BRIEF: Just For The Record…

BRIEF: Just For The Record…

For the public record, ASAP! cares deeply about public safety and wholly supports the safe management of crowds. We believe that street performers make the streets safer by creating a calming ambience and adding to the enjoyment of passersby. Many of the people travelling to Liverpool for the Mathew Street festival will EXPECT to see impromptu street performances as a complementary activity to the events on the main stages. In this light we see it as our duty to be out on the streets of Liverpool bringing with us a positive presence for the Mathew Street festival. We do not want to cause problems for the council or the police. We want to help them by creating a pleasant and enjoyable atmosphere for people as they move through the city. We are happy to take regular breaks and to fully cooperate with the police as they keep a watchful eye on the safety of festival attendees.

But we think it is entirely wrong for Liverpool City Council to ask the Police to move ALL street performers off the streets at a time when the whole city is participating in an outdoor music festival 50 years after the Beatles first got together, especially when their presence is no way unlawful.

That is why we are encouraging our street performers to come to Liverpool on Sunday 26th and Monday 27th to be part of this celebration of Liverpool as a city of music and culture. Join us on the streets, but BE PREPARED! Before you come, print out a copy of our ‘best practise’ guidance with our advice on how to conduct yourselves on the streets:

http://keepstreetslive.com/resources/interim-advice-to-Liverpools-buskers

Also, print out a copy of the ASAP! busk card http://keepstreetslive.com/resources/busk-card and familiarise yourself with it. It contains valuable legal information, and advice on how to talk to officials. Always show consideration for other people, and bring a positive and celebratory spirit with you onto the streets. Be aware that there will be a lot of extra people for you to entertain this weekend, from all over the world. Be prepared to work with the police if they need you to take a break for any reason. We want to cooperate with the police. All we ask in return is that we don’t get threatened with arrest for the non-crime of entertaining people at a free street festival.

We suggest that performers choose their pitches on Church Street or Bold Street on Sunday 26th and Monday 27th, as these areas fall outside the unofficial exclusion zone that the Council produced at the High Court hearing, and as such do not constitute one of the ‘suspended pitches’ that Mayor Anderson alluded to in his letter. We look forward to seeing you all on the ground over the Bank Holiday weekend. In the meantime, Keep Streets Live!

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.

More Media from Monday’s Celebratory Busk

More Media from Monday’s Celebratory Busk

Photo: Christian Eriksson.

April Armstrong–Bascombe from the excellent Seven Streets reported on the detrimental social and human cost of this policy’s implementation (‘Busker’s Fear End of Liverpool’s Street Culture‘). Armstrong–Bascombe spoke to performers whose livelihoods stand to be decimated by the new policy, an aspect of the policy which mainstream media outlets have thus far failed to recognise.

Bay TV sent their film crew to report on Monday’s celebration (‘Buskers take streets back in protest at new legislation‘). Unlike a similar report for BBC North West Tonight, Bay TV did not shy away from tackling the many real issues at the heart of Liverpool City Council’s absurd new policy.

The blogosphere was also alight, with standout reportage from Richard MacDonald and Matt Swift. It’s the continual support of individual bloggers like these which will really help to keep Liverpool’s streets live!

And a last big thanks to the MerseyMongoose for the following video, which accurately captures many of the performances of the day (but viewers beware: The views expressed by individual performers do not reflect those of ASAP! or the KeepStreetsLive! campaign as a whole):