London Evening Standard: Best Buskers Row Over Arrest Rages On

London Evening Standard: Best Buskers Row Over Arrest Rages On

Published by Rachel Blundy at the London Evening Standard on 02/06/2014

A row over the decision to arrest a band hailed as London’s best buskers by Mayor Boris Johnson is raging on today after a community leader voiced his support for a police crackdown on busking.

Colin Bennett, chairman of the Leicester Square Association, has come out in support of police after last week’s arrest of the King’s Parade in Leicester Square.

The four-piece from Cricklewood were led away by officers last Wednesday as they came to the end of their set in front of a bewildered crowd.

They did not require a permit to perform but police arrested them under the terms of an archaic Metropolitan Police Act from 1839, claiming they were performing in order to earn cash from passers-by.

Mr Bennett has said that police were right to detain the musicians, adding that the authorities’ approach to buskers in the capital needed “managing”.

He said: “Entertainment is fine but it needs managing. At present it isn’t.

“Nobody wants draconian action, but without a clear policy in place, there is little left.”

Speaking about Mr Johnson’s ‘Back busking’ campaign, which aims to prevent parts of the city becoming ‘no-go areas’ for buskers, he said: “The Mayor’s busking campaign may be headline grabbing, but it lacks forethought, resulting in places like Leicester Square becoming unregulated free for all with the potential to project a poor image – not the world class destinations I’m sure he and we wish to convey.”

In response, band member Olly Corpe challenged Mr Bennett’s stance on the issue.

He told the Standard: “It seems Colin agrees with the Met’s decision to arrest us but wants busking to be managed – surely arresting buskers isn’t a good way of managing it?”

He continued: “He obviously hasn’t read up on the ‘Back busking’ campaign because the whole idea of it is to regulate and unify the busking rules around London, which is exactly what Colin is asking for.

“If he agrees with our arrest then he believes that all buskers in Leicester Square should be arrested as well. Considering our arrest took more than five hours, I’m wondering if Colin has considered the time and resources needed to do so.”

The band were released without charge but could still face a court summons.

Defending the arrest earlier this week, a spokesman for Scotland Yard said that “unlicensed street performing” contributed to “anti-social behaviour and is a driver of crime”.

In a statement, the Greater London Authority (GLA) said it was involved in discussions with police over the band’s arrest.

It said: “We were made aware of the arrests of the Kings Parade and note that they were released with no further action being taken. Since then we have been liaising with the Metropolitan Police to review what happened.

It added that representatives for the Mayor’s pro-busking campaign are set to meet next week.

It said: “The Mayor announced a high level taskforce in April, aimed at making London the most busking friendly city in the world. This is bringing together the police, boroughs and other organisations to develop a pan-London approach.”

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

17 Comments on "London Evening Standard: Best Buskers Row Over Arrest Rages On"

  • Up until today there was a danger that an otherwise artistically vibrant public landscape peopled by creative ‘outside’ performers would like Leicester Square end up dominated by draconian council restriction and forceful eviction with the local ‘district’ council calling on its own brand of contract security warden and with this kind of sorry state of affairs likewise setting the Summer stage up here in Shakespeare Land.

    We the Buskers of Stratford upon Avon at the ‘local’ level have just successfully campaigned, organised and manouvered to get recent Council ‘restrictions’ regards ‘outdoors’ performance on the towns cherished Bancroft Gardens Park area removed. Effective ‘local’ organisation on the issue and resulting good communication with town authorities, BID, performers, the public and all has meant that not only self-interest, but city justice, ‘liberal’ balance and the public interest has generally been achieved. Today we are all winners!.

  • Oh and on Jonny Walkers latest idea ‘ a best practice guide ‘ for Buskers currently being banded through his ASAP/Streetslive organisation and apparantly touted in some Councils eg. Camden London, York, Liverpool.

    Uhhgh! the idea sounds horrible to me, sounds like a kind of leaflet you might pick up at the local CAB, some kind of Consumer Council/Trading Standards mandate. No whats needed here are well thought out ‘busking codes’ at the ‘local’ level, with local input, and local considerations taken into account.

    Conditions vary from place to place, performers and types of performance vary, every town/region has its own particular concerns and most importantly ‘local’ government is an already well established and valuable political institution in this country, and it needs at the very least to be recognised if not respected.

    • Hi Nigel,

      Interesting thoughts as always!

      Firstly, ASAP and Keep Streets Live are separate bodies, with the latter being formally constituted as a not for profit company set up explicitly to protect informal access to public space for the arts and the former being a membership organisation for professional street performers.

      Secondly, you seem to disdain the idea of ‘best practise’ guidance but then go on to advocate a ‘busking code’ approach. The main difference aside from semantics appears to be the extent to which input is made at the local and the national level.

      The Keep Streets Live Campaign has a national vision, namely for public spaces across the UK to be open to informal and spontaneous offerings of art and music. This is in response to recent trends towards hyper-regulation of public space and an obsession with ‘antisocial behaviour’ which busking is often wrongly conflated with which has led to anti-busking policies in many towns and cities to the detriment of all.

      Often decisions are not made at a local level in a way that involves all concerned parties, namely the street performing community itself. Bad policies proliferate between towns and cities in a copy cat fashion and in a reactive fashion.

      The idea of a best practise guide is not to impose yet more external regulation but to highlight how it is possible for street culture to flourish under well-established existing legislation at low cost. Ideally this would involve the involvement of the busking community in each jurisdiction. Where there is already a culture of cooperation and openness there will be much less need for campaign input.

      In the busking tradition there is always a tension between the local/national/international perspectives. Many of the folk involved with KSL busk in over 100 places in a year in a continuation of the wandering minstrel/troubadour tradition. It is vitally important that public space is kept genuinely open to both the wandering minstrel and those who prefer to perform in one or two fixed locations for reasons of circumstance. To this extent it is important that local perspectives are not clouded by protectionism and a hostility to ‘outsiders’. One of the many objections to licensing schemes for busking in a city is the fact that licenses create a pool of performers with a sense of entitlement to the exclusion of those without licenses, if you like, a divide and rule strategy…

  • I’ve spoken to a few local/regional figures on this issue and the consensus emerging seems to be that yes we’ve got to find a way of ‘unifiying’ Street Performers and their struggle to exist on a national level but whilst not making the mistake of imposing ‘outside’ individual will on what really ought to be considered local .

    This is a very tricky issue of sensitivity, balance and ‘restraint’ and from what I can see I’m not sure you’ve always managed to achieve this. And I add that the historical trend politically is towards regionalism and devolution despite very much ironically the growing interference of the state in certain public affairs.

    Still there is a role and ‘some’ place for a ‘serious’ vision for Street Performing & Street culture at a national level and of course we might even to some extent agree on the value of democracy and ‘liberal’ access to public space. Where I do disagree is over the place of ‘religion’ in all of this. For example your ‘linkage’ with the Lincoln Street Pastors for me suggests a ‘fundamentalist’ Christian agenda.

    Whilst I support freedom of religious expression in this country ( most do! ) I don’t support the appearance of civil religous police of any shape or form on our streets and have no wish to belong to an organisation that has ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ links with such a force. If we could clear matters up like this little issue I would support someone like you having a role in any form Street Performer politics at national level and I do think you could potentially play a very ‘good’ part from an important ‘liberal’ perspective.

    In terms of political activist style and approach I guess in the first instance from the basic ‘human’ standpoint I will always be for localised, spontaneous style politic first and large-scale beauracratically organised acton 2nd. One only has to reflect upon the 20th Century tragedy that was Lenin, Stalin and Russia to understand and appreciate this.

    Finally I thank you for your standard terse and concise reply however on the matter of everything simply being a matter of semantics I have to strongly disagree. You see as for the term ‘Good practice guide’ – I take an ‘Orwellian’ stance on this kind of morally homgogenising language, ie. how does it come across to me? well nothing less than a little patronising! in the extreme pseudo beauracratic Whitehall speak!.

  • Jonny says

    The role of the state in this discourse is very interesting. At the very time when the rhetoric is about ‘rolling the state back’ (which is actually a metaphor for cuts to welfare and state provision), the intrusion of the state into the lives of its citizens is arguably increasing with mass surveillance, a preoccupation with social control and antisocial behaviour and the expansion of police powers. Coupled with the increasing prevalence of private interests in the public domain and the proliferation of pseudo-public spaces such as Liverpool One it strikes me that the need for a national advocacy body on behalf of informal access to public space for the arts is acute.

    Busking is wrongly conflated by many with a generalised and vague concern about ‘antisocial’ behaviour and legislated against on that basis. The sole aim of the ‘best practise guidance’ is to differentiate street art/performance from antisocial behaviour/nuisance. It is not intended to be a prescriptive model whatsoever and would always need to taylored to a local context, preferably with input from a performer community in each locality.

    Subsidiarity is an important principle, decisions should not be taken that affect the lives and livelihoods of people without their input. To this extent I have grave concerns about the state of local democracy at present and the proliferation of new forms of urban administration such as BIDS which often serve as a proxy for powerful commercial interests which are not answerable to local electors. Bitter experience in Camden shows that the ideal of liberal democracy is often far from reality when perceived commercial interests conflict with open access to public space. The idea of a neutral state preserving liberal values is a powerful one but often far removed from reality, particularly for those on the social margins (a space often occupied by buskers).

    I’m glad that you recognise the importance of religious freedoms. They weren’t always protected in the way that they are now and the purpose of the Church of the Holy Kazoo is to lampoon the fact that religious freedoms are given priority over cultural freedoms. This is indefensible, the two should be of a piece.

    I understand your concerns about formal/informal affiliations with any Chrisitian organisations. Keep Streets Live is not affiliated to Street Angels in any formal sense though I must disagree with your characterisation of them as any kind of ‘religious police force’. That use of language is misleading and seems to disallow the participation of voluntary organisations in the tapestry of our civic life if they have any religious motivation, a prejudice that would have hampered the emergence of many schools, universities and hospitals which had a religious foundation.

    In the case of the street angels administering first aid to vulnerable people in the early hours of Friday morning and handing out flip flops is hardly akin to Talibanisitc purges of the public square. I need also to point out that the use of public space for worship/ preaching has often been contested and there is a historical link between the freedom to preach on the streets and the freedom to perform art and music.

    As an organisation pariticipating in national discourse over the use of public space in civic life I think it is important that we maintain a dialogue with others who use that public space as we seek to resolve conflict and misunderstanding ( this is particularly important when fundamentalist religious groups conflict in public space and affect the street performing community).

  • Its interesting to trace the evolution of your ‘ Best Practice Guide’ idea. I first came across your organisation ( or should i say organisations ) Streets Live/ASAP when you were in the midsts of a conflict with Liverpool Council over their proposed restrictions regards Street Performing in the city. From the off and out of this conflict you clearly stated that your ‘personal’ ambitions were to create not only an effective busking policy for LIverpool but a national ‘model’ for the rest of the country. Your ‘Best Practice Guide’ seems to be the outcome of this particular endeavour.

    My first response was Q Model Busking Schme? there are already good schemes established in other places across the country, don’t you realise that?, Liverpool for example is currently going though the street cultural ‘transformative’ stage that my home city Birmingham went through 4 or 5 years ago. Stratford upon Avon another regular ‘Street Performing’ location of mine has a successful scheme up and running for 3 years now the ‘cultural’ architect a local Violinist Folk Musician named ‘Woman of the Year’ by the town last year.

    As an experienced Street Performer of 3 years now if theres one thing I’ve learned is that it would be a big mistake to think that one could create a successful ‘standard fit’ busking scheme that would work for every town and every city. Just to illustrate ( and I’ve explained this elsewhere ) I cite for example places like Stratford upon Avon having a first come first serve timed rota ‘ 2hr spot ‘ scheme that works effectively though contrasts with Birmingham with its pre-booked play all day spots. Consequently I’ve clearly recognised that adopting ‘play all day ‘spots in a small tourist town like Stratford would be a disaster for a town of that nature whereas imposing ‘limited-time’ spots in Birmingham a city of relatively larger size would be unnecessary. From the off your seemingly fixated insistance on creating some kind of ‘national’ model busking scheme based on your Liverpool creation I concluded was misguided and in reality unworkable.

    I’m all for teasing out what are the general principles and values that might bring together on a wider ‘national’ ( indeed ‘international’ ) level of what might at first be seen as a fairly disparate band of performers with very little power. The truth again here is that despite appearances local Buskers organisations have organised, have an important influence at local level and can be found in other places in the country eg an established one that comes to mind is Bath Buskers.

    This social fact must not be missed and indeed respected and again is a quality I notice is lacking in your recent discussions connected with York, its Authorities, and local Performers Association who are described as ‘ lacking imagination’ and running there own ‘cartels’ during your dispute ( this sought of thing does happen in busking eg. ‘mini-cartel’ running etc ) however in this instance I see no convincing evidence and I’m not persuaded. Likewise I’m not convinced as yet that the scheme you have come up with for Liverpool is superior in any way, a model for, more excellent than anything that is currently in place and happening in a town like Bath. You know the very real danger here is that rather than having a ‘positive’ influence on busking policy in places like this you merely end up getting up a lot of peoples noses, being negatively percieved as a ‘meddler’!

    In terms of terms of identifying unifying principles the most workable ones for me, the broadest, are ‘values’ like freedom of access to public space for all etc and yes I would side with you in promoting these. As for general guides, whilst I am critical of your ‘Best Practice’ guide, I’m not against ‘general’ guides in principle for example a Buskers Guide To The Law is a great idea, and (while I don’t like some of the company he keeps ), I really do like some of the work Chester Bingley has done at Buskers Unregulated in terms of putting together a ‘busking’ card setting out in simple form Buskers Rights.

    The real problem with your best practice guide idea Jonny ( and its not just a question of semantics, and yes I don’t like the title I find it patronising! ) is that we’re back in the danger zone of projecting a set of solutions you’ve come up with for Liverpool on the rest of the country, solutions and remedies that don’t necessarily fit elsewhere. ( send me the detail of your guide and I will peruse this further ).

    As for the Lincolnshire Street Angels etc I think ‘you’re’ guilty of twisting ‘semantics’ here Jonny. You say you are not affiliated to this group. Well by announcing that you have ‘ now forged links’ with the Street Angels on your Twitter accounts suggests that in fact you are, and the fact that as you explained to me over the telephone that you knew the founder personally, and that he was a good guy and recently formally ‘honoured’ suggests in the context of your apparant close relationship that both of you are very much affiliated not simply organisationally but also personally and ideologically.

    From a humble Street Performers point of view and having been just involved in a struggle in Stratford upon Avon only this week with the local District Council introducing serious ‘restrictions’ on long established prime busking performance areas I can tell you that any ‘formal’ group patrolling an area dressed in illuminous flak jackets with named emblems emblazoned on their back whether that be a formation of Garden Contractors with title Park Warden or a collective of Christians with the title Street Angels on their backs vividly states ( and quite provocatively so ) Civic Policing to me no matter how you ‘re-package’ it.

    I challenge any Street Performer to take a look at he Lincoln Street Pastors promo’ videos on You Tube and honestly
    say to themselves that the image they present is not of another kind of civic if not ‘cultural’ police. Jonny to say that you’re into spontaneity and freedom on the streets for Buskers and the like, be critical of town/city management, local councils and their ‘enforcement’ officers and the like and yet come out supporting Christian Street Angels sounds like a contradicion, at the extreme it smacks of hypocrisy!.

    As a strong believer in some of the core principles of liberal ‘plural’ society the ‘real’ glue that holds our post-modern society together eg freedom of religious expression however separation of state from religion, I contend that there is a line to be drawn in terms of who should do our civic/cultural policing ( and this is often disguised as aid or charity ) and this may be a ‘fine’ line, but that line for me stops at ‘tribal’ religion.

  • Jonny, my core argument in a snippet, your ‘ Best Practice Guide’, comes across as no more than a ‘personal’ expression of universal platitudes.

    • Jonny says

      The ‘best practise guidance’ in Liverpool is not mine alone. It has been agreed in dialogue between street performers, the local authority and the BID. At every stage a wide variety of people have been invited to give input and public meetings have been held to discuss issues.

      Keep Streets Live is about working with local authorities wherever possible but from a position of fairness and mutuality. The guidance approach in Liverpool represents real progress from where we were two years ago when street performers faced exclusion and marginalisation in the city.

      It is to the credit of the council for taking our concerns on board, but most of all to the commitment and courage of activists and the busking community in Liverpool who took a stand against the policy in 2012.

      • I’ve just woken up with a vision, a rather ‘comic’ imagining of Street Performers in the near future not only finding themselves in conflict with local authorities and there particular brand of ‘draconian’ legislation but also with you Jonny ( and your ‘cohorts’ ) striding out and attempting to impose what is essentially a Liverpool centred Busking Code on towns and cities ( topically I envisage York and London, places where it does’nt fit !) in the guise of a ‘Best Practice Guide’.

        Jonny thankyou for your good grace in sending me a ‘detailed’ copy of your guide to peruse. I’ll read this with genuine interest and enthusiasm ( and of course without sounding to arrogant my usual critical nouse ). Expect a reply within the next 24hrs !.

  • Just a little ‘aside’ before considering and responding to the ‘details’ of your guide just sent me, Jonny I’d just like to briefly talk about what ‘you’ might call ‘ Best Policing’.

    Jonny its my strongly held belief that nobody is above what could be called the ‘ Law of Humanity’ , no person, no byelaw and no God, I repeat, nothing and no one is above the ‘ Law of Man ‘. As such in ‘civil’ society, for it to work, and given the variety of culture, races and creeds that make it up, what we do need is not a ‘Christian’ police, a ‘Moslem’ Police, a ‘Hari Krishna’ Police as such nor simply an Agnostic nor Atheist Police what we need is a broad representative protective body of men and women of good moral character drawn from all walks, all backgrounds of life and who can apply collective justice and security on behalf of us all in a fair way.

    In terms of policing of the civic public space I think it is in fact time to campaign for the proper funding of a truly democratic and ‘responsive’ civil style policing in our city centres. For me, speaking as a jobbin Street Performer ordinary Civil Wardens will do but they need to be liberally conscious and properly trained civic ‘mediators’ who act for everyone Street Performer and Shopkeepers alike.

    You talk of Buskers in Liverpool having been marginalised etc by the local authorities, I’d say in Birmingham at the moment we ‘Buskers’ simply don’t have a Police Force!, we’re in effect exluded from reciprocal civic culture. Only the other week whilst out performing on a Sunday in one of the cafe/restaurant areas of the city I was abandonded by the police to a gin/vodka swigging vagabond who just sat beside me blowing a ‘football’ whistle, malicously and out of spite for a full 4hrs. If I’d have been a Shopkeeper, Office Manager, City Apartment Resident the spitfeul pest would have been moved on without question straightaway.

    The appearance of Street Angels, Lincoln Street Pastors on some of our streets I view as a dangerous precedent, one that takes us in a potentially dangerous ‘Fundamentalist’ direction!. We all know the reasons why they’ve currently been allowed to appear. Old Tories who see the Church as a traditional part of the state would support there prescence seeing them as a force of law and order in support of the Police. Contemporary Tories, Thatcherites, Neo Conservatives, ‘Utilitarian Capitalists and the like see this as a chance to save money and make even larger profits, given they are ‘voluntary’ and in this age of cut-backs. The Police themselves need support given these cutbacks and therefore welome them plus they make good bedfellows of ‘control’ given they all appear to fit the category of ‘authoritarian’ personality of some sort or another ( *Note the Mets recent relationship with Scientologists in London for example, with top police brass being invitged to entertainment dinners etc ). See how the Lincoln Street Pastors YouTube video works as a very sleek example of film propaganda what with Night Club Owners backing them ( they wd do given they save money on extra Bouncers etc ) and then theres the ‘bright eyed’ young folk welcoming them with open arms ( intrinsically naieve they would do, plus after a few drinks and an E tablet ‘you’d’ Jonny maybe even start bending down and kissing the ring of the Pope )

    I can appreciate why the idea of Street Angels, Street Pastors sits comfortably with yourself. You’re the son of a Christian Missionary
    and I note that you yourself completed a post-grad certificate in The Theology of Peace at Lancaster University this year. I understand the core concept on the course is ‘ Kenarchy ‘ the idea of applying the ways of Jesus Christ to resolving conflict – I know this is not Peace Studies or conventional Management conflict/resolution techniques!. I also know that a key friend and mentor of yours, indeed a patron of StreetsLive not only writes but philosophises on the subject ‘ Kenarchy expresses an attempt
    to find a new word for the Kingdom of God without the baggage of Christendom or in theological terms……’. ( Dr Roger Haydon Mitchell ) you yourself in the religious language of ‘Kenarchy’ have cited the grande and lofty ambition to bring peace to the Streets.

    One historical character you both cite allegiance to is Indian Guru and political activist Mahatma Ghandi. You may no doubt stress ( as does contemporary ‘myth’ ) his reputation as an activist of peace. However I can promise you that is not the reputation he has with many Moslems as well as other expert readers on him as historical subject. The late Christopher Histchens in his best selling book God Is Not Great cites how he was not a ‘progressive’ force at all, indeed he was a rejector of what could be called progress or ‘modernity’ ‘he took to carrying a staff and expressing hostility to machinery and technology ‘, basically he was a medieval-like back to the past type prophet who ‘rhapsodized about the Indian Village’. In retrospect many liberals agree that with regards the liberation of India ‘ there was never any need for an obscurantist religious figure to impose his ego on the process and both retard and distort it ‘ ( Christopher Hitchens )

    The key point I make here of course is that the ‘religous’ fundamentalist line albeit Christian, Ghandi style Hindu or whatever, is a potentially lethal one for cohesive liberal society because ironically far from bringing peace it can be so divisive, eg. the tragedy that was the partition of India is a testament to that.

    Jonny please drop your links and support for the likes of the Street Angels, Lincoln Street Pastors and the like and back the proper funding of a ‘representative’ civil force, one that is truly mediative and ‘light-touch’, that if and when necessary can be called upon and can be a benefit for us all, at albeit rare times of conflict and dispute on the streets.

    Let us find a way to join together and strive for what I’m figuring we all want and are all ‘truly’ searching for as Street Artists/Performers i.e. first and foremost ‘free’ living ( and its natural couplet self expression ) and in terms of Busking Schemes of any shape or form we desire as much space as possible for ‘authentic’ and ‘spontaneous’ expression. This is how we all genuinely want to earn our living so lets work together and seek to achieve that.

  • Just taken a look at the draft ‘ Best Practice Guide’ you sent me Jonny and without I hope ‘my’ not sounding too patronising, I stress how very pleased I am that you’ve managed to put some sort of code together with regards Busking in Liverpool. Hopefully it will go some way to appeasing all parties concerned given the noise nuisance complaints, counter claims of council victimisation, prospective excessive regulation and possible infringement on freedoms issues etc. I can also see alot of hard work and concern has gone into this process document so I congratulate you on that too.

    The criterion upon which I draw to judge such Busking Codes ( if judge is the right word, perhaps comparatively ‘evaluate’ is more apt a term ) is one I’ve put together based on my hard gathered ‘personal’ experience of working under different schemes and busking conditions over the last 3 years. Indeed 3 issues seem to crop up again and again with regards Street Performing according to my knowledge and they’re to do with 1. Noise Nuisance 2. Playing Spots 3. Standards ( there are other concerns but these are time and time again raised by complainants etc and obviously a good code will always make strides to address them ).

    Firstly I notice you recommend no set playing spots as such for Liverpool. Thats interesting the towns/cities I play in all cite specific locations for Busking performance. Luckily they are spots that street artists tend to naturally gravitate towards so not too many tensions here, thats right surprising no quarrel here. In fact in both Stratford upon Avon and Birmingham Busker performance in ‘sensitive’ spots are avoided by such codes of practice. In turn the problem of ‘rigidity’ of space is avoided by allowing some leeway of movement in playing zones. Of course theres also the polical reality of certain ‘off-piste’ spots being allowed to exist in these towns/cities without challenge from the authorities, this helps with congestion during busier periods. I take it there no particularly senstive zones in Liverpool city centre to take into consideration?

    How are you going to ‘police’ ( again if thats the right word, manage or perhaps ‘mediate’ sounds better ) noise nuisance in the city of Liverpool?. In both Birmingham and Stratford upon Avon BID financed Wardens/Town Hosts fulfil this function. They provide ‘quick’ immediate response to such ‘noise’ complaints from Retailors, Offices etc. This avoids long drawn out legal processes such as prosection via Envrionmental Noise Pollution Act etc ie. it cuts out the ‘red tape’.

    You certainly have a lot of faith in Performers policing themselves with regards volume levels etc. Of course many ( if not most ) do
    eg in Stratford over the past six months or so , right up until the recent Bancroft crisis where the District Council introduced restrictions, the situation had been Eldorado in the town, yes a Street Performers Eden. This was came about with the collapse of local town management and the ensuing complete absence of any ‘unwanted’ police or warden ‘dogmatic’ interference . However whilst 90% of local performers successfully and conscientiously policed themselves everyone preserving and going along with the established ‘voluntary’ code it only took 3 ‘new’ outside parties to appear on the scene and attempt to set up their own spot sharing ‘mini-cartels’ to spoil everything and for the whole ‘voluntary’ busking code to collapse.

    Ironically it was then that we pre-established Buskers could have done with the Town Hosts/Wardens on the scene, to step in ‘civilly’ and mediate the problem. The law proving to be the ‘ass’ that it often is on these occasions meant that we generally code abiding performers could be charged with Public Order Offences if we took matters into our own hands. In the long-term this potentially criminally ‘anarchic’ situation was stated as one of the consequential reasons for the District Council to step in ( rather heavy handedly ) and close the whole Bancroft Gardens down to all performers/public entertainers a few weeks later.

    As for ‘standards’ this is not so much an issue in Stratford upon Avon since being a popular Tourist town with a ‘high’ culture kudos ( i.e. Shakepeareland! ) it tends rather ‘magically’ to attract really good Street Muscians, Artists, Acrobats, Magicians. However with regards Birmingham an issue did crop up a few years back with ‘rogue’ Buskers using street performing as a ‘front’ for begging – serious aggressive begging that is!. Many complained of standards and I know you argue this ‘elitist’ but in Bham ‘auditions’ were set up as a means of combatting this problem. How are you going to tackle the issue of standards regards performance in Liverpool city centre?

    I think I’ll leave my response at that for now Jonny there are so many Q’s that could be covered. I look forward to ‘your’reply. I hope you can see the merit of my case that there is no catch all guide for Busking, no ‘Best Practice Guide’ that fits all places and conditions. I think it was the Greek Philospher Plato with his concept of platonic justice who was one of the first ‘academics’ to emphasise the vital importance of social order and ‘fit’ in the creation of the ideal just city. You know Jonny, its certainly a quality not to be missed.

  • One point on Plato I’d like to emphasise here before I rather snidely get accused of being elitist.

    Yeah ! One of the great Greek Philosphers Plato, an amazing ‘sytems’ builder, encompassing a fantastic ‘internal’ logic. One problem though ! Q. And what is the problem with Platos general theory ( of ethics, politics, knowledge an’ all ) ? A. It does’nt correspond with reality!. ( Jonny like much ‘religion’ I contend! )

    In fact its Platos concept of justice and ‘fit’ which is just about the only idea I personally identify and agree with regards what is recognised as a ‘classic’ philosophy. In a modern context one of my major criticisms of Welfare Policy in recent years whether instigated by New Labour or Tory and having spent most of my ‘working’ life unemployed ( over 20 years ‘signing on’ in fact! ), is both ‘political’ parties rather shallow persistance on overlooking a persons individual qualities and characteristics in relation to jobsearch ( and vocation! ). I strongly criticise there seeming insistance that an ‘unemployed’ person regardless of potential, ability and qualification take any job available on the market. For example forcing recently ‘graduated’ University Students into taking up low paid positions at Poundland in a manner that go’s against all common sense and social justice.

    An interesting social fact is that it is precisely this kind of ‘structural’ short-term welfare policy, so petty on the grand scale of things, so often ruthlessly exploited by the many less scrupulous employers out there, that has combined to ‘stunt’ and ‘distort’ the ‘working’ lives of people like myself.

    So its in this contextual reality that despite myself facing accusations of ‘elitism’ by even daring to mention the name Plato in this discourse that I empasise the value and importance of ‘fit’. There is a very real danger Jonny of getting carried away with ‘hubris’ when attempting any idealistic endeavour to create a ‘Best Practice Guide’ for Street Artists and Street Performers for all places and everywhere.

    In fact coming up with ‘guides’ that over zealously don’t take into account variation and difference, and that involve a process that over-rides proper local opinion of affairs may prove in this case a little too over-ambitous!. You may argue that yours involves a consultative democracy, but I know different Jonny, I am very much familiar with your ‘political’ style ( and others like you ) and I am very well aquainted with the reality of policy and the so called ‘representative’ process.

    Those who often claim expertise in matters turn out to be hard-headed liars and ‘the truth’ is, wider public opinion, and intelligent ‘interested’ perspective is often simply excluded or overlooked and issues are ‘steamrolled’. In many cases particularly with what I term ‘the constitution of everday life’ what could be rightfully called ‘democratic decision making’ simply does’nt exist.

  • ‘The Constitution of Everyday Life is a form of Popular Dictatorship!’
    ( Nigel Snookes aka Romanza Rose – Street Performer )

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