The Fighting Fund: Part Two

DONATE to our campaign here

This is a follow up to a campaign that recently finished on indiegogo which you can see at this link. We are aiming to cover all of our costs for a historic High Court Challenge against one of the most draconian anti-busking laws in modern UK history which has been introduced in Camden and sets a precedent for other towns and cities in the UK.  Although we believe that some policies, like Camden’s, are so restrictive they must be challenged in the courts, it is our preference wherever possible to work alongside local and national government to design policies that genuinely enhance the wellbeing of our towns and cities. This campaign will help to provide us with the resources to enable us to do this effectively.

 

  • My name is Jonny Walker. I am a Liverpool-born singer/songwriter, full-time street performer and the Founding Director of the not-for-profit Keep Streets Live Campaign. Our mission is to protect and promote public space as a legitimate forum for informal performances of art and music in the face of laws and policies that marginalise and criminalise the ancient tradition of street art and performance.
  • What are we protecting? A spontaneous and vibrant street culture brings life to our towns and cities. It helps create urban community and a unique sense of place at a time when our high streets are all too often populated by the same chain stores and characterised by uniformity. Despite this, hundreds of local authorities across the UK have introduced heavy handed restrictions that discourage people from performing art and music on the streets and often result in town centres which are desolate and devoid of colour. We want to stop that happening, not only in Camden, but anywhere else in the UK!

 

  • Our vision is to see towns and cities across the UK embrace grassroots street culture and to adopt policies that are supportive of informal performances of art and music. We want to help local authorities across the country to treat street entertainment as a fantastic opportunity to bring life and colour to our communities rather than as a problem that needs to be legislated against. Existing legislation against noise nuisance, obstruction and antisocial behaviour is more than adequate to deal with any problems that arise from busking.
  • Whilst we will always be prepared to challenge policies and attitudes that undermine or threaten a vibrant and spontaneous street culture, we will always be willing to work alongside local authorities to help them create genuine opportunities for cooperation and working together for the good of everybody. We passionately believe in culture as a means to human flourishing!
What have we done so far?

 

  • Last year in Liverpool, a city synonymous with live music, I helped lead a campaign against a license scheme similar to Camden’s which threatened street musicians with trespass prosecutions, banned under 18s from playing music and placed severe restrictions on the life of the streets. Our campaign was successful and the new law was overturned. We are now working with Liverpool Council and the Musician’s Union to draw together a fair and open ‘best practise guide’ for street performing that balances the needs of all the users who share public spaces. We aim to create a ‘best practise’ template for street culture which can easily be adapted to the needs and contexts of other towns and cities across the UK and beyond.
  • In York we set up a petition calling on the Council to scrap a highly restrictive license schemeand to make the streets more open. Again, as a direct result of our campaign, York’s civic leaders made significant changes to their policy and invited musicians, street performers and other bodies to be part of an ongoing dialogue.
  • In Camden we have set up a petition signed by over 6800 people and counting. We have engaged with local councillors to communicate the importance of a vibrant and spontaneous street culture. With one exception every Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Green Councillor voted against Camden’s new anti-busking law. We had well-attended ‘protest busks’ and created the ‘Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra’ to highlight the absurdity of musician’s having their instruments seized by the council or the police.
  • Our High Court challenge aims to overturn the unjust law that Camden have introduced. Once that has happened we hope that the Council will choose to work alongside us to introduce a new policy that works for the good of everyone!
  • Why We Need Your Help

    We are challenging a local authority with a budget of hundreds of millions and we are a tiny grassroots organisation. The court has recognised this and granted us a protective costs order of £7500 which is the maximum amount we will have to pay whatever the outcome of our case.
    Our first indiegogo campaign raised a headline figure of £7575 but that is not the final amount that we are able to hold in reserve for our legal challenge.
    Firstly, because our first campaign didn’t reach its initial target (Set at £25,000, before we were granted a protective cost order) indiegogo deduct 9% from our campaign fund as their fee which was £681.75.
    Secondly, we wanted to set up the Keep Streets Live Campaign as a not for profit organisation with a written constitution and defined mission to protect street culture. We employed Wrigley’s Solicitors in Leeds, specialist charity’s lawyers, to write our constitution and articles of association so that we would have a formal structure for the work we plan to do and this cost £600.

    Thirdly, we had to pay for the making of two ‘pitch’ videos for the campaign, as well as the design, manufacture and postage of the perks (badges, post-cards, prints and t-shirts) that we are offering in return for donations. In addition, our some of our perks (Such as the fund-raising dinner) have underlying costs that we need to cover before putting the donation towards our fund. Taken together these campaign costs amount to approximately £1100 for the last campaign.

    £7575 – £681.75 – £600 – £1100 = £5193 left

    So we have a further £2307 in order to raise our target figure of £7500. That is why we have set up this second campaign. We have set the target figure at £2700 to reflect the fact that indiegogo will charge us 4% if we reach our target and 9% if we don’t, and to cover the future costs of producing perks to send out to people (or, in the case of the fund-raising dinner, to feed people!). We’ve got lots of great perks left over from the last campaign, and with new ones still to be announced are confident of hitting our new target!

    If we win our case, the money raised will be used to resource our newly founded not for profit organisation as we seek to implement positive policies in other towns and cities across the UK and also to make a discretionary payment to our legal team who have been acting on our behalf on a conditional fee arrangement (no upfront cost).

    If our case is unsuccessful at this stage we have the choice of appeal and have a court guarantee that our legal costs will not exceed £7500. Your contributions will safeguard us for this eventuality.

     

    Other Ways You Can Help

    We have been delighted that over 300 people contributed to our last campaign. The support of people from across the world has been a source of tremendous encouragement…thank you!

    We are a growing community of artists, performers, musicians and people who value public spaces that are open to the creative arts. Even if you are unable to contribute financially at this time, we would still love for you to get involved.

    Contact me on jonnywalker@me.com to find out how!

    Join with us as we seek to protect and preserve the ancient freedoms of the street and find creative ways to build urban community and to Keep Streets Live!

    Join our Facebook Group and follow our page

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/keepstreetslivecamden

    https://www.facebook.com/KeepStreetsLive

    http://keepstreetslive.com

What’s Next? Dancing In The Streets Made Illegal?

What’s Next? Dancing In The Streets Made Illegal?

Written by Philippa Morgan Walker, ASAP/KeepStreets Live Associate Director and Journalist

On the 24th of October 2013, something unusual happened in North London. A collection of people (some more well-known than others) organised a mass protest busk to oppose a heavy-handed, unimaginative street performance licence scheme that would restrict what can and can’t be done in the borough’s public space. For example, the playing of wind instruments in Camden’s public space would be a punishable offence. In an act of defiance, the humble kazoo recruited justice-loving people with a faint musical ability and formed… The Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra!!

It’s not every day you witness 150+ people humming/blowing kazoos and generally making merry outside Camden Town tube station in unison; even more surprising is that the collective joy was not spurred on by a tipple or a pint. Musicians, buskers, artists, lovers of culture, Camden residents, disgruntled councillors and police officers fighting back smiles, congregated in the streets in the midst of the ‘consultation’ process for proposals of regulating street performance in Camden Borough. Add star Bill Bailey, activist/comedian Mark Thomas, musician Billy Bragg, the world-leading guitarist Jon Gomm and ASAP’s/Keep Streets Live Jonny Walker to the throng and you’ve got a real buzz and a honeypot for media. From playing the Citizen Kazoo Orchestra’s perfected rendition of the Star Wars ‘Death March’ to off-the-cuff performances from Bill, Billy et al, the two-hour long protest busk highlighted how essential spontaneous street culture is to London’s vibrancy.

The best stories have layers and there’s such a complex interplay of tensions between public space and residents, music lovers and haters, freedom fighters and stiff red tape, police, kazoo songs and political speeches, council officials with a weak grasp on telling the truth to rolling cameras, the slow death of the British high street, council cuts and the basic human right to sing a song on the paving stones of the UK. What a hash! I’m not a political journalist, as is blatantly obvious. I cut my teeth writing catwalk stories for VOGUE.com and discussing shoes with bags and bags with shoes for glossy magazine titles. My concern is for our high street. Up and down the country, the heart of town centres are draining of colour and streets look like clones of one another. The UK’s high streets are rapidly becoming dull and lack-lustre places where you’d rather dash through and then complete one’s shopping online, to avoid the moronic repetition of the same retailers and the craning necks of CCTV. And yet, street performers add vibrancy, value and a much-needed sense of local community to our streets.

streetname1

A good busker is like a street angel, a beacon of light and a centre of gravity for vulnerable, homeless, lonely people. And then there’s the unexpected joy of hearing a talented musician delight you with their version of ‘Fast Car’ as you whisk through another day. Busking is not begging – it’s an art form with a survival eco-system where the effective performer doesn’t go hungry. There’s a load of smart social history and cultural heritage one could pull up here but for the purpose of time, settle with this: Socrates used the street as a stage. At ASAP/Keep Streets Live we seek to lift the public perception of busking and train performers with First Aid skills, share approaches for helping the homeless and much more.

Socrates teaching Perikles and others

Socrates teaching Perikles and others

Of late, the Association of Street Artists and Performers (ASAP) and its campaigning arm, Keep Streets Live, has been hot on the campaign trial to protect the rights of buskers and street entertainers in Camden, London from what would be the UK’s most restrictive and astonishingly harsh busking license scheme that would criminalise busking outside of its barricades and codes of conduct. (Playing a flute in the street would be illegal and punishable by a £1,000 fine. If you don’t pay that fine in 28 days then the council will sell your flute. Slap! slap! Get back in line, people of the machine.) I attended a council meeting on 22nd October, 2013 at Camden Town Hall where I saw a Labour-led council approve a policy, without a genuine consultation process taking place. This policy would change the law, criminalise activities that are basic forms of human rights and make life generally more miserable for the creative community at large.

Hey, Camden Council! A consultation is when you inform, discuss and reshape affected parties, under democratic law, about proposals or changes in law you wish to make so that the just outcome is achieved. This was not the case here. 155 people (that’s right, ONLY ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY FIVE PEOPLE) completed a cleverly-worded questionnaire that aimed to serve the desires of the policy makers. Buskers were framed as being the cause for petty crimes. Evidence for this insulting, naive, ludicrous and stupid claim, please! Street performance was linguistically painted as a nuisance, as antisocial behaviour and as something that police need to ‘deal’ with. The conclusive categories for this consultation lumped ‘all’ with ‘most people’ so that councillors could declare that the results of the quiz fell into favour of the policy.

FAST FORWARD TWO DAYS, Councillor Abdul Hai is quoted on BBC TV stating that 65% of Camden’s residents approve the proposed busking policy. That’s a seriously massaged statistic! I spoke to this man at the Camden Town Hall asking him if he would talk to Keep Streets Live properly and consult over this policy – an empty stutter followed my reasonable question. I watched Councillor Hai roll his eyes and arrogantly dismiss Jonny Walker’s plea for reason in the deputation. With sadness I listened from the gallery at the Town Hall as the policy gained traction amongst the cabinet on twisted points – ‘Camden’s residents cannot sleep because of repetitive nuisance busking’. All reasonable people will agree that residents have rights and that losing sleep due to anti-social behaviour is not acceptable, so pedalling the policy with this point will draw in popular support but this is a clever PR spin. The Association of Street Artists and Performers and Keep Streets Live support residents, buskers and the proper use of community space alike. The truth that isn’t being spoken here is this – there have not been anywhere near the volume of residents disturbed by buskers as the Council will have you believe. 65% of residents DO NOT support this. There have been 108 complaints in an entire year related to busking and a large portion of these ‘complaints’ are more like observations. I quote Jonny Walker in an earlier campaigning blog on the evidence:

I have conducted a through analysis of the 108 complaints received in the entire borough of Camden in the last year relating to busking.

42 separate people made one complaint in the year
5 people complained twice
3 people complained three times
3 people complained four times
1 person complained nine times
1 person complained eleven times
1 person complained fifteen times

This means that means that 56 of the 108 total complaints were made by 9 people in the entire Borough of Camden for an entire year.

Many of these complaints are spurious or seem to be complaining about the fact that a busker is there AT ALL:

Complainant 27 : ‘Busking on Camden Lock’
Complainant 25 : ‘Busking on Camden High Street’
Complainant 55: ‘Busker on Canal Tow Path on Oval Road’
Complainant 37: ‘Reporting Busking near Canal Bridge’
Complainant 17: ‘Busker – has been there a number of times – Camden Lock’
Many of these ‘complaints’ are objecting to the very presence of the busker on the street and could well reflect the prejudice of the person calling in. No account is made in the log as to whether the complaint was valid or what investigation was made. This log constitutes a very flimsy evidence base for the introduction of the policy and leaves it wide open to legal challenge. There may be a small minority of residents who feel very strongly that busking should be strictly controlled or banned altogether but is it the job of the council to mould the culture of Camden around the desires of a small group of people, or rather to keep in mind the common good and act on behalf of all who live, work and visit Camden and make it the wonderful place it is.

Councillor Abdul Hai, please tell the truth. Do not use PR spin to weave politics into the fabric of our society. We care about residents too. 220,000+ people live in Camden. 108 univestigated complaints in 365 days, in one of the busiest, noisiest and most hectic boroughs in London is rather conservative, in my humble opinion. YES, take these complaints seriously but don’t hold a megaphone to the mouthpiece of a minority, without speaking to the majority or even doing any homework on the real issues.

Keep the vibrancy in our public spaces - support grassroots culture!

Keep the vibrancy in our public spaces – support grassroots culture!

As Bill Bailey puts it, ‘Playing a kazoo in the street will be illegal if this policy goes through. It’s utter madness… Busking is part of Britain’s cultural heritage. It’s about freedom, entertainment and reaching out to community’.

What do I mean by freedom fighting, ASAP/Keep Streets Live followers? Well… If lies are softly spoken, then we will blow our kazoos louder and shout the truth out. This ain’t over until our human rights lawyer sings in the streets…

PhilippaMorganWalker.com

@PhilippamorganW

Press: BBC On ASAP’s Camden Kazoo Protest

Press: BBC On ASAP’s Camden Kazoo Protest

See the TV coverage of Bill Bailey, Jon Gomm, Mark Thomas, Billy Bragg and Jonny Walker in Camden (oh, err, with kazoos – of course)

BBC Published on 24/10/12

Kazoo Protest Against License Plans

A kazoo orchestra has taken to the streets of Camden to protest about plans to licence buskers.

Comedians Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey along with musician Billy Bragg were among the people playing the wind instrument.

Under the proposals by Camden Council, anyone who wants to play a wind instrument, apart from the flute and the recorder, would need a special licence.

The council says it is responding to the concerns of residents who have complained.

BBC London’s Wendy Hurrell spoke to comedian Bill Bailey; Jonny Walker, from the Association of Street Artists and Performers; and Camden councillor Abdul Hai.

 

BBC, By Rebecca Cafe, PUBLISHED ON 24/10/2013

COULD KAZOOS BE BANISHED IN CAMDEN TOWN?

Camden Town is famed for its musical connections – so why is the council trying to ban kazoos?

If you meander through the north London town on any given day your ears are assaulted by a cacophony of sounds – loud music, market traders, sirens and gig goers spilling out on to the streets.

Along with famous venues such as the Roundhouse and the Electric Ballroom, the “most rock ‘n’ roll borough in London” also offers music in the form of buskers.

And on Thursday afternoon, the main buskers drawing the crowds were comedians Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey along with musician Billy Bragg.

A kazoo orchestra played in Camden against plans to licence buskers
They were playing Star Wars’ Death March on kazoos, a wind instrument they claim Camden council wants to ban.

At the moment anyone can rock up and play whatever they like, whenever they like.

However, the council wants to restrict performances to between 10:00 and 21:00.

Under the proposals, anyone who wants to play a wind instrument – apart from the flute and the recorder – would need a special licence, as would all percussion instruments. Any form of amplification would be banned.

‘Social cleansing’
“It’s a particularly draconian law,” said Mark Thomas.

“The thing about culture and where we live is that London is a vibrant, exciting and lively place and we want it to stay like that.”

He added: “It smacks of social cleansing and I think Camden is a unique and wonderful borough and actually it needs to keep its uniqueness rather than airbrush over it and to clean it out.”

Thomas said the council did not need to introduce a new law, but should instead set up a forum whereby the entertainers, business owners and residents could get together and work out any problems.

“I totally accept there’ll be occasions when it’s too loud; totally accept there’ll be occasions when it’s inappropriate, but you just get a method of good practice.

“If the people in Camden who are living this cutting edge life can’t put up with a few people standing in a street singing… then it’s musical incorrectness gone mad”

Billy Bragg
Musician
“If you want to solve the problem, the way to do it isn’t to be very draconian and use a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Busker Jonny Walker, who has spearheaded the campaign, said although the council had accused him of being alarmist, it was using the threat of coercion to manage what was a “very small problem”.

He said in the last year, there were 104 complaints – 15 from the same person – and that there were 52 complainants in total.

The musician added that under the terms of the licence, instruments could be confiscated and performers could be fined £1,000.

For Bragg, his main concern is that the cultural heritage of the area could change.

Camden’s links with rock ‘n’ roll go back to the mid-’60s, after a disused railway yard was turned into a counter-culture landmark called the Roundhouse. Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix played in its cavernous interior.

Amy Winehouse praised the area in her Grammy Awards acceptance speech; Bob Marley lived there in 1972 and Prince had a boutique shop there in the mid 1990s.

‘Dull and dead’
“Camden is the most rock ‘n’ roll borough in London.

“Wouldn’t it be sad if Camden was as dull and dead as some other backwater place? It’s vibrant, it’s alive.

“My friend’s kids, when they come to play in London they want to play in Camden, they don’t want to play in Barking or Sutton,” said Bragg.

Busker
Under the licence terms, acoustic guitars would be allowed
He added: “If the people in Camden who are living this cutting edge life can’t put up with a few people standing in a street singing “Take you by the hand and let me take you around the streets of Camden” then it’s musical incorrectness gone mad.”

The council said it had no plans to ban busking, but it had to listen to the concerns of residents who have complained.

Cabinet member for community safety Abdul Hai said: “We believe that all forms of street entertainment are an important part of the musical and cultural heritage of the borough.

“However, in recent months we have received an escalating number of complaints from local residents regarding disruptive busking activity, particularly where amplification is used in residential areas.

“We cannot allow the lives of people who live and work in Camden to be disrupted by noise nuisance.

“However, we are not trying to drive away street entertainers we are instead looking to attract them and add value to the performances that they give.”