Buskers’ groups plan musical protest against Nottingham PSPO

Buskers’ rights groups – led by the Keep Streets Live campaign, along with the MusiciansUnion and Equity – have lodged a formal objection to Nottingham City Council’s draft Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO).

The groups say that the proposals will criminalise street performance across almost the entire city centre, regardless of whether any disturbance or nuisance is actually being caused.

Keep Streets Live has proposed an alternative route– a system of busking guidance now successfully adopted by several dozen towns and cities across the UK, including Liverpool, York and Birmingham. But so far we have received nothing from the council other than an offer to monitor the PSPO once it has been put in place. We are disappointed that it seems a decision has already been made, despite objections from both local buskers and national professional bodies.

In response to the draft PSPO, Stephen Brown, Musicians’ Union Midlands regional organiser said:

“The MU has a clearly defined policy agreed by our membership to ensure that busking remains a vibrant, spontaneous and attractive cultural offer. Our approach is inclusive, encourages working with stakeholders in a positive way, but does not hinder local authorities from taking action on genuine nuisance. Cities imposing PSPOs as a solution to what they perceive as busking generated issues clearly misunderstand busking and are using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. I’d advise Nottingham City Council to step back from the brink, and work with organisations like the MU and Keep Streets Live to avoid alienating sections of its own community and suppressing well-established cultural liberty and freedoms.”

Tim Clement-Jones, a Lib Dem peer and prominent live music campaigner, said:

“Busking is vital for bringing cities to life and developing local musical talent. In the recent PSPO Statutory Guidance the government made it clear that busking should not be unduly restricted. I urge Nottingham City Council to reconsider these restrictive and unnecessary proposals.”

Keep Streets Live director Chester Bingley added:

“Considering that even the Antisocial Behaviour team has described problems with busking as only occurring ‘occasionally’, a PSPO seems vastly disproportionate and would certainly be open to a legal challenge. We question why these occasional problems cannot be dealt with firstly by simple dialogue, and then if necessary using existing legislation that targets the individuals concerned rather than inflicts collective punishment on all performers.”

The buskers’ groups are working with the Manifesto Club, which has also raised objections to the parts of the Nottingham PSPO that restrict leafleting, charity collection, and begging. In a submission to Nottingham council, the group said that these measures will ‘do great damage to the citys lively culture of political organisations and charitable causes – as well as making it impossible for homeless people to make money in order to eat.’ Manifesto Club response to Nottingham PSPO

The groups are planning a day of action (including music, leafleting, and a petition) to highlight the contents of the PSPO, raise awareness of its impact, and persuade the police and council that a genuine and active consultation should take place.