Keep Streets Live! Campaign Updates…

Keep Streets Live! Campaign Updates…

Photo: A map showing the area of the city centre which Liverpool City Council intend to sweep clear of buskers during the Mathew Street festival.

 

Friday 24th August was a very important day for the Keep Streets Live! campaign. As many of you will be aware, one of the many buskers in Liverpool affected by the Council’s heavy-handed decision to clamp down on street entertainment has taken steps to seek justice for Liverpool’s buskers in the courts. Aided by Kirwan’s Solicitors, Siobhan McDermott has made an application for a judge to review the lawfulness of the Council’s policy and to strike it down.

Today, Siobhan and I drove to a sitting of the High Court in Manchester for a hearing before Judge Waksman QC. The purpose of the hearing was to seek assurances from Liverpool City Council about their current policy towards street performers and to ensure that there would be no extra clampdown on buskers during the Mathew Street festival. We were delighted that Liverpool City Council made an undertaking at the hearing NOT to

Apply or enforce, or encourage any other person to apply or enforce the street entertainment terms and conditions passed by Cabinet on June 8th 2012

pending the decision of the judicial review that has been applied for. It was noted that those undertakings were given without prejudice to Liverpool City Council’s other rights, power, duties or obligations pursuant to statute and common-law. That is fine by us. We have always said that the Council have a range of existing statutory powers to deal with any problems that arise from time to time. What we have always objected to was their attempt to impose an onerous additional set of terms and conditions onto street performers. We are glad of the Council’s undertaking not to enforce this policy pending the  coming Judicial Review.

However, during the hearing it also emerged that Liverpool City Council have made an operational decision to restrict street entertainment in much of Liverpool city centre for the entire duration of the two day Mathew Street festival. It seems this worrying decision was taken at a multi-agency meeting on the 28th June, but sadly it was not communicated adequately to those who are most affected – namely, the street artists and performers of Liverpool. The Council claim that the Police had been key drivers of the decision but did not provide a letter to this effect. Upon request, a map emerged of the area where street entertainment was to be actively, shall we say, discouraged (see above). As you can see, it covers an enormous part of Liverpool city centre. It was certainly a much larger area than was implied by the words in the letter Joe Anderson sent to Kirwan’s solicitors on August 23rd when he said:

For reasons of crowd management, the Police instruct that certain pitches have to be suspended and that Busking should not occur within certain parts of the City centre as it would constitute a health and safety hazard in terms of crowd management. The City Council are merely following the advice and instruction of the Police.

Given the history of Liverpool City Council’s behaviour towards buskers, we think it a tad unlikely that the major drivers of this policy are Merseyside Police who tend to be too busy fighting crime to act as impromptu talent show judges and anti-busker crusaders. We also question whether street performers constitute a genuine health and safety concern in light of the fact that the Mathew Street festival is an outdoor music festival set in the context of… yes, the streets! Would it not be reasonable to expect that there would be STREET entertainment at an outdoor music festival called the Mathew STREET festival? We do not understand the Council’s attitude towards street performers, nor why they seem to see buskers as such a threat to public order but are happy to turn Liverpool City Centre into a giant outdoor pub for 48 hours and hope for the best.

The Day’s Media Coverage

The Day’s Media Coverage

Photo: Christian Eriksson.

It was a busy and exciting day for street art and performance in Liverpool, even whilst the council’s coercive and needlessly bureaucratic policy took effect across the city.

The planned celebration of Liverpool’s vibrant street performance culture was well received by all parties, buskers and general public alike. Debates and discussions were opened up and enjoyed. Hearts and minds were won (not a hard task, admittedly, given the ludicrous stipulations of Liverpool’s new policy). Besides collecting hundreds, maybe even thousands, of signatures from sympathetic and incredulous members of the public, we spoke to concerned members of the wider business community whose rights and interests we feel this policy is overwhelmingly aimed at safeguarding.

When he wasn’t busking, our very own Johnny, had the opportunity to speak to various media outlets throughout the course of the day, debating the real issues at the heart of Liverpool City Council’s new policy, and raising awareness of the real problems which Liverpool City Council ought to be devoting their time and scarce resources to.

Liverpool Echo’s Peter Guy took to the streets to report on events and interview a number of members of the public (‘Liverpool musicians take to the streets to protest against council’s new busking rules’). Unsurprisingly, many of them were sympathetic to our campaign.

But yet again, Liverpool Confidential have proved themselves amongst the cream of Liverpool’s journalistic crop in filming a confrontation between Jonny and one Ged Gibbons, CEO of Liverpool’s City Central Business Improvement District (BID), a man who bears partial responsibility for the current shape of the council’s shambolic new street performance policy.

 

 

Recent Press Coverage

Recent Press Coverage

Photo: Richard Parmiter.

We’ve manged to summon up a fair amount of press coverage over these last few days about our campaign, and have successfully raised awareness of the wider issues which Liverpool City Council is effectively ignoring in its launch of its needlessly restrictive new policy.

Beginning with an article in the excellent Liverpool Confidential (see here), we’ve now seen articles in Trinity Mirror’s Liverpool Echo (see here, and our response to one reader‘s questions here) and the always excellent and critical Seven Streets (see here).

Our very own spokesperson and Liverpool-born busker Jonny Walker has been presenting the busker’s view along with the pragmatic case against the draconian, punitive and absurd terms of the new policy this morning over on BBC Radio Merseyside, challenging the narrow case made by the policy by Ged Gibbons’, CEO of Liverpool’s business improvement district.

To listen Jonny’s lively petition to Liverpool council to get back to the drawing board on this policy, go here (beginning from the 2 hour, 25 minute mark).