As of February, any person busking in the north London borough will require a £19 annual licence, following the Labour authority’s decision. The new restrictions come after a reported 100 noise complaints in the past year by local residents, who took issue with the use of amplifiers and drums. As well as implementing a fine, officials could confiscate instruments. In addition, a new curfew will permit buskers to only perform between 10am and 9pm.
Comedians Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey and musician Billy Bragg took to the streets last month to protest the proposal. The trio, who were joined by singer-songwriter Jon Gomm, met with campaigners on Camden High Street and performed songs including California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas, along with versions of The Imperial Death March from Star Wars, and Jerusalem on the kazoo – an instrument protesters say Camden council wants to ban.
Bragg, who spent his early career busking around London, said the licensing plans would hurt a fundamental aspect of UK culture. “It’s the central part of not only the British spirit but the human spirit to keep the streets open for people to go out and give things a go,” he said during the protest. “That’s what busking is about – it’s like the people’s X Factor. It would be terrible if Camden ended up becoming another dull and dead backwater place because of this.”
While the busking rules are a first for Camden, Liverpool city council has in the past attempted to implement similar legislation. In 2012, protesters successfully secured a high court injunction that forced the council to review its policy.