Published by the London Evening Standard by Anna Dubuis on 13th March 2014. Please note that there are many factual errors in this article in relation to the terms of the busking policy. These include: special licenses do not allow playing after 9pm and are required for anybody who wishes to use wind instruments, percussion or any amplification. There is no presumption that special licenses, once applied for, will be granted.
Comedian Bill Bailey today warned that a clampdown on buskers in Camden risks wrecking the borough’s reputation for music.
Bailey spoke out after the council successfully defended a policy forcing street entertainers to buy licences against a High Court challenge. From March 24, busking without a licence will be a criminal offence enforced with fines of up to £1,000 and the power to seize instruments.
A standard licence will cost £19 a year, but musicians using amplifiers or playing after 9pm will have to pay £47 and have their request approved by the authority. The policy was drawn up following complaints from residents about late-night noise. Musician Bailey, 50, said: “Clamping down on this is a lessening of the soul of a city. It’s a very worrying precedent, we need to fight it. I’ve been a busker in my time.
French visitors: the Jerry Khan Bangers performing in the borough (Nigel Howard)“When I first came to London the first performance I saw was a busker. I heard a fantastic saxophone player and then a brilliant string quartet and I thought, ‘Wow what an amazing city this is’. Busking is the last bit of freedom you can have in performance.”
Mrs Justice Patterson, sitting at the High Court, ruled Camden’s policy was “both necessary and a proportionate response”. The ruling is a blow for the Keeping Streets Live Campaign, which has been ordered to pay £7,500 costs. Busker Jonny Walker, 33, who led the campaign, pledged to take the case to the Court of Appeal, saying Camden’s musical heritage was under threat.
Lindçay Amanat of the Jerry Khan Bangers, visiting from Toulouse, said: “We came to Camden knowing its reputation for music. If they introduce a licence, I don’t think we will pay it and will go somewhere else.”
Maryam Eslamdoust, chairwoman of the licensing committee, said: “We had to adopt this regulation to address ongoing nuisance suffered by residents.”