Mark Thomas/Jonny Walker Vs Councillor Abdul Hai

PUBLISHED by the Camden New Journal, by Richard Osley on 24/10/13

ONE of Camden’s most senior politicians was ambushed by busking campaigners, including the comedian Mark Thomas, as he tried to film a television interview defending a new licensing policy.

Community safety chief Councillor Abdul Hai was in the middle of an interview with BBC London when Mr Thomas and campaigner Jonny Walker jumped in and called for a re-think.

They accused the council of not having enough evidence to justify new controls on busking.

Cllr Hai had decided to allow the interview to be filmed just yards from the scene of a demonstration against plans to demand all buskers obtain a licence to perform in Camden’s streets and a move to ban amplified and wind instruments.

Billy Bragg and Bill Bailey had been among the crowd singing ‘We will overcome’ outside Camden Town tube station.

Press: Ham & High On Camden Kazoo Protest

Press: Ham & High On Camden Kazoo Protest

PUBLISHED Ham & High online, by Paul Wright on 25/10/13

Bill Bailey And Billy Bragg Lead Campaign Against Camden’s Busking Policy

Comedian Bill Bailey and musician Billy Bragg joined campaigners in Camden High Street to rally against council proposals to impose stricter rules on busking.

The duo, who were also joined by comedian Mark Thomas and singer-songwriter Jon Gomm, led crowds in acoustic performances of their own songs as well as kazoo-led renditions of the Star Wars Imperial Death March and Jerusalem yesterday.

The stars’ support for the second protest within weeks came as Camden Council put forward proposals to licence busking following complaints by some residents over levels of noise.

Under the new proposals, amplification equipment would be banned and buskers wishing to perform with wind or percussion instruments – including the kazoo – would need to get permission from the council and buy a special licence.

Those caught without a licence could face a fine of up to £1,000 and risk having their instruments confiscated or even sold.

Mr Bailey, who led the crowd in an up tempo sing-along of California Dreamin’ by The Mamas and the Papas, said the plans were “draconian and set a dangerous precedent”.

“Busking is the ultimate in freedom of expression,” he said. “It’s the first opportunity you get to perform in a public place when you’re first starting out.

“I myself busked around Europe and the UK and Eddie Izzard started his career as a street performer.

“So if you’re putting people off at an early stage then it curtails the arts.”

Mr Bragg, who praised Camden for being “vibrant and alive”, said busking was often the only way for people to get themselves known.

“It’s the central part of not only the British spirit but the human spirit to keep the streets open for people to go out and give things a go.

“That’s what busking is about – it’s like the people’s X-Factor. It would be terrible if Camden ended up becoming another dull and dead backwater place because of this.”

Emily Lee, 26, a full-time musician, who lives in Holloway Road, said her own livelihood relied heavily on public street performances.

Although she usually busks around the Embankment, she said her first time performing in Camden left her in tears.

“I came to sing on Camden High Street back in June and the experience means I don’t ever want to come back,” she said.

“After telling me to turn down my amplifier, which I happily did, community officers threatened me with a £2,500 fine and with having my instruments confiscated.

“I started to cry as my instruments were my livelihood.”

But Cllr Abdul Hai, Camden cabinet member for community safety, said the plans were justified.

He 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.

“When we did our consultation the vast majority of our residents supported the draft policy.”

A vote on the suggested proposals is expected at the full council meeting on November 11.

Stop The Press! Kazoos In Camden

Stop The Press! Kazoos In Camden

Press Coverage of CKO Debut Protest in CAMDEN NEW JOURNAL

Published: 17 October, 2013 by PAVAN AMARA

COMEDIAN and political activist Mark Thomas joined pro-busking campaigners in Camden Town for a kazoo-playing protest on Monday.

Mr Thomas, best known for his Channel 4 show Mark Thomas Comedy Project, described Camden Council proposals for stricter busking rules as “draconian” and a kind of “social cleansing”.

He was joined by 60 people at the protest by the Citizens’ Kazoo Orchestra following a petition that has attracted nearly 3,000 signatures.

Under plans for new busking licences, which are in the consultation survey stage, wind and percussion instruments would be banned along with amplifiers.

Mr Thomas told the New Journal: “Busking is part of the fixtures and fittings of any city’s life. It is part of the creative eco-system.

At heart it is a wonderfully democratic form.

“The council might call this a licence but it is a tax, a tax on spontaneity, creativity and the ethos of having a go. Measures brought in against those without a ‘licence’ are draconian and bullying. It is a pleasure to support the fight against the council’s misconceived social cleansing.”

Jonny Walker, a Camden Town busker who organised the protest and petition, said: “It was a carnival atmosphere. People were passing by, picking up a kazoo and joining in.”

Kazoo-blowing protesters played Star Wars’ Death March, The Dam Busters theme tune,Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love.

Philippa Morgan-Walker, director of the Association of Street Artists and Performers, said buskers had been a part of Camden for hundreds of years, and was an “ancient form of Englishness”.

She added: “Part of our distinctive national character is having the right to speak and sing in the street. If we stamp down on busking, we are stamping down on Britishness.”

Mike Collins, who travelled from Yorkshire to the Camden protest, added: “Camden is a centre for musicians, yet the council is coming down harder on musicians than any other local authority.

“Many of us have come from the north and areas outside of London because we want to show solidarity to our fellow buskers.”

Lib Dem councillor Chris Naylor said: “What I hope is that the council agrees a policy that works for solo buskers, playing on their own without amplification – and keeps out the big boys, and gives residents a bit of peace.”