Interim Advice to Liverpool’s Buskers


The Association of Street Artists and Performers

Interim Busking Framework 12/07/2012

In response to Liverpool City Council’s attempt to impose a compulsory license scheme on the city’s street art and performance community, ASAP! has launched a campaign of constructive opposition to the Council’s current policy. As part of our campaign, we have advised performers and artists not to sign up to the new scheme in anything like its current form. We go through our reasons in detail on this website: It is our opinion that the Council’s policy is genuinely unworkable in its present form, and unduly restricts the chance of street artists and performers to work productively in Liverpool.

The Musician’s Union have offered to be part of a consultative process which would involve artists, musicians and council officials (amongst others) in drawing up a policy that works for all affected parties. We look to this as the start of long term solution to the situation brought about in Liverpool by the policy whose three month trail period commenced last Monday, July 9th 2012.

Because we have publicly advised performers not to sign up to the current council policy, we are publishing some interim thoughts on best practice should performers and artists choose to go out onto the streets of Liverpool during the current, unwelcome policy’s trial period. This is a consultation document that the Musician’s Union has sent me on best practice for street performing. It is not a finished document, but it contains very useful information for street artists and street performers, about their rights and responsibilities, and the areas of national legislation that are touched upon by street performance and street art.

We will be developing a more detailed set of principles around best practice for street performance and street artists in the days and weeks ahead which we will make available as and when they are completed. In the meantime, this our first draft, made available to performers so that they are able to conduct themselves in a responsible and positive way, without signing up to and giving tacit consent to Liverpool Council’s current policy.

You will notice it doesn’t contain:

  • Stipulations about under-18’s performing. Liverpool City Council’s new policy claims that busking is illegal for those under the age of 18, despite the government’s own guidelines stating that busking is permissible for anybody over the age of 14. We would therefore advise anybody over the age of 14 who wishes to busk that they do so, so long as they follow our other guidelines, and their parent(s)/guardian(s) know what they are doing.
  • Stipulations about the specific amount of floor space a performer can occupy, or how they choose to sit or stand.
  • Stipulations on how many musicians or performers can be part of any one performance.
  • Clauses that enable the council to stop a performance on the grounds of taste.
  • A requirement for small or occasional acts (Like acoustic instrumentalists, and accordion players) to sign up for annual public liability insurance. We would, however, strongly advise any serious, professional musician/street performer to join the Musician’s Union (call 0161 236 1764) or Equity (in the case of non-musical street art acts). Both these bodies have £10 million worth of public liability insurance along with their membership, and provide many useful services.
  • A requirement to book in an advance for pitches. The booking system the council have attempted to impose is unduly restrictive. It displaces performers from Church Street and Lord Street onto smaller, less suitable pitches on Bold Street that are currently used by smaller acts, and other peripheral locations around the city that have not been thought through.
  • Restricting performances to pre-approved locations using threat of trespass prosecution notices. Many of the static pitches the council have proposed are in locations that are not suitable for street art and performance. They also concentrate performances in specific places which will inevitably lead to complaints. We favour dynamic, rolling pitches as they are more flexible and more suitable to the dynamic of street performance. We find undue restrictions on community activity in public spaces to be disturbing and unwelcome.

We ask that any performer and street artist:

  • Always behaves in a considerate manner to other users of the shared street space.
  • When choosing a location for street performance, take care to not cause any obstruction or inconvenience to other highway users. When possible, introduce yourself to the businesses near to where you intend to perform, and let them know what you are doing. Always be mindful of other people and show consideration for others.
  • Always be courteous to members of the public, council and police officers.
  • Don’t set up within 50 meters of another noise generating act. If you are a non-noise generating act, always choose your pitch with consideration for other users of the shared city space.
  • Keep your volume at a reasonable level. If asked to turn down your music, always respond in a polite and considerate way.
  • Do not repeat your material in the same location. Your time at any one location should not exceed your repertoire. Move to another pitch.
  • Remember that you are a public ambassador for the wider street art and performance community. Conduct yourself in a responsible and considerate way at all times.

We ask that any member of the public, council or police officer, bear the following in mind:

  • If you need to talk to a street artist and street performer for any reason, please wait for a suitable break in their performance before engaging with them. Remember that they are working and respect that. It will also lead to a better personal encounter.
  • Please be courteous in your manner if you need to ask the artist/performer to make adjustments to their act.
  • If you have an issue with a street performer or a street artist, we encourage you to talk to them directly before ringing a council official. Often a cordial conversation can solve problems and compromises can be quickly reached. We encourage community interaction.


Here is the Musician’s Union’s Draft Busking Code of Practice: