Liverpool’s policy and our objections, Part 2

Liverpool’s policy and our objections, Part 2

Photo: LepititNicholas

 

Liverpool City Council say:

4. Formal events organised by Liverpool City Council, Liverpool One, City Centre BID, Commercial District Bid, Albert Dock Company, and their partners will take precedence over street entertainment.

 

We say:

Street entertainers will be tolerated if they meet Liverpool City Council’s strict requirements, in other words, but will be cleared to make way for pre-arranged events. For major festivals like the annual Beatles week and Mathew Street festival, the streets are often completely ‘swept clean’ of performers by police acting on the council’s orders. It strikes us that this statement enshrines a preference to ‘hire in’ street life into local government policy, rather than encouraging spontaneous and organic street culture to flourish, as Liverpool has done historically.

 

They say:

5. Entertainers […] shall not dress or say or express in any other way anything which is likely to cause alarm, distress or offence to a member of the public. The entertainment should not include any activity which could cause harm to members of the public […]

 

We say:

This statement is worryingly vague. The policy has veered firmly into the subjective realm of opinions. Some of us like to wear bright blue trousers, which some find offensive, but that is hardly grounds enough for preventing those who wear such clothes from performing on Liverpool’s streets. Offence thresholds vary considerably from person to person. Any offence registered ought to be weighed against the unexpressed wishes of those who, for whatever reason, do not voice their enjoyment which street performance brings. Of the many thousands who enjoy street performance, few feel the need to express their enjoyment in any formal letter to their local council. They take for granted that the council will protect Liverpool’s vibrant street culture.

In adjudicating between competing rights, then, we would do well to recall John Stuart Mill’s famous ‘harm principle’: the actions of individuals should only be curtailed in order to prevent harm to other individuals. In our analysis, the offence taken by a few individuals to street performers in no way constitutes adequate grounds for curtailing the enjoyment that countless people take from street performance – be it unregulated or otherwise.

 

They say:

6. Only one entertainer or group of entertainers (maximum 5) will be allowed at any one time at any one site without prior consent.


We say:

Five entertainers constitutes an arbitrary limitations on the number of performers, excluding such notable street performers as the nine piece Liverpool-based Kazimier Krunk band seen here performing in Edinburgh, who continue busk around Liverpool city centre and LiverpoolOne on a regular basis:

 

 

We therefore urge the council to provide their reasoning behind this seemingly-arbitrary figure. This figure is part of a broader trend within Liverpool City Council’s policy to prescribe every single detail of street performance – a trend which fails to appreciate the realities of street performance. A well-rehearsed nine-piece jazz band will cause less nuisance, on balance, then one badly-rehearsed bagpiper.

 

They say:

7. Entertainers must stand unless their performance requires them to be seated or if they have a disability which prevents them from standing. If their performance does require them to be seated then this must NOT be directly on the floor.

 

We say:

Some street performers like to sit on the floor, some like to stand, some like to sit on a chair. It is unclear why, when neither of these seating arrangements is liable to cause any harm, such prosaic concerns should fall to any local council to decide.

 

They say:

8. A small (up to A4 sized) notice advising of thanks and detailing sources of further information (social media sites etc) about the street entertainer may be displayed on side of the open receptacle.

 

We say:

What grounds are there for Liverpool City Council to decide on the size of paper a performer might use to display his/her biography Facebook page? Writing on A4 is rather small from a distance? What difference could it possibly make for the sign to be A3? This is yet another example of Liverpool City Council’s policy being unnecessarily prescriptive.