Open Letter to Oxford’s ruling Labour Group against their coercive busking policy

Open Letter to Oxford’s ruling Labour Group against their coercive busking policy
Keep Streets Live is Campaigning Against Oxford Council’s plans to make ‘noncompliant busking’ a criminal offence 
Join our all day protest against Oxford’s coercive Public Space Protection Order tomorrow from 12pm outside Pret a Manger on Cornmarket:
Sign our petition calling on Oxford to abandon its plans to criminalise buskers:
The following is an open letter to Oxford’s political leaders responding to their justification of the coercive busking policy:
Dear Oxford Councillors,
I have sent this message to Councillor Sinclair but feel its contents are very important and relevant to the political and cultural life of Oxford as a whole and deserve to be read by all the elected representatives at the Council
I had a useful and productive meeting with several Oxford Council Officers in April facilitated by Councillor David Thomas of the Green group at which I was able to clearly explain our position as a campaign group and why Oxford’s proposed course of action to target a Public Space Protection Order against ‘noncompliant’ buskers is so problematic. I had hoped that this meeting would help Oxford understand why the course of action they had proposed was disproportionate and contentious and that it would be quietly dropped as the plans to criminalise rough sleeping and feeding pigeons have already been put aside. We have also demonstrated a clear and workable alternative approach, a guide to busking in York drawn up by buskers, businesses and the local authority working together and targeting enforcement action against the small minority of buskers who cause genuine issues. I am attaching two PDFs of York’s policy, one aimed specially at businesses who might have issues with buskers, and one aimed more generally at buskers and others who use public space. I hope you all get the chance to scrutinise these documents carefully.
May I firstly say that I am willing to accept that the PSPO proposal although clearly misguided, is at least well-intentioned. Oxford is a wonderful city in which to busk and some form of oversight is clearly necessary. It is also clear that enforcement powers are needed as a last resort for nuisance caused by busking.
However, the proposals to make ‘noncompliant’ busking a criminal offence by implementing a PSPO go way beyond what is necessary and proportionate for the oversight of busking and , ironically, represent a real threat to the cultural and civic life of Oxford’s public spaces.
That is why, tomorrow, I will be helping to lead a day long multi-location protest busk against Oxford’s PSPO proposals to invite the Labour group and the responsible officers to rethink these damaging proposals. We will be on Cornmarket from 12pm onwards and if any elected members wish to come and speak to us we would be very happy to explain our position. Here is the Facebook event to the protest:
Quite simply, the proposed PSPO has the effect of turning an already restrictive busking code of conduct into criminal law and will thereby create a catalogue of entirely arbitrary new ‘criminal’ offences.
Oxford’s claims that existing powers are inadequate are misleading and inaccurate.
Oxford City Council already has legal powers to take action against buskers who are causing a noise nuisance and obstruction. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 it is a criminal offence to cause noise nuisance and the local authority can issue noise abatement notices against buskers and even confiscate musical instruments.
Likewise, under the Highways Act 1980 it is an offence to cause an obstruction on the highway, and any busker who does so can face enforcement action and punitive fines
Oxford’s existing code of conduct for busking is already highly restrictive and the proposal to introduce PSPO powers to underpin it will lead to arbitrary outcomes.
Oxford only ‘allow’ busking in eight official locations. Under the PSPO it will be a criminal offence to busk anywhere else, even if no obstruction is being caused. This creates an arbitrary criminal offence. In reality there are many more than eight places in the city where busking could be carried out without causing an issue.
Oxford only allow people to busk for one hour in one place and say no return is allowed to that spot within two hours. This treats a grassroots cultural activity which brings life and colour to the city centre as if it were car parking. A busker with a large repertoire of songs, played at a responsible and reasonable level can busk for longer than one hour without causing any issues whatsoever. Under Oxford’s PSPO proposal it will be a criminal offence to busk for 65 minutes, even if no nuisance has been caused, no complaints have been received and no one is waiting for a busking pitch. Once again this is in an entirely arbitrary outcome which undermines respect for the rule of law and is completely disproportionate.
‘A Guide to Busking in York’ is a collaborative document agreed between the busking community, Musician’s Union, Keep Streets Live Campaign, local authority and local businesses in that historic city over a period of 6 months of discussions. It is a clear alternative approach to the course of action Oxford propose. It has also been presented to Oxford’s ruling Labour group and senior officers within the council. It is designed to build good relationships between people who use the streets and provides a dispute resolution mechanism for people who have complaints about buskers. Importantly, enforcement action will only be taken as a last resort against buskers who are causing a specific issue such as noise nuisance or obstruction and who have refused reasonable requests to amend their performances. Unlike Oxford’s PSPO proposal a busker would not face a criminal record just because they had played in the wrong spot or for longer than one hour. There would have to be a justified reason for taking enforcement action. This has the advantage of being both fair and sensible in light of the costs of taking enforcement action and the relatively scarce resources available to the council. You can see York’s busking guidance at this link:
including a special four page document aimed at city centre businesses. It is a clear alternative to the proposals Oxford Council have put forward.
Oxford make the spurious claim that they need to introduce a PSPO because they have no existing powers of enforcement. I have already shown that this is demonstrably untrue and that the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and Highways Act 1980 give scope for enforcement against noise nuisance and obstruction. Additionally, since October 2014 under the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 (The same act that contains PSPOs) the council now have the power to issue Community Protection Notices (CPNs) against any individual whose behaviour is a) unreasonable and b) having a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the vicinity. The breach of a CPN is a criminal offence and can lead to the seizure of musical instruments and punitive fines. CPNs could be issued to any busker whose conduct was deemed to be unreasonable and having an adverse affect on the quality of life of those within the vicinity. It is impossible to imagine a situation arising from busking where a CPN or the other pieces of legislation already mentioned would be inadequate. The advantage of a CPN over the PSPO is firstly that is targeted against individuals rather than buskers as a group, and secondly that it is more difficult to issue arbitrarily. A busker could not get given a CPN just for busking in the wrong spot for the wrong length of time unless they were actually causing a significant issue. Under the PSPO legislation a busker could be fined and criminalised even if they were causing no issue to any person. This is an arbitrary outcome that undermines respect for the rule of law and will create an unnecessary relationship of antagonism between Oxford’s civic officers and the busking community. It will also out many buskers and musicians off from travelling to Oxford in the first place and create a more routinised, sanitised and duller public realm which cannot be good for the city.
In short, there are many good alternatives to the PSPO approach, and many good reasons why the PSPO should not be adopted. The only remaining reason why Oxford might consider adopting the PSPO are because a) It creates a summary power to use against buskers which appears to be administratively convenient to do b) There is no requirement to produce evidence that a busker has caused an issue, buskers can be given a £100 fine just for playing in the wrong spot or for longer than 60 minutes which is less difficult than proving that a busker has been unreasonable and is causing a genuine issue.
The PSPO is a disproportionate and unjustified response to the issue of busking. We call upon Oxford City Council to drop these contentious proposals and to open a genuine dialogue with the busking community, local businesses, Musician’s Union and the Keep Streets Live Campaign and to introduce guidance promotes harmony and good will and does not create arbitrary criminal offences to the great detriment of the civic and cultural life of the city of Oxford.
Kind regards,
Jonny Walker
Founding Director of Keep Streets Live Campaign

This was Oxford City Council's official response to our petition:

Oxford City Council encourages busking in the city centre. It adds a great deal to the vibrant and exciting city centre experience that we all know and love.

For the last decade, the City Council has had a Code of Practice that buskers are asked to agree to observe when they obtain a busking permit from the Council. to observe when they obtain a busking permit from the Council.

The Code includes:

– Not busking for more than 60 minutes in one place
– Not obstructing the highway
– Using amplification responsibly and maintaining a reasonable volume

The aim of the Code has always been to create a level playing field for all buskers and to stop any nuisance to everyone else who uses the city centre

– traders, local residents and visitors.
We currently have no legal power to enforce this Code of Practice and have received complaints from traders, in particular, about buskers playing loudly and for long periods of time outside their shops, which is not fair to them.

The Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) has been proposed in order to provide a legal power to take action against busking which leads to complaints from the public. In all cases, buskers will be asked to conform to the Code before any enforcement measures are used.

The PSPO will allow the Police or designated Council officers to issue a £100 fine or, in the most extreme of cases, to take the person to court, which could result in a maximum fine of £1,000.

But the Order will also remove the current requirement to obtain a permit before busking. After the PSPO has been introduced, people wishing to busk will be able to do so without contacting us in any way. All they will need to do is adhere to the existing Code of Practice.

The measures proposed will therefore have no impact on the vast majority of buskers and will in fact make it easier for musicians to busk in Oxford city centre. We think the measures will help to improve the liveliness of the city centre.

Posted on May 20, 2015
This post was written by
Singer-Songwriter/Professional Street Performer/Campaigner/Wandering Minstrel

31 Comments on "Open Letter to Oxford’s ruling Labour Group against their coercive busking policy"

  • The Tory Anti Social Behaviour And Policing Bill 2015 was created by David Cameron & his pals as an ‘advancement’ on the pre-existing ASBO. Quite clearly & basically its a political tool readily available to Local Authorities so to control a ‘growing’ ( some would say ‘manufactured’ by ‘new’ Welfare Policy eg. Benefits Sanctions ) Underclass.

    Of course it could be argued that this legislation also provides the ‘opportunity’ for further ‘cynical’ exploitation & the creation of public ‘Cash Cows’ ( see above ) eg by making it easier for councils to create ‘petty’ offences & rake money in from ‘on-the-spot’ fines for ‘minor’ misdemeanours eg. the dog messing on the grass etc, ‘genuine’ Buskers straying into ‘no-go’ areas etc.

    In Labour boroughs like Camden the problem is complicated further when local authorities for ‘various’ political reasons eg. big ‘property’ interests, wish to get rid of ‘established’ cultural practises like Street Performing & Street Art.

    My message to Oxford Council is that in the interests of ‘civic’ justice please stop behaving like a Chicago politicing local borough & instead reach out to wider ‘newer’ legitemate interests. Remember that these are culturally ‘transformative’ times in the case of Street Performers too, a wide array of performers from ‘different’ backgrounds, go out busking today ( despite no doubt you having experienced some pretty ‘bad’ individual cases, very few ‘outdoors’ performers these days represent an ‘itinerant’ threat ) .

    In fact an important ‘significant’ recent trend has been towards the appearance of ‘tax-paying’ professional-like, Public Musicians who provide both ‘great’ entertainment in our town centres & can be/are a ‘positive’ influence on other town players. The key value here is to be ‘proportionate’ ( remaining positively liberally ‘tolerant’ with an eye to finding ‘creative’ solutions ) in handling busking matters, bearing in mind the changing socio/economic climate

    At a time of ‘economic’ liberalisation with regards shops & ‘shopping’ eg, Sunday ‘opening’s, 24hr day Supermarkets etc, I find it grossly unjust ( a blatant ‘hypocrisy’! ) that whilst shopkeepers & ‘retailors’ on the High Street are ‘recognised’ & allowed to have their ‘business’ opening hrs extended, some local ‘authorities’ like Oxford wish to ‘over’ control & restrict the playing times & ‘commercial’ activities of ‘working’ Street Performers & Artists.

    There needs to be ‘pause’ for thought here, the situation re-considered’. Buskers, Street Performers, & ‘Public Musicians’ must be treated fairly & in line with ‘all’ sectors of the business community. We all have a right to the pursuit of happiness & we all know that in this ‘consumer’ age this includes the ‘freedom’ to make money, in ‘our’ case through ‘valid’ High Street public entertainment.

  • At the end of the day, it will be good old-fashioned human communication ( & ‘negotiation’ ) involving ‘all’ parties ( including hobbyists, enthusiasts, ‘serious’/not so serious ‘creative’ amateurs ), & including a lot of ‘local’ goodwill, that will be the truly successful ( ‘peaceful’ ) harbinger of Culture, Politics & The Public Space.

    It is a gross ‘civil’ wrong when individual Council ‘authority’ figures are allowed the rather ‘arbitary’ Power ( based on the ‘feedback’ of ‘a few’ shopkeepers/retailers ) to draw a ‘circle’ (ring) in what is ‘public space’ & then be able to say any ‘action’ ( such as singing a song ), that crosses that line ( that steps over ‘my’ constructed boundary ) I can now define as criminal ‘anti-social’ behaviour.

    What we end up with is not ‘civil justice’ but the ‘public abuse’ of a whole creative ‘section’ of the city-centre ‘working’ community. Plus we get the violent dismisal ( believe me this is a kind of ‘psychic’ state violence ), an ‘aggresive’ sweeping aside, of the ‘liberal’ democratic solutions that already exist, & importantly ( to a large extent ) work! ( morally/ ‘emotionally’ as much as rational-legally ).

    For me PSPO solutions are basically town-planning mis-applied & city ‘security’ gone mad; a post-enlightenment, social hygenists nightmare. The only ‘true’ political powers you need are to identify, aprehend & justly deal with individual malpractors. Current ‘control’ orders are a ‘poor’ substitute for good policing on the ground & their ‘prospective’ use is already having oppressive ‘ill’ socio/psychological effects.

    I can see it all around me in the ‘demotivated’ broken wills that litter the ‘fringes’ of a city like Birmingham. Its like taking a sledgehammer to crack a ‘legal’ walnut, these kinds of ‘control’ order; so energy sapping, so ‘anti’ the true ‘liberal’ character of our country, of England, of the UK. This place is becoming like a third world country, like the USA.

    Our city-centres don’t have to be ‘perfect’ designer Archictectural
    Texas shopping mall ‘consumer’ heavens & they don’t have to be puritanically cleansed centres of church spire, college & tradition.
    On the other hand we understandably don’t want to be deluged by what Russian Literary critics call the ‘poshlost’.

    * Ok, there is naturally something a bit adolescent & immature in the ‘romanticism’, expressed by many ‘Buskers’, Street Performers & Artists, but then again there can be something rather heartless, cold & dogmantic in many aspects of city council ‘modernity’.

    Oxford Council I hope this is’nt the end of the story, in ‘the future’ I hope together we can learn to soften the worse sides of modernity through the best sides of romanticism, in order to create a more ‘evolved’ alternative , what one might term, ‘ An Age of Maturity ‘.
    ( * Paraphrased from Romanticism – The School of Life; YouTube )

    • * Note

      One worrying ( very annoying ) ‘social’ trend at present that you very much see in ‘busking’ as elsewhere & not ‘surprising’ given the level of ‘anomie’ & uncertaintly many ‘folk’ suffer today in our ‘status’ anxiety ridden society, involves the pretty ‘wierd’ spectacle of all sorts of ‘cultural’ formations, on-line gps etc seemingly wanting to quite ‘spuriously’ attach themselves to eg. Street Art & Street Performing. Not simply to positively support ‘street’ culture but to in some ‘wierd’ way extrapolate for ‘themselves’ some kind of ‘social’ significance.

      You know I’ve come across all sorts of such ‘wierd’ group phenomenon from ‘photography’ groups seeking what it seems to be a kind of ‘world’ domination via busking e.g shooting ( taking pics ) of Buskers on sight, right across the globe & every culture. Not as ‘anthropologists’ tho’ but seemingly ( & presenting themselves ! ) as some kind of cultural ‘guardian’ of street art. Yes a ‘wierd’ sort of control freakery this & gives ‘me’ the heeby geebies !.

      There are already ‘fan’ gps that exist in London, well ‘single’person created networks by folk who sadly have nothing else to do but hang around eg. the SouthBank watching Buskers, taking pics, creating Facebook gps around it & in some cases taking things to ‘extremes’ ( See. London ‘Liberty’ Blog comment on ‘stalking’ ). Its as tho’ these guys or at least one Facebook organiser ‘
      / Follower, Pal & Brother want to ‘project’ their own ‘pop’ culture fantasy’s onto Buskers & to follow ‘performers’ everywhere, idolize them, put them on ‘false’ pedastals etc.

      They’re making a big ‘mistake’ projecting ‘pop’ values onto Buskers in many ways, but for someone like ‘me’ who does’nt want to be ‘hero’ worshipped but simply be acknowledged ( if deserved ! ) for ‘creating’ &/ or interpreting ‘real’ musical art on the streets, these kinds of ‘people’ represent a ‘real’ nuisance & of the most ‘shallow’ sort.

      They’d better realise that, if as one London fan site creator has indicated he intends to do i.e. travel round other parts of the country taking ‘pics’ of Buskers, this is my ‘take’ on them & should ‘avoid’ me ( unless of course they ‘approach’ me first, & in the right spirit of proper consultation or at least initial ‘conversation’, Then I’ll make my ‘choice’s ! ) Good manners demands this.

      Finally the ‘worse’ kind of gp or should I say ‘individual’ to crop up in the busking world ( online at least ) & as ever too late, is the ‘fringe’ academic. I say this being aware of one such guy, a Geographer ( from Canturbury ? ) I think, who contributed a ‘thesis’ on the ‘internal’ politics ( pretty dodgy or at least ‘iffy’ policy ‘decsison’ wise ) ) leading up to Camden Councils decision to introduce a ‘busking ‘licence’ scheme the other year eg. November 2016.

      Problem is it was ‘too’ late ( his ‘thesis’ contribution ! ), or at least too late from preventing from ploughing forward with a ‘court’ case they cd ‘never’ win & instead trying another ‘strategy eg. raising public awareness & support over the unfair ‘tactics’ Council Officials used to legitemate the ‘new’ scheme in the first place.

      No I don’t like this seemingly ‘scientific’ Geographers ‘faith’ credentials ( or should I say ‘murmurings’ on his Twitter site ) either. All too ‘crony’ in another sense for me, all too ‘academically’ shifty & essentially wrong-footed ( * & I tell you this kind of ‘figure’ for me, as a Busker with my ‘own’ opinion on matters indeed world view on issues, has himself ‘zero’ significance !. )

      • ( Nb. These sorts of ‘gps’, individuals should’nt be getting themselves involved with busking, no its the wrong kind of ‘area’ if not culture for them altogether. May I make a suggestion ? How about joining the ‘Scientologists’ = as in Bham, I’m sure theres a ‘branch’ near you who’ll be happy to accept you ! ) .

        • ( Nb. Also note that I’m responding here in part to a ‘poem’ featured on this Geographers Blog about ‘feeling’ insignificant & powerless. Let me tell you & if you’re ‘projecting’ here in any way ‘warn’ you, alongside all crap ‘polticians’ & petty officals. That ‘power’ – & of the most ‘vociferous’ kind – can spring up anytime, in any place & when least expected, don’t take ‘people’ for granted nor for ‘fools’ ! )

          • ( Nb. Personally I don’t care for ‘politics’ in any shape or form along with it ‘fake’ collaboration nor false ‘union’, at the end of the day the only thing I care a hoot for is ‘reason’. A very ‘common’ everyday kind of ‘rationality’ & not necessarily guaranteed by the ‘demos’, certainly not ‘self-interested’ politicians but not entirely impossible to attain ! )

          • As for the ‘insignficant’ ones or those who try to gain a ‘sense’ of self worth from ‘easy’ participation in ‘grass’ roots poltics & cultural life, I for one see you tho’ perhaps not in the kind of ‘light’ you’d like. Now these type of people ( See. above ), all they will ever bring to the table is their own ‘brand’ of further pain, misery & ‘irrationality’. Tho’ again not to worry cos fortunately this ‘pack’ in ‘reality’ can too be superceded. You see ultimately & in many ways their kind of endeavour is meaningless )

  • Of course we must not overlook the fact that there are very ‘real’ pressing social problems facing our towns & cities. We seem to be living in ‘2 Worlds’ 1. A world of ‘privelage’ where you set yourself ‘clear’ goals, play to your strengths, do what you enjoy & then go on to live a meaninful, purposeful career and ‘rich’ life. 2. A world of ‘welfare’ where you’re told what to do & where under threat of heavy ‘sanction’ you’re expected to take whatever job is on offer regardless of ‘real’ suitablility or ‘fit’. Wheres the ‘justice’ in that?.

    I watched an early evening TV ‘local’ news programme ( ‘Nationwide’ style ) and the issue of ‘skill’ training came up. Whilst the one interviewee called for a ‘serious’ drive to increase ‘skills’ levels across the board to meet with ‘future’ growth, his opposite, a local Business Woman, insisted on a ‘safer’ form of investment, as all she & her company required were young people who could basically answer the telephone and speak politely to incoming callers.

    The latter statement could be used as part of a persuasive argument critiquing Schools inadequacy for not even being up to the job of producing kids who can answer the phone properly. However from the larger perspective I cite this kind of ‘utilitarian’ ( business pragmatic view ) as evidence of how human-beings with no doubt much ‘latent’ talent & ability are upon order, reduced to mere ‘little’ objects, with their possible human potentials re-directed, shaped & molded to fit the profit-making agendas of the local Bourgeiosie ( Business Class ).

    I popped into Birmingham city centre most recently to get my hair cut. It had been a while so one could’nt help but be overwhelmed by all the un-earthing and digging going on, wires, cable everywhere.You also could’nt also fail to notice the contrasting sight to all these buildings going up, tram-lines going down, like some Italian ‘Futurist’ heaven. That was the ‘social’ fact that there were so many human-figures, in sleeping bags, begging everywhere, on every street & every corner eg. Corporation Street, New Street, Hill Street, On the way from Moor Street Station & on the way to it!.

    The whole urban scene these days seems to be taking on a ‘Third World Character’, a clear picture representing ‘extremes’ between rich and poor ( essentially a ‘surplus’ working class ). For me Birmingham today, London Banking headquarters are now relocating here, is a rapidly manifest ‘new’ Capitalist hierarchy of Investors & ‘super’ Rich at the top and people of sheer poverty at the bottom, that together with quite a ‘blurred’ middle ground.

    Its also noticeable how any notion of ‘popular’ capitalism amongst these todays ‘masses’ have seemingly vanished. The middle appear to be just existing, homogenising and surviving not popularly ‘speculating’, saving & investing. One sight that did stand out for me though & represented the kind of business future activity we might expect to see ‘emerging’ from some of the less fortunate amongst the herd, was by New Street Station.

    That of 2 guys both with ‘ Abbey ‘ Road style beard,s one with an ‘acoustic’ guitar & about to ‘strum’, the other with a similar guitar but in his instance placed in its case & strapped rather ‘cooly’ ( ‘Bandito Style’ ) across his back.

    I’m noticing this ‘trend’ elsewhere, its catching on, especially amongst Street People. In fact a guy drew up on his ‘mountain’ bike the other day in stratford upon Avon, whipped out a sleeping bag, sat down opposite where I was playing & began begging. He was moved on by PCSO’s ( thats when I first noticed him actually sat there! ), but he returned soon later, this time set up ‘behind me’, with an empty ‘money’ case placed in front of him & a ‘landscape’ art painting placed beside him, with a ‘notice’ attached on it – For Sale!‘.

    A few days later I saw the same guy again but this time with an ‘acoustic’ guitar, & as you guessed carried in its case & ‘strapped’ rather ‘cooly’ ( Bandito Style ) across his back. He sat around again, I intermittantly took a quick look at him from the corner of my eye. No sign of ‘him’ actually playing. PCPOs turned up again this time they just walked on by!.

    • Notes ( On ‘Consciousness’ Raising ! )

      On top of the open ‘letters’ sent to Oxford Council critical of ‘coercive’ busking policy, there has to be an ‘effort’ to consciousness raisng in general, thru’-out the UK !.

      I’ve experience more than once, the ‘negative’ scenario of being passed by ‘certain’ individuals ( ‘uncultured’ to say the least! ) who on passing have ‘aside’ made the ‘snide’ remark that I’m playing ” aggh Gypo Music ! ” when I am in fact performing Brazilian Choro ( ‘aesthetically’ it works well on ‘nylon’ string guitar as a kind of ‘folkey’ rhythmic romantic cafe music ! ).

      Misunderstanding the ‘different’ coupled with ‘irrational’, underlying fear of ‘ the Other ‘ has got to be legitemately ‘challenged’ & as an ‘attitude’ ‘progressively’ changed, preferably in the classroom, if not in Civic Society, if the country is to not just return to, but ‘optimally’ achieve its ‘good’ health. ( Nb not sure if the possible ‘ascendant’ politcal class can help here tho, judging by Boris Johnsons recent ‘euro’ debate comments about USA President Obama i.e him somehow being ‘anti’ English cos’ of his Kenyan ancestry ! ) .

      • Agggh ‘self’ confidence & the ‘inferiority’ of others, I wonder if this is what they teach at Eaton ? .

        • Or is it just a byproduct ? .

          • Unfair ‘psychologically’ displaced anger & hatred, this too, has got to be contended ? .

          • But traveling down the ‘ladder’ of the English Class System, yes way down to the very ‘bottom’ eg. the streets. Whats needed here are the kinds of ‘social’ measures necessary to tackle ‘poverty’ ( yes ‘fairly’ ! ) combined with ‘policy’ that actually encourages the ‘flowering’ of culture along with the creative ‘conditions’ that lead to the positive development of that type of ‘consciousness’ at ‘the individual level.

            Q Is all of this really too much to ask of our ‘politicians’ & local councillors, in todays society ( i.e. this kind of ‘political’ will guiding the ‘decisions’ of ‘policy’ makers & those who ‘run’ & manage our country’s town/city centres ? )

            A. This is not a ‘rhetorical’ question, see below to get an ‘appreciation’ of the ‘grass’ roots situation that now pertains in eg. Coventry ( arguably once the most beautiful city in England ! )

  • * Sent To Coventry ( or Goodbye To All That )

    A parting ‘comment’ or perhaps impt warning on what happens when public defenders such as ‘Liberty’, Buskers incl ‘activists’, cyclists, skateboarders, the ‘poor’ incl those begging in public, ordinary ‘members’ of the public, all & all everyone who believes in ‘freedom’, justice, & preserving ‘reasonable’ open access ‘public’ space for all for all, do not ‘stick’ ( rally ) together to ‘challenge’ Local Authorities on their ‘bad’ ‘management’ of ‘public’ space.

    ( Nb. Impt ‘issue’ this what with ‘some’ councils becoming more & more ‘draconian’ with regards blatant’ control’ of otherwise ‘free’ city/town space eg. ‘Camden’ London, Oxford & now ‘today’ of course ‘Labour’ controlled Coventry See. below )

    Yes, I restate Birmingham & its ‘new’ code for eg. Street performing still falls way short of very ‘doable’ higher standards ( ie. ethically ‘fairer’ ) nevermind the ‘ideal’ ( See. comment & suggested ‘links’ above eg. ” ATTENTION ALL BLOG READERS ” ). But having said that to be fair ( myself ) with regards ‘busking’ & the situation ‘nationwide’, as ever, relatively speaking there ‘is’ always worse.

    For example Coventry City Council ( again Labour ‘controlled’ i.e. like Oxford, Camden etc ) has today 7 March 2017 introduced a PSPO ( Public Space Protection Order ) for the city-centre. Noticeably with apparant ‘feeble’ opposition too ( Nb. I don’t busk in Coventry but know ‘others’ who do & they simply seem either unconcerned, perhaps complacent, & to tell you the truth ‘never’ raised the #issue with me ! ).

    Anway from today ‘strict’ new rules have been agreed so as to crack down on city-centre Charity Chuggers, beggars, buskers, skateboarders, & cyclists ( * this ‘active’ civil gp apparantly being the most ‘vocal’ critics of council ‘chamber’ proposals now ‘legally’ enforcable policy ).

    Supposedly ‘designed’ to halt so called ‘anti-social’ behaviour ( & following ‘claimed’ complaints from ‘members’ of the public ) there are now the ‘threats’ of on-the-spot ‘fines’ & criminal ‘records’ for offenders. Yes a person already ‘homeless’, trapped on the streets, more than a ‘few’ no doubt victims of Society’s very own form of ‘strutcural’ violence ( See. Johan Galtung Peace Studies Founder ) are likely to be further ‘victimised’.

    Ordinary people not ‘all’ drug addicts ( some perhaps yesteryears rightful ‘welfare’ claimants ) are now subject to ‘jurisdiction’ by not the police but Council ‘Neighbourhood’ Officers ( now empowered to issue monetary civic ‘penalties ).

    Eg. From today they find themselves caught up in a pretty harsh ‘process’ ( or ‘ black magic roundabout ‘ ! ) that cd finally ‘demoralise’ them, see them spiral downwards psychologically ( & ‘economically’ ) & ultimately into prison. In reality these ‘fines’ etc being no ‘real’ deterrent just serving to ‘isolate’ the society’s vulnerable more, in this case simply sweep them under the ‘proverbial’ carpet.

    Q. For what ? A. Just ‘pressurising’ folk for a little change, just a little to ‘survive’, & oh how ‘inconvenient’, cor blimey governer what a nuisance, off course in the wider ‘scheme’ of things i.e. ‘poltical’ affairs I am here being a tad sarcastic !. Coventry ‘city’ of culture, lady Godiva, the Cathedral, of the you should be ashamed of such blatant legal maneuvre & poltically ‘cynical’ display.

    Well the ‘local’ Labour Party & its supporters should be at least anyway, thats right heads bowed down in shame, certainly not looking forwards into the future anyway, not with this ‘dross’ legislation & ‘naked’ Act of ‘civic’ cruelty dressed up as ( politically window dressed ! ) as ‘progress’ & passed by the ‘council’ today ! ).

    Its seems the ‘spirit’ of David Cameron lives on, despite ‘Brexit’, depite his timely ‘Leadership’ downfall, his more ‘subterranean’ legislation persists, its slitthers away like a ‘toxic’ snake, a black adder thats what I call him, thats what I’ll remember him by ( & no doubt many Buskers, street performers, ‘poor’ folk, true ‘freedom’ lovers also, cos’ they’re the ‘real’ victims here, caught up in the general public haze, petty ‘council’ beauracratic maze & ‘money’ raise too ! )

    • ( *See. Coventry Telegraph ” New Powers To Crack Down On Beggars, Charity Chuggers & Buskers In Coventry City Centre ”, 7 March 2017 )

      • [ Please note as from today possible ‘£100′ fines for those who fall foul of ‘council’ rules in Coventry city-centre incl. Buskers who ‘perform’ over the 1hr time limits set on all 5 of the ‘designated’ busking spots ] .

        • In Coventry to do what I generally do for a ‘living’ eg. play classical cafe guitar for 2 or 3 hrs in a public ‘area’ of a town or city is now a ‘criminal’ offence !. ( * Ex Tory PM David Cameron has effectively given ‘councils’ like this the powers to turn genuine ‘entertainers’ like me into criminals & yes these ‘authorities’ are willing to use it ! )

          • Speaking from ‘subjective’ experience when out busking I’ve had for example yg ‘skateboarders’ turn up & start messing about behind me & yes I’ve thought I wish they’d ‘pi.s’ off & leave me alone, clanking about & ‘wheeling’ around on those boards.

            However even the most ‘annoying’ ones ( many are ‘polite’ & friendly ! ) are ‘not’ criminals guilty of anti-social behaviour & deserved of a fixed penalty of £100. Yes some can be ‘selfish’ yg so & so’s but in all truth they’re just ‘teenagers’ at leisure & ironically trying to be in their own way ‘creative’.

            They should be ‘tolerated’ as such & simply ( & ‘politiely’ ) told to ‘move’ on if they become a ‘real’ pest & nuisance. You don’t want to be unnecessarily ‘criminalising’ such youth!.

  • A Letter To Birmingham (or ” Busking Can Be ‘Seriously’ Bad For Your Health ” )

    You know busking can be seriously bad for your health. Both literally that is I’m out busking in Bham ‘autumn’ last year & experience eg. Sept 2016 a visual disturbance & ‘suspect’ TIA on New St & indirectly eg. Feb 14 2017 ‘Valentines’ Day Busking & ‘problems’ with a supposed ‘complaint’ & responding ‘official’/ ‘city’ centre controller. Interestingly ( ironically ) this ‘unfamiliar’ busking experience taking place ‘post’ intro of Bhams ‘new’ busking code.

    Here an ‘extract’ on how Birmingham from ‘experience’ once a ‘relative’ free & open city-centre to busk in, is today with the introduction of its ‘new’ busking code ( involving an illusory ‘consultation’ that bypassed most Buskers who actually ‘regularly’ perform in the city ! ) one of the most ‘oppressive’ places to street perform in in the country, with relatively ‘good’ ( generally well behaved ! ) Buskers incl myself, unfairly targeted in a manner that I state & will ‘argue’, is both ‘discriminatory’ & racist.

    Yeah I’m picking up not only ‘bias’ ( i.e. against ‘non’ members & towards ‘members’ of so called street ‘activist’ gps like eg. See. the YouTube Video ” Police Confront Busker On German Xmas Market ” ) but also ‘undercurrents’ of a kind of irrational ‘insitutional’ form of ‘race’ bias clearly manifestingly itself eg. ‘white’ guys who bully & threaten yg ‘female’ Buskers, even given ‘suspended’ jail sentences in Magistrates Court, are simply told by ‘officals’ & Police to turn ‘volume’ down when such issues arise. Whereas the likes of me, genuinely out ‘performing’ on eg. Valentines Day are threatened ( unfairly pressured ! ) with future City Council ‘investigation’ even when ‘their’ official(s) eg. ‘new’ city-centre controller turn up on the ‘complaints’ scene ( an ‘erroneous’ one ! ) & validate my ‘volume’ as being to ‘his’/ their mind at a reasonable acceptable level.

    Its clear something else is going on here & he/they just want me off that particular ‘prominant’ spot.. In fact referring back to Valentines day, the city-centre controller did ask me, in a rather in ‘menacing’ tone & putting me further on the spot! ) if I’d played in the same ‘space’ the day before i.e. Mon 13th Feb. I said ( ‘confidently’ ) ” yes ! ”, stating that ” busking in this country is ‘legal’ you know ”, I then put this question to him ” Did you have any complaints ? ”, his answer ” No ! ”.

    ( Nb. This part of the city-centre eg. New Street is an ‘established’ busking area, & yes very much ‘valuable’ & highly prized public place & street ‘performance’ space & includes cafes, shops, hotels etc. There are some city-centre developments or ‘apartments’ in the vicinity eg. above Tescos New St Supermarket & a few city-centre ‘offices’. But unlike many ‘Buskers’ & today ‘street’ people incl not just beggars but penny whistlers, I don’t play ‘outside’ or ‘close’ to these places, I through conscious ‘taste’ & choice perform my ‘romantic’ cafe guitar’ further up the New St ‘boulevard’ by the Parisian like advertising point opposite The Burlington Hotel & up until now with zero ‘complaint’ ! ).

    The ‘truth’ here is that the ‘old’ management is still in place at Bham Retail BID incl.. a ‘manager’ who believes busking with ‘amplification’ at ‘high’ volume is per se ‘anti-social’ behaviour ( i.e. not a ‘temporal’ ego problem, gross selfishness or even ‘naievity’ or ignorance of the particular ‘individual’ ! ) & supported its ‘total’ city-centre ban. Calls for a ‘ban’ on amps & the intro of PSPO’s to enforce it recently failed following much ‘criticism’, a petition. & other public ‘outcry. He ( BID Manager ), ‘interested’ parties & ‘others’ ( i.e. the ‘odd’ irate complainer ! ) are now’ quite clearly looking for ‘scapegoats’ this post ‘amp’ reprieve )

    Scrutinising ‘details’ i.e. judging by ‘experience’ & going beyond mere ‘appearances’, the so called ‘new’ Birmingham Busking ‘Code’, containing much ‘patronising’ nonsense as it does, is one of the most misleading & actively ‘divisive’ schemes I’ve yet to come across.

    • * Note

      My actual ‘physical’ as opposed to ‘political’ health problem I briefly refer to above eg. the ‘visual’ disburbance & ‘suspect’ TIA ( as diagnosed by ‘consultants’ at the Bham eye hostpital ‘outpatients’ clinic the ‘following day & luckily referred there by my local GP ) occured in the ‘context’ of even more bizzarre ‘health’ circumstances.

      I’d been busking continously for 3 days when late this one weekday afternoon in Bham New St I suffered slight sight loss in the ‘left’ eye when speaking to 2 ‘enthusiastic’ members of the public, who’d stopped to appreciate the classical guitar ‘cafe’ music.

      I finished the conversation & cd of easily shrugged it off as a ‘migraine’ ( ie. the ‘symptoms’ were similar to one – the ‘only’ one – I’d experienced 15 or 20 years back in a lecture theatre ironically when a first year undergraduate ‘student’ at Coventry University eg. blurred vision combined with ‘nausea’ !. See comment under London ‘Liberty’ Blog ).

      However since Sept 2016, having picked up a ‘seemingly’ potent tropical like ‘virus’ on the Bancroft Gardens ‘Ampitheatre’ spot, during the now ‘annual’ weekend food festival in Stratford upon Avon, & been suffering from a ‘serious’ ear infection ( hitting the ‘sinus’, audio perception etc ) I was due an appt with my doctor. It was following on from this ‘timely’ ( fortunate ! ) visit that I was referred to the ‘eye’ hostpital.

      In turn having been referred to an ‘excellent’ stroke consultant at Sandwell Hostpital ( see ‘comment’ elswhere on my first day off busking 3 or 4 years & Sunday Trip to the black country for an ‘MiA’ scan ). I’ve been put through ‘all’ the tests incl. several blood tests, MiA scans, heart ‘cardoid’ scans etc. I currently on the ‘medication’ Clopidogrel as a ‘precautionary’ measure, so as to prevent the likelihood ( TIA’s can be a biological warning ‘sign’ ) or possibility of a ‘full’ stroke, which of course wd be devestating.

      ( Nb. as someone like myself, who has ‘exprienced’ work in the Care Sector eg. OAP homes in the past knows too well eg. ‘elderly’ residents/ patients lying in bed, in a ‘single’ room all day, paralysed down one side ).

      I now do busking differently of course, yes I’m back out, I have to pay the rent * this is how I ‘seriously’ earn my living. I can play 6 or 7 hrs at a time, conscientously of course, with the ‘right’ music, level of volume & without complaint. However sitting down continuously ( even in ‘proper’ classicla position ) can be dangerous i.e. like long haul aeroplane flights you must be wary of ‘blood’ pooling in the legs, it forming into clots ( even ‘small’ ones ) & blocking vital oxygen to the brain eg. a TIA.

      These days, depending where I am ( town or city ), I still don’t necessarily move ‘spot’ ( esp. in these ‘competitive’ times ) but I do stop every 1hr. Not for a ‘break’ ( contrary to some busking ‘advice’ I like to keep my playing ‘momentum’ ) but to ‘stretch’ the tendons & circulate the blood flow in both ‘arms’ & legs. Doing this ( making it a ‘habit’ ) has not only transformed my ‘health’, but my playing ‘experience’ too, totally upping the ‘feel’ good effect.

      • ( * See. Chester KSL Blog [ bottom of page ), London ‘Liberty’ Blog [ all ] for related ‘comments’ )

        • ( * See York ‘Minster’ Blog for ‘comments’ on ‘religion’, death & all forms of ‘false’ idol worship )

  • Stratford upon Avon ( or A ‘Midsummers’ Night Dream ! )

    I keep hearing everywhere ‘references’ to London when it comes to ‘new’ busking ‘schemes’/codes being proposed these days. For example on Midlands Today ( Bham ‘local’ nationwide programme ) only the other ‘early’ evening, in a ‘comment’ about Coventry a ‘caller’ argued that since the ‘capital’ had introduced ‘licensing’ busking has never been better in the city.

    All very misleading of course cos’ since the introduction of such a scheme in Camden ( Nov 2015 ) ‘busking’ in reality has gone down the plug hole. Truth is ‘good’ musicians incl. no one can get a ‘licence’, even if indeed they want one, which of course on ‘principle’ many don’t, believing rather in ‘free’ open access to public space for street performance.

    Anyway so called ‘private’ busking schemes such as the one run by ‘The SouthBank Centre’ nevermind ‘audtions’, ‘licences, etc in ‘reality’ do not ensure ‘standards’ at all & for me are to be pro rata ‘avoided’. In ‘truth’ its ‘1’hr pitches simply encourage relative ‘mediocrity’, & act as a ‘deterence’ for truly ‘good’ ( hard practiced ) musicians, esp intrumentalists & particularly over the lg-term. You know those growing & ‘highly’ skilled street ‘performers’ capable of ‘entertaining’ passersbye & creating ‘truly’ beautiful ‘atmosphere’ for 120mins, 180 mins plus at a time ( See. London ‘Liberty’ Blog for further comment )

    As for ‘Stratford upon Avon only a few years back I spent one of my ‘best’ Summers there. Memories of playing ‘ The Dolphin’ by Nino Josele on the Bancroft one ‘hot’ Saturday night & a ‘beautiful’ season climaxing in being invited to see the Russian Chekov Theatres world premiere of Shakespeares classic comedy romance ” A Midsummers Nights Dream ” by a Russian Actress who had sat watching me perform in the park for at least an hour or so.

    By ‘contrast’ the prospects for this year, as a ‘Busker’ in Stratford upon Avon are frankly dire by comparison. I’m not a ‘depressive’ type albeit of ‘poetic’ temperament but not generally unhopeful however the BIDs tampering with the existing ‘workable’ scheme ( eg. 2hr ‘revolving’ spots balanced in favour of ‘all’ ) threatens to ruin things or at least ‘create’ unnecessessary conflict ( Nb. without ‘consultation’ the previous Manager altered or ‘reduced’ busk times to 1hr on their website, ‘we’ still abide by the 2hr rule but ‘problems’ & confusion may ensue in the future over this issue ).

    Yes both ‘joy’ & trepidation await this Summer cos’ at present ( judging by ‘last’ year ) the ‘cultural’ direction even in ‘Shakespeareland’ ( amongst not just the the ‘shop’keepers & the businessmen but also the ‘culturatti’, & the theatre ) is stark. Yes i.e. more & more ‘fake’ & where ‘folk’ are getting together ‘creatively’, such ‘projects’ simply palls in the spirit of ‘collaborative’ pretension. Even the independent ‘Little’ Attic Theatre situated by the River Avon bridge & ‘ampitheatre’ on the Bancroft Gardens seemed to be ‘focused’ on producing pretty drab ( & uninventive ) ‘commercia’l stuff last Summer ( tho’ this cd be corrected by their own production of Henry V this year ! )

    Despite this. you may ask ‘me’ why its ‘not’ such a ‘relief’ ( for me & my ‘tastes’ buds at least ) to hear that Birmingham Conservatoire ‘Graduate’ & chart topping Pop Songster/ ‘Choral’ Arranger ( Soweto Style ! ) Laura Mvula’s in town this Spring. What with her latest ‘musical’ project & role as not only Music Director but even more dramatically, more ambitiously, Stage-Play Music ‘Composer for the Shakespeare Theatre. Well its simply that, its not to my ‘tastes’ ( nor cultural ‘politics’ ) her artistic presence this year 2017 on the stage.

    To give the ‘theatre’ credit they do ‘reach’ out & do ‘inner-city’ projects with for example schools in Bham, & nothing for me can beat work like ‘Macbeth On The Estate’ for example. But Laura Mvula, I knew somehow she’d crop up on the ‘list’, they’d be at some point calling her in to do something, but for me ‘she’ no.

    Its not gonna work out, too 6th form ‘Grammar’ School Girl for me, too Florence & the Machine type ‘hype, yes better ( more intelligent, more ‘thru’ arranged ! ) than the Californian Beach Boys ( yuk ! ) but for me no!. Theresa May may love her or should I say ‘the’ idea of her, some of ‘todays’ kids may like her, she may even be the darling of the contemporary ‘record’ industry, the Brits etc but for me no, no chance, no way !.

    • ( See. London ‘Liberty’ Blog eg. ” The Rosie & Rosa Tour 2017 ” for an alternative take on the 6th form grammar school girl or in this case ‘supra’ smart women )

      • ( Nb. As for me as a ‘Busker’, Street Performer, or indeed Public Musician I am moving away from Pop, pop culture altogether. In fact I’m developing a kind of ’emotional’ revulsion for the ‘craft’. My heart, my soul, my own personal ‘truth’ just longs for something else )

        • Plus I speak as a strong advocate of ‘home’ learning ( the ‘Comprehensive system from my ‘experience’ is terrible ! ) & the ‘exploration’ ( & support ) of all forms of ‘alternative’ education. ).

          • Genuine ‘learning’ environments out of which will ’emerge’ true creativity ( & not facile ‘conformity’ ! ).

            You know those ‘false’ ( & ‘cowardly’ ) relations leading to the ‘fake artistic ‘pop” community of the sort ( See. London ) we see pervading ‘society’s mainstream & i.e. producing a ‘vapid, seemingly neverending ‘stream’ of ‘junk’ culture’.

            Busking for ‘me’ at the end of the day is ‘not’ about ‘friendships’ etc essentially, but about ‘the individual’ finding public space in which to express themselves ( in this sense I’m against all ‘artificial’ cultural formations, busking ‘competitions’ in the main, any kind of ‘beauracratic’ process informing ‘practice’ etc )

            I speak from a ‘western’ Artistic perspective & whilst recognising that ‘interesting’ ( & organic’ ) street cultures can & ‘do’ emerge ( See. Gypsies Below ) ‘my’ sentiments are essentially ‘romantic’ & despite the real politik, ‘individual’ ( tho’ not selfish ! ).

  • * The Cheltenham Races ( or the best written busking ‘code’ in England ! )

    Which finally brings me finally to my ‘favourite’ written busking code i.e. for ‘plain’ written English & without the office ‘dense’ beauracratese & ‘paltry’ advice you ‘find’ in other ‘official’ schemes anyways & thats the one that pertains for Cheltenham.

    Its sets a ‘nice’ n’ simple framework & without any ‘tone’ of prigishness which for me is a great advantage & ‘refreshing’ relief. The only ‘problem’ is the 1hr spot rule but if that was ‘looked’ at again I’d be recommending this example as nr ‘perfect’ for eg. Birmingham if not elsewhere in the country.

    I love the ‘picture’ [inset] of the ‘Gypsy’ musician too featured on the code, more than a touch of ‘reality’ painted here, & yeah a nice ‘human’ touch. You know the people ( men & women ) of this culture have been performing & earning their living on the streets of Europe ( incl some branches here in England ) for centuries.

    Suffering horrendous discrimination ( & abuse ) in certain European quarters incl Hungary & Romania this very much ‘excluded’ community has nevertheless managed to create ( & evolve ) some of the ‘worlds’ most expressive & in some examples sophisticated ‘genres’ of music ( * tho’ the empasis is always on ‘folk’ romance & simplicity which makes the characteristic sound so ‘naturally’ attractive & beautiful ). Yes there’s more to life than ‘pop’ music tho’ again latin pop ballads do feature a part of typical ‘street’ Gypsy repertoire tho’ again worked ‘arranged’ with that effervescent verve & ‘Romane’ spirit. Long may it live on !.

    • ( * See. Chester’ Park Bench’ Blog [ bottom page ] for further related comment )

      • ( * See. London ‘Portobello Rd’ Blog for ‘comment’ on both the ‘friendship’ & conflict I’ve had with Gypsies )

        • * Note

          You’ll see lots of ‘comment’s across this website by me, but all echoing the same attitude again & again. That much of the ‘power’ you see around you is in actual fact a ‘set’ up, & in that sense all it represents is an ‘illusion’.

          As a Busker, Street Performer, potential Public Musician, in the spirit of the Gypsies, no matter what happens, & with no desire to play ‘games’, I’ll always be following the ‘trail’ of ‘true’ freedom, wherever it leads, wherever it goes, not all places are the same, neither are all councils.

          But no matter what, no matter where you are, & not taking affairs for granted, afterall I’m a ‘minoirity’ often ‘edged’ out of things, & thru’ working hard to ‘maintain’ existing ‘good’ relations, I’ve found theres always some place to go & as if by ‘miracle’ this is where ‘true’ power lies. Praise thanks for that i.e. the ever present good will of folk ( in certain places where elsewhere its lacking ) & above all else their sense of fairness & reason !.

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