ‘urban’ city context!.

            I also add that whilst the guy directly in ‘conflict’ with me over the spot has been busking in Birmingham for a long time eg.10 years plus, your ‘friend’ from Birmingham by comparison is a relatively recent newcomer, a lot more recent than me in fact, I had been busking in Birmingham and on the spot in question well before him.

            All in all Jonny I don’t know who your informants are but I tell you this they’re totally unreliable, and in some cases ‘outright’ liars. In this statement I stand by Jez Broun, himself made subject to a fairly vicious ‘smear’ campaign ( involving yourself i.e. with you ‘actively’ joining in ) in Bath.

          • On a positive note. I’m glad Jonny you’re showing signs of coming to your senses at last, or at least cutting back on some of your more grandiose ‘ Liverpool Leads The Way ‘ notions.

            Taking on board thats is, some of the ‘progressive’ ideas with regards Busking and Street Entertainment to be found in other towns and cities. Not of course that your input or so called ‘activism’ is in any way necessary for the development of Street Art in this country or Europe for that matter.

          • Jonny Walker says

            I notice you haven’t answered the question about the York policy I sent you in draft form by email, a policy which replaced a highly restrictive licensing scheme where buskers were charged £40 per day to make CDs available and amplifiers were banned in many parts of the city most conducive to the kind of romantic cafe style street performance you love so well
            There were long waits for auditions and arbitrary limits on the number of licenses issued. Additionally buskers would have licenses revoked arbitrarily without due process.

            Now the council is working alongside buskers collaboratively. Buskers with CDs can make them available free of charge for a ‘suggested donation’. Buskers are allowed to use amplification anywhere as long as they are respectful of their surroundings.
            It is a liberal and rational busking policy and it follows on from the defeat of Liverpool’s onerous and irrational license scheme in 2012 and its replacement with a common sense best practise guide.

            We are working politically to keep public space open to spontaneous and informal offerings of art and music.

            There has been no smear campaign against either you or Jez Broun.

            When I visited Bath for the first time I arranged for an open busker’s meeting before we met the council to which Jez was invited. He declined to attend but at least 10 regular Bath buskers did come to that meeting, and to another meeting held two days later. The main topic of conversation was ending the booking system and negotiating a new code of conduct.

            Jez made no effort to canvass opinions from other buskers and called for the introduction of a restrictive and mandatory ‘permit’ scheme for Bath which was more restrictive than anything under consideration from the council.

            Your suggestion that local buskers should be given priority over travelling buskers is a little self-serving. In my frequent conversations with shop owners and local businesses one of the frequent complaints I hear is that they have to see the same buskers every day and they get bored of hearing the same limited repertoire.

            The behaviour of the ‘Elderley’ clarinetist in Keswick behaved in a bullying and unseemly way. He actually did play ‘Colonel Bogey’ in an attempt to drown out my music. The audience made their feelings clear by throwing coins into my case at an accelerated rate and the clarinet chap soon got bored. He will get the chance to play in Keswick many times between now and my next visit.

            In my experience part of the joy of busking is playing in many different towns and cities and that’s why licenses and permits are a bad idea, because they act as barriers to spontaneity and help create local protection rackets.

            The whole aim of keep streets live is to keep streets open to spontaneous performances of art and music, to encourage local authorities to adopt oversight regimes which are rational and which encourage organic grassroots culture to arise. These are all aims which in various threads you have professed to support so it is odd that you spend so much time criticising others who are working politically to protect freedoms which you seem to take for granted.

          • There clearly has been a ‘smearing’ campaign against Jez, and I see the offending comments ( including your own ) have been removed from your Harmony In Bath Abbey Blog. Why remove the comments ( including yours ) if they/you were in the right? And Jez was guilty of any lawbreaking in his pursuit of/response to ‘busking’ issues afflicting the town.

            Also why would Jez make the comments criticising you of your actions and ‘smearing’ of him? as he does in the ‘ Busking And Public Space Protection Orders Blog ‘. I clearly recognise in what he says the kind of ‘abusive’ targeting of that has been foisted on me by other Buskers.

            I also remind you regarding you and your relationship with your so-called ‘friend’ from Birmingham, supporting ‘him’ with regards ‘noise’ nuisance issues in blank disregard of the ‘objective’ evidence from ‘authoritative’ sources and regardless of his blatant spiteful ‘smearing’ of the likes of me. ( I know you are ‘aware’ of the difference between spiteful smear and ‘fair’ comment else you would’nt have removed the nasty remarks about Jez ).

            Please note: Shouting, threats, intimidation, humiliation, blocking promotion, withholding information you need for your job, setting you up to fail in your work, victimising you, malicious lies and rumours etc are all ‘forms’ of bullying.harrassment under European Human Rights and ‘race’ Law. I have police, town management, shop proprietor and public witnesses for all of these abusive ‘act’s carried by your ‘friend’ from Birmingham.

            Please state what is your source of ‘evidence’ for the claim ( ‘false’ ) that I infringe the Busking Code in Stratford upon Avon?

          • ‘Echoing’ the words of others, I think self styled ‘Busking’ Campaigners ( such as yourself ), so called ‘Street’ Activists, take too much credit for changing ‘attitudes’ towards Street Performing. They put me off it!.

          • As for your ‘ friend from Birmingham ‘ I quote Black American Civil Rights Campaigner; Writer and Intellectual, James Baldwin.

            ” Hatred which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated & this was an immutable law. Whoever is debasing others is debasing himself ”
            ( James Baldwin – The Fire Next Time )

  • D. Clark says

    Let me introduce you to the bottom line. Lets face it, people like you qare always about the bottom line.
    If you give these powers to people who are little more than untrained jumped up clipboard warrioprs. What do you think is going to happen to revenues?
    Do you really believe that tourists are going to be interested in seeing these clipboard warriors confiscating peoples property instead of walking around enjoying the ambience?
    I wouldn’t spend a penny in your town under such draconian conditions.
    Yes I say town not city because I wish to bring to your attention exactly what your city will be reduced to under these measures. Not a bustling modern city any more but instead a dead hole of a place populated by council employees with nothing else to do except confiscate each otherrs mobile phones for making too much noise. You go too far.

    • D, I can see your point about the appearance of Council ‘Clipboard Warriors’ getting in the way of Tourists soaking up the atmosphere, and in ‘themselves’ spoiling the ambiance. I’m reminded that ” * Any holiday in the UK; they’re not about the thing they say they’re about; they’re about shopping! ” ( * Source Withheld ).

      • Today in the 21st Century ‘true’ human aspiration is ‘growing’ across the board, and so are ‘values’. Its now time for City Management, BIDs, Councils, Business Communites, Advertising Media to ‘rethink’ ‘current’ ( rapidly ‘outdated’ ) marketing strategies and take a completly ‘fresh’ look at the relationship between ‘Culture ‘and Commerce.

        Asking important questions like can a more productive, mutually beneficial relationship be forged with ‘Art’ ?. The ‘dumb’ down tactics currently being used ( and ‘encouraged’ ) by Media to inluence the Masses and ‘conspicuous’ consumption are now coming under increasing critical speculation and doomed to failure in the future. What we now need is a more ‘intelligent’ attidude towards ‘wealth creation’ , ‘authentic’ growth and the fulfillment & happiness of all.

  • Georgia Langley says

    I just remembered seeing I think his name was Joe, the amazing flute player on the bottom of Milsom Street. Not only did I see him but so did the viewers of BBC 1’s the One Show. This gets his name out for the pure talent he obviously has. Not only is this beneficial to Joe but it is also great publicity for Bath, because lets face it we don’t get mentioned that often on TV or other forms of media.

    • Yes Georgina thats what people ( ‘ordinary’ people ) want to see on our streets, ‘real’ musicians!. Whether amateur or professional, below average or at a higher stage of development. What the public want to see are genuinely ‘courageous’, striving, ‘real’ aspirant, expressive individuals. Including men and women with the balls to tackle the ‘difficult’ stuff, take the classes, struggle bravely with the techniques, read the books, create with a true right attitude.

      • In this context Georgina I also think its worth bearing in mind the words by Janet Malcom that ”Art is theft, art is armed robbery, art is not pleasing your mother”, though I do believe that in the immediate future, following on from the spirit of today, *all television advertisements will involve the band Clean Bandit. ( *Source withheld )

        • And finally Georgina I think it fit and proper to state outright here that its a good thing to see more ‘female’ artists out there performing in our ‘public’ spaces.

          I picked up this quote from somewhere, words that I think sum up quite brilliantly the woman of today:

          ” My mates 8 year old daughter loves Frozen, plays the drums, climbs trees, does tap-dancing. Girls are capable of nuance and variety!. ”
          ( Source Withheld )

  • I am a Bossa Nova musician from Hertfordshire. I play finger-style nylon guitar and sing. My vocals are sung very softly, as is usual for the style of music I play. I play all around Europe, last year appearing live and on radio in UK, Holland and – in a place similar to Bath – historic Brugge in Belgium.

    I need an amp to be heard in small quiet cafés, so it goes without saying that I definitely need one to be heard above the street noise of a popular tourist area such as outside the Abbey. I can think of other instruments that would also need amplification, such as electric pianos (unless pianists are expected to drag a pub piano out onto the street).

    I was born in Bath and first learnt to play guitar while at school on Broad Street. I was greatly encouraged to get involved in music there, and we often sang in school events in the Abbey. This early musical education is a big reason that I am still making music, 30 years on.

    For a long time I have wanted to return to Bath to busk outside the Abbey. I planned to do it this year. So, when I found out that there were plans in place to prevent busking I was quite disappointed, not to mention surprised and upset with this misuse of the latest laws.

    I say misuse, as a blanket ban using new laws is totally unnecessary and draconian and treats all musicians as if they are a nuisance rather than the few that perhaps are.

    There are already laws in place to prevent excessive noise and therefore each individual should be approached to turn their music down, and only IF it is found, proven and documented that a certain unexceptionable dB level had been reached – and not just because some official doesn’t like it.

    We have all heard about extremists such as the Taliban, in far-off volatile countries, imprisoning people for playing music and confiscating instruments. I for one am hopeful that Bath and other towns and cities won’t continue down this path to restriction personal freedoms by passing similar laws – I would like to busk this year without being arrested or losing my equipment.

    it should also be considered that if Bath Council does ban amps, they will just end up with steel-string guitarists belting out three chord songs as loud as they can , singing or ..shouting as loud as possible, in order to be heard above the background noise. There won’t be any other way for them to play with any kind of subtlety of dynamics, musicality or style. They will in effect be forced into playing louder, simpler and in a way that the council perhaps would feel is worse than what they are hearing now.

    So instead I would like to see them forget the ill thought out ban on amps and sit down with the local buskers and local companies to work on the Busker’s best practice guide.

  • Heres my response, a Birmingham Street Performers reaction to the Bath Council consultations.

    What Politicians, the Council and good Church folk ( or should I say the Church Establishment ) i.e. Church of England representatives ( men of the cloth ) like the Rector Edward Mason have got to realise is that for people like me Street Performing is the ‘legitemate’ ( perhaps ‘the key’ ) means out of what is a very real, ‘poverty’ trap. A a trap I/we would otherwise be in without the possibility of going out busking.

    The ‘visible’ side of homelessness ( ‘the bulk’ ) we often witness on the streets , most people realise by now, is in reality ‘ a subculture’ of addicts, mentally ill and sometimes career ‘petty’ criminals. The truth is Big Issue culture ( and its ‘fringes’ ) to a large extent wittingly ( or unwittingly ) actually ‘masks’ the existence of what is commonly known in ‘social policy’ circles as ‘hidden’ homlessness.

    I should know because I’m one of them, a long-standing member of that hapless community of ‘indoors’ rough sleepers. In fact I’ve been sleeping on other peoples couches ( sometimes in their beds!) and residing in ‘substandard’ accommodation of some sort or another all my life. Truth is, its Streetperforming ( and the generous spirited and appreciative ‘general’ public ), not the Church nor State, that has been my Saviour.

    I implore all those concerned, Priests, Councillors and assorted ‘vested’ interests to keep that source of ‘hope’ alive for people like me and to acknowlege and begin to truly value the potential of Street Performing and Streetperformers not as a public nuisance but as ‘real’ assets bringing both genuine ‘entertainment’ and spiritual upliftment to the wider community .

  • Oh and following on from my comment to Georgina about contemporary Street Performing and who’s prepared to do the ‘difficult’ stuff, take the classes etc ( see above ) I’d like to offer a full ‘public’ warning to those perhaps ‘interested’ in starting their own blog on Street Performing ( or other topics ) be very ‘conscious’ ( critically so ) about the ‘high’ price of learning to write via certain commercial media business interests such as ‘The Guardian’, and remain extremely wary of ( perhaps opting to steer well away from ) this newspapers so called Guardian Masterclasses.

    I recently read an article by Jurgen Wulf on his ‘tips’, ideas and inspiration ‘column for writers’ and he states ‘clearly’ how for example a 2-day ‘Guardian’ Session called ‘ The Fundamentals of Fiction ‘ taught by novelist Tom Lott ( never heard of him myself! ) recently ‘advertised’ itself as having room for 16, runs from 10am to 4pm, and assuming the participants take a one-hour lunch and two 15 minute breaks, thats a total of 9hours instruction.

    The Price? £499, ” They do throw in lunch and say that you can dress ‘however you feel comfortable!’ ”.

    I repeat, would-be ‘writers’, Street Bloggers beware of these kinds of classes. Its the same with ‘popular’ institutions like the Open University, be very very cautious about signing up with an institution that perhaps once could have convincingly claimed to have progressively represented the values of ‘liberal’ education but today, for many, ( ‘natural’ lovers of learning, hobbyists, encyclopedists, etc ) such an organisation has become a sad symbol of the death of ‘democratic’ higher learning.

    That is of course unless you’re from a particularly ‘privelaged’ and cash ready m/c background – *remember the OU is now ‘marketing’ itself as the university ‘substitute’ for ordinary m/c families who desire a ‘cheaper’ alternative to the £9,000 per year ‘red brick’ sector which many such families can now barely afford.

    Anyway the ‘financial’ fact is that OU Courses only 2 years ago costing £800 a whole year are today £2,500, following not only liberal democrat/Tory policy but also post New Labour policy directions too!. In a ‘blink’ thats an increase of over 300%. Plus please note its also important to remember here too that all the ‘good’ courses are ‘now’ gone eg Cultural Studies, Philosophy of art and politics, Sociology of Everyday Life etc. And forgive me for suggesting that this may be the ‘gradual’ result of some pretty manipulative ‘social’ engineering over recent years.

    It may be argued by some that this state of educational affairs is a valid outcome of the current ‘market’, however I along with others doubt this, for me its hard to believe that if this were the case, that courses like Religous Studies ( nevermind ‘updated’ ones ) be still on the OU’s agenda, especially in this period of the 21st Century, when nobody goes to Church on Sundays anymore!.

    In fact knowing the likes of Michael Gove ( highly respectful of established religion ) and Tony Blair ( a Roman Catholic ), I suspect the reasons for the still questionable existence of subjects like Religous Studies as legitemate areas of ‘democratic’ study on the ‘actual’ curriculum ( given they too on the whole simply serve and are run by, taught by ‘vested’ cultural/religious interests ) is the result of something much more policitical and ‘sinister’.

    With one thing still remaining ‘historically’ unchanged, despite the rest of Society moving on, and thats the now age old ‘power’ relation between Church and State. Afterall this is also the age of ‘ advanced Late Capitialism’, where the existance of a ready-made ‘dumbed’ down, sub-serviant, non ‘critical’, consumer population obviously suits ‘minority’ though importantly Global ‘hyper-rich’ vested interests.

    There is a creative solution too all this general ‘education’ and ‘state/church’ cultural brainwashing of course, albeit a bit ‘subversive’, and thats for all ‘intelligent’ critical ‘free’ thinkers & Bloggers out there to resort to ‘self study’ when it comes to Arts and the Humanities. There are most definitely the ‘ways and means’, I for one have just recently read a whole level 3 year OU course in practically one sitting and with full comprehension, and yes most importantly for ‘free’! ( the ‘booklet’ form of the course, at least anyways! )

    • Byetheway & calling all ‘contemporary’ Buskers and ‘would be’ Street Bloggers out there on the road at present heres some ‘suggested’ required reading for you. For all you who maybe find themselves at a ‘crossroads’ in their life at the moment and are perhaps on track for an ‘alternative’ spiritual journey ( aside from making some Machavellian type pact with the Devil that is ) I can’t reccommend it enough.

      Also, I’ve got a feeling this is going to be a ‘future’ classic so check it out eg. ‘ Waking Up: A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion’ by Sam Harris.

      And to any potential members of the ‘thinking’ Street Performing Artist Community out there, meditate upon these words, you never know they may not only be applicable to finding solutions for the situation (core issue) in Bath but to busking problems found everywhere.

      ” Science is the most durable and non-decisive way of thinking about the human circumstance. It transcends cultural, national, and political boundaries. You don’t have to have American Science v Candadian Science v Japanese Science ” ( Sam Harris )

    • So yes, all you Street performers, single mothers, ‘benefits’ recipients on the brink of being ‘sanctioned’, the ‘indoors’ homeless, unemployed Professional Accountants currently on ‘new deal’ and hurriedly passing through the training process to become a ‘zero’ contract call centre worker Beware!

      And echoing some of the ‘thinking’ of that great ‘transcendental’ American Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson so valiantly expressed in his classic ‘essay’ ‘Self Reliance’, don’t let these ‘damned’ institutions nor anyone who represents ‘them’ take ‘you’ for a ride ( unless its a charming ‘pretty’ office girl with a penchant for Country musc of course! ) no get on yer riding boots , hop on yer bike and train ( better still ‘educate’ ) yourself!.

      • ” To every action there is always opposed an
        equal reaction ”. ( Sir Isaac Newton ).

        Though perhaps only ‘partly’ true, especially if you live in a Mad World ie. the ‘irrational’ moral universe that for millions is their current ‘political’ reality eg, the world of the jobcentre ( once known as the DSS ), where nothing quite ‘fits’, job plans, roles, vocational goals, intellectual aptitude or anything.

        Nothing except seemingly what you ‘discover’ is every Governments ‘hidden’ scheme i.e. to use the Welfare system for the purpose of ‘dehumanisation’, as an effective means to break ‘the will’ of those out of work and direct them to the ‘jobs’ nobody ‘rationally’ wants to do.

        Yes even the ‘free’ suit they provide you courtesy of Marx and Spencers ( or in most unemployed ‘mens’ cases ‘Top Man’ ) don’t measure up, humiliatingly so, causing even ones work jokes to end up being ‘incongruous’! ( and I’m not referring to ‘male banter’ here, of the ‘silly’ sort, the kind that could be deemed sexist! )

        What I more ‘broadly’ refer to here is the kind of joke ( ‘cosmic’ black joke ) that in the context of ‘institutional’ training can be played on young, ‘naieve’ and perhaps in some ways a little too enthusiastic and excitable men.

        I recall how during one Summer after being compelled to attend one of ‘New Labours/Gordan Browns ‘brainchild’ back-to-work schemes how I ended up rather over-enthusastically landing myself in a p/t job in a local Warehouse ( me losing my then place on a £7,000 per year Guitar Course and the charming, pretty Training Advisor pocketing a £1000 bonus to boot! ). The ‘resentment’ ( the pain! ) too, I feel it till to this day, just think right now I could be busy earning the ‘dollar’ as a ‘session’ player in California.

        • On reflection, ( and I mean this quite honestly folks ) – whoever thought it, ‘castration’ could turn out to be a blessing in disguise!.

  • The subject of Guardian Masterclasses has led me to wake up this morning with the ‘nightmare’ prospect running through my mind of a return to the kind of ‘control’ freakery that New Labour and Tony Blair/Gordan Brown made a ‘household’ name a few years back, if Ed Milliband and ‘the current’ party gets ‘elected’ that is, following the up and coming General Election.

    The prospect is particularly daunting for Street Performers and poses a ‘real’ threat to the continuation of free ‘liberal’ busking in this country, especially given the behaviour Camden Labour Council recently towards ‘buskers’s and busking in the London area, introducing a fairly ‘draconian’ licensing scheme. Don’t forget, and the point is succinctly made on the Buskers Unregulated Twitter Page that the Camden/Hamstead borough is this possible future Labour Prime Ministers actual home residency.

    In this context, the ideas & ‘analytical’ prowess of Michel Foulcault, that great French Intellectual of Power, spring to mind, and are very useful to draw upon here, reminding us that:

    ” The great strategic adversary is Fascism…the Fascist in us all, in our heads, and in our everyday behaviour, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us ” ( Michel Foucault )

    I state, its not just political authorities that are the problem here, other ‘Buskers’, particularly ‘would be’ Street Performer Leaders can be, I strongly believe susceptible to this problem too.

    Eg. Take Bath Buskers Jez Brouns proposal that a 45 minute ‘permit’ scheme be introduced for and ‘signed’ up to by Buskers who wish to perform in the Bath Abbey spot. This kind of approach I recall was adopted by Town Hosts in Stratford upon Avon for a short while last year with regards access to the ‘Bancroft Gardens’, thankfully it failed, and rather dismally!.

    Now its ‘this kind of policy’ that I argue is the other side of ‘control’ gone mad and quite unnecessary and unfair & overly restrictive with regards solving Busking ‘noise’ nuisance issues. ‘ First come first serve ‘, possible ‘spot’ sharing, and the determined and ‘active’ encouragement of ‘adult’-like responsibility, backed by threat of ‘sanctions’ is the common-sense and most ‘workable’ answer here.

    Back to the Guardian Masterclasses, & Media training in general and the ‘human too human’ return of Fascism. I can Imagine it now, the latest vocational/self development ‘course’on the market, – if she were to be in any way, shape, or form ‘reincarnated’ that is – eg. Out Now! & At the amazing ‘special’ offer price of £49.99 Final Cut Pro X with Leni Riefenstahl.

    • Its in this context that I’ve taken particular delight in revisiting the Frankfurt School particularly their work on the connecton to be found between ‘ the rise of Nazism ‘ in pre-War 1930’s Germany and the ‘Authoritarian’ Personality.

      Their theoretical ‘academic’ work together with the ‘insightful’ theories of post-Freudian Psychoanalyst Alfred Adlers shed some interesting light on on how ‘ Inferioty ‘ Complex in the form of ‘low’ competence ( & accompanying low ‘self’ esteem ) can be psychically ( albeit pathologically ) transformed into the ‘sadistic’ ( & ‘spiritually’ uplifting ) pleasure of ‘debasing’ others.

  • Its also important when coming up with ‘remedies’ to the problem of ‘noise nuisance’ in the form of ‘execessive’ volume levels to not discriminate against’ Cafe/Walkbye acts in favour of ‘audience’ surrounded show/’circle’ acts. I note the ‘details’ of Jez Brouns proposals for a busking ‘permit’ scheme to be introduced in the Bath Abbey area would do just that.

    For example, by calling for ‘amp’ limitations of 15 watts and for volume levels just enough to ‘entertain’ your immediate crowd or ‘audience’ Jez undermines that ‘great’ tradition of ‘public-square’ style street entertainment found thoughout the continent and associated with popular arts such as the ‘neopolitan’ cafe in Italy.,

    Rather than ‘detracting’ from such ‘rich’ public art traditions, ‘creative’ solutions need to be found so as to encourage them and for them to work in ‘tandem’ with the jugglers, magicians, and various other ‘musical’ show acts that could ‘positively’ populate our streets.

    It would be such a ‘bonus’ for the Abbey area and members of the public if this kind of beautiful, charming musically atmospheric entertainment found in ‘provincial’ Eurpean towns could be ‘re-created’ in English/Roman historic centres like Bath. Theres certainly a lot to learn from here and it would be such a wonderful and ‘uplifiting’ benefit to all!.

    • As an appendage to this I also note that Jez Brown states that he likes to use Busking as ‘practice’, street-performing as a kind of rehearsal session.

      Well I think the public today expect much more from their Street Musicians and accordingly deserve much more respect in terms of the ‘quality’ ( & attitude ) of performance that so called street ‘entertainers’ give them.

      I’ve talked about the problem of ‘narcissism’ and unscrupulous busking elsewhere but you know what, more and more of what I see out there performing in the ‘public’ space are a bunch of ‘spoilt’ children.

  • Some ‘recognition’ must be given to Jonny Walker and Benny Mayhem who took the time and effort to travel down to Bath and apply some much needed ‘science’ to this whole Bath Abbey issue. They certainly responded well to my suggestions that a ‘field’ experiment ought to be carried out so as to test Rev Eduard Mason claims of ‘noise nuisance’ due to excessive volume levels by Buskers playing in the vicinity of the Abbey.

    And as ‘predicted’ there ‘tests’ showed that there is sufficient ‘evidence’ to suggest that Rev Mason is blowing up the situation down there and playing ‘politics’ with regards noise interference from Street Performers. Results show that whether its piano or Jonny Walker doing Jonny Cash style impresario in the Abbey square, satisfactory ( & entertaining ) ‘volume’ levels can be achieved without interference on Church Services or impeding ‘public’ performance.

    Ok it has been pointed out that one performing ‘duo’ in particular have been largely responsible for the high performance volumes and consequent ‘trouble’ in the zone, and its true this main source of complaint has as yet not been ‘tested’. However any doubts over the validity of the trial carried out by Benny and Jonny can be curtailed by the fact that they have clearly shown that ‘theoretically’ most common-sense performers are well able to perform using ‘amplification’ without causing problems in the area and therefore justice dictates that they be allowed to do so, and carry on the long tradition of Street Performance there.

    I’ve considered the criticisms of this couple using large PA systems etc ( see Jez Broun ) and to be fair whilst I acknowledge to a degree this kind of complaint, I believe it can also be quite easily set aside by the truth that already these 2 performers have been made aware of the problem and have already made the necessary concessions and ‘playing’ adjustments with regards volume.

    The fact that they use a big PA is neither here nor there in itself, some busking ‘acts’ argue that this type of set-up adds ‘positively to their ‘act’ providing a legitemate ‘show’ touch of stature and presence. And I argue as long as volume levels are kept at a decent level who are we to deny them this performance privelage, rembember ‘specatacle’ is a key entertainent value in stage drama and therefore can be just as effectively applied to the ‘musical’ stage, again with ‘positive’ rather than negative impact.

    Remember Mussolini used to like making love with his boots on, and again who are we to tell him he should take them off as long as his actions don’t infringe on our privacy or should I say ‘private’ moors and he is ‘enjoying’ himself, it makes him feel good, enhances his sense of well-being. I’ve tried it myself and do confirm that it can add a little ‘gravitas’ to the act. Why not try it yourself and see?.

    Joking apart, I think that this whole issue can quite honestly be said to be approaching ‘closure’, morally at least, if not politically. At least now if we Buskers were to put up a ‘unitied’ front in Bath and ‘rationally’ contest Rev Masons ‘opposition’, it would be more possible to persuade ‘the powers that be’ of the merits of the Buskers case, that they be freely allowed to use ‘amplification’ as an integral part of their act and perform in the Square adjacent to Bath Abbey.

    Finally, on this issue at least, with the right approach, communications, and ‘resolutions’ reaching their apotheosis including those involving the so called ‘guilty’ parties this whole affair I think can be ‘positively’ ( and healthily ) ‘ let go! ‘.

    Of course there are for ‘me’ some seriously ‘outstanding’ busking concerns to be dealt concerning topics elsewhere ( and still yet to be honestly resolved! ) – and a ‘few’ words are most definitely still remaining to be said on these website pages. But as far as the Bath debacle is concerned, political practicalities aside, I think the situation is almost certainly approaching its conclusion.

    Jonny and Benny thanks again for your ‘efforts’, your actions have not gone un-noticed!.

    • This whole debacle also reflects an important underlying ethical issue i.e. why it is so important for Street Perfromers and Artists to avoid ‘cronyism’ in their relations with other Buskers.

      Its not always about ‘praise’ and mutual support, sometimes you’ve got to root out the ‘bad apples’!. For me, that is the ‘moral’ imperative.

      • * Note

        Particulary the kinds of ‘Bad Apple’ ( or perhaps in the case of some of our ‘busking’ friends another form of ‘natural’/mythical folklore imagery is more appropriate here eg ‘human’ Scorpians ) whose proposals ( eg area ‘permit’ schemes etc ), if they do not turn us into Street Performing ‘Zombies’, would ultimately lead to our destruction.

        I’ve referred to these kind of ‘literal’ ( or projectional! ) ‘Holdfast’ ( i.e. puritanical Killjoy! ) elsewhere as ‘sadists’ however its worth considering the possibiliy that;

        ” *Maybe its ‘masochism’ – people can’t help but replicate the ‘oppresive power structures’ they have suffered themselves ”
        ( *Source Witheld )

  • You know I’ve never bought the idea of StreetPerformers as forming part of some kind of ideal ‘community’, no too ‘Churchy’ establishment that notion for me, too cosy. No the ‘reality’ for me is that I what you see on the ‘street’s’ these day’s, in many instances at least, is really one of ‘uneasy’ co-existence.

    However today I’m beginning to entertain the vision of what I think could more accurately be called he ‘Street Performing Tribe’. The big question here then becomes Q. What are you doing to improve the Tribe?.

    • * Note

      ” Ambitous But Rubbish ”
      ( Bodytribe TShirt )

      Put this on your T-shirt but remember that whilst achieving ‘Mastery’ ( flow! ) is important, just as important are avoiding the Master/Servant relationships that can often go with it!.

  • ATTENTION ! ( England is now under Martial Law ! )

    YouTube Video for your ‘patient’ perusal See ” Donald Trump – British Public Opinions ” by tobydoesn’tlikeapples.

    • * Notes

      Speaks for itself, no need to wax ‘lyrical’ here ( nor with ‘gross’ platitudes ) about the prevalence of public ‘spirit’ & goodwill here in the UK. We ‘Public’ Musicians ( & Buskers ) of ‘various’ shades, ‘colour’ & backgrounds ultimately depend on ‘them’, yes for our very survival ! .

      • * Further Notes

        As for some of ‘our’ local town/city authorities well thats another story, I ‘might’ want to do a ‘talk’ in the local library about that. Bytheway has any one heard the one about the ‘good’ Samaritan ? ‘What was that, what did you say ‘ booooring!’. Ok, you know what, you cd be right, & for ‘fear’ of being outcast as a mealy mouthed ‘social’ bore, I think I’ll leave it at that for now, do the ‘right’ thing & shut up !.

        • ( See. blog article ‘Attention! England Is Now Under Martial Law – or The Great British Public, Freud Bots & Social Bores ! ‘ )

          • ( See. sister BBC ‘local’ Radio Interview too or was it Heart FM, Kerrang ?, I don’t know some commercial ’empty’, bullshit, lazy ‘late’ afternoon show !.)

          • * Even More Notes

            ATTENTION ‘ I repeat, England is now under martial all citizens are now instructed to use the ‘left’ urinal. Thankyou !.’

          • ( * Now turn to the blog ” Don’t Banish Buskers, Keep Streets Live In Bath ” & for further ‘exposition’ & clarity, consult the ‘comment’ below i.e. way down at the bottom of the page. )

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