Repeal London’s Anti Busking Laws

Repeal London’s Anti Busking Laws

We have launched a new petition to safeguard London’s buskers from laws that threaten cultural freedoms. Please sign it via this link:

https://www.change.org/p/rt-hon-theresa-may-mp-repeal-london-s-anti-busking-laws

 

Cultural Freedoms Under Threat

 

The future of spontaneous performances of art and music on London’s streets is seriously under threat because of bad laws which strangle grassroots culture and criminalize artists and musicians. If we act now we have a unique opportunity to lift the burden on culture-makers by supporting Lord Clement Jones’ amendments to the Deregulation Bill which is going through Parliament at this moment, and striking this outdated legislation off the statute books for good.

 

Why the law needs to change

 

On the 9th April 2014, Boris Johnson launched the #backbusking campaign with the aim of making London ‘the most busker friendly city on earth’ by reducing some of the red tape and restrictive laws that have turned London into a ‘no go’ area for buskers. He was joined at the launch by the winners of a mayoral competition set up to find ‘London’s best buskers’, a young band called “The King’s Parade”. A month later that same band were arrested by the Met Police for busking in Leicester Square under Section 54 of the 1839 Metropolitan Police Act which makes it an offence to use a noisy instrument ‘to gather alms’ on the street. The same law also makes it an offence to fly kites and ride sleighs, and yet this antiquated legislation was used to hold four talented young musicians in custody for six hours after arresting them in front of a shocked crowd, despite the fact that they represented the very best of London’s busking talent.

 

It gets worse…

 

In November 2013, Camden Council passed a resolution that made it a criminal offense to sing or perform any kind of music on the streets without first paying for a license even if the music making is undertaken with no intention of collecting money. Any person who wishes to play music in public spaces anywhere Camden must pay a fee of up to £47, wait for up to 20 working days, submit to a public consultation and be deemed ‘a fit and proper person’ to busk after a police check. They were able to introduce this intrusive and restrictive policy because Section V of the London Local Authorities Act 2000 allows local authorities in London to criminalize spontaneous street performance, impose fines of up to £1000, confiscate musical instruments and to sell them to pay the fines. This restricive policy is being challenged in the Court of Appeal but meanwhile other London Boroughs such as Kensington and Chelsea and Southwark are considering using this law to control street culture and it could quickly spread amongst all the 32 London Boroughs if the underlying legislation is not struck off.

 

 

Why Should We Stand Up?

 

London is one of the world’s great cultural centers with buskers making a signifiant contribution to the cultural and visitor economy of our capital city and yet young musicians can face lifelong criminal records and the loss of their livelihoods and precious musical instruments simply for playing music on the streets, this simply cannot be justified.

 

Live music contributes £632 million to the UK economy each year and busking provides a vital forum for young British artists to gain valuable performance experience in that most democratic and open of forums, the streets! Artists as diverse as Ed SheeranJessie JPassengerEddie IzzardBill BaileyBilly BraggRod StewartPaul Simon and even US founding father, Benjamin Franklin cut their performing teeth on the streets. Would they have started busking if they faced arrest and a criminal record for doing what they loved?

 

Section V of the London Local Authorities Act 2000 and Section 54 of the 1839 Metropolitan Police Act threaten the survival of a great British cultural tradition in our capital city, London. They must be taken off the statute books.

 

 

We Need Your Support.

 

Lord Clement Jones – the author of the 2012 Live Music Act and a passionate supporter of grassroots art and culture – has proposed an amendment to the Deregulation Bill to repeal London’s anti-busking legislation. With government support this is a unique opportunity to force London’s Boroughs to come up with a more creative and supportive stance towards their musicians and artists. The Greater London Authority has convened a taskforce to develop a code of conduct for busking across London. Councils and the police have all the powers they need to tackle genuine noise nuisance and obstruction from busking without criminalizing spontaneous street performance and introducing blanket prohibitions. We are calling on them to work alongside buskers, businesses and professional bodies such as the Musician’s Union to develop a code of conduct for London that supports and nurtures a fine cultural tradition instead of stifling it by turning artists into criminals.

 

 

 

This approach works

 

The Keep Streets Live Campaign is a not for profit organization that exists to protect informal offerings of art and music in public spaces. We successfully challenged restrictive license schemes in Liverpool and York and are now working alongside the local authority and business groups alongside professional bodies like the Musician’s Union to develop codes of practice for busking which promote harmonious relationships between buskers and businesses whilst preserving spontaneity and openness by spelling out how existing laws can be used to target genuine nuisance. We are challenging Camden Council’s restrictive busking law in the Court of Appeal and working with the London Mayoral taskforce to develop a pan-London code of conduct that simplifies busking rules across London. You can find out more about us by visiting http://keepstreetslive.com

 

Busking Laws and the Lords

Lib Dem Peer Lord Clement-Jones, a well-known supporter of live music who brought in the Live Music Act in 2012 as a private member’s bill, has proposed the effective repeal of the law underpinning Camden’s draconian busking legislation.

(Report by Hamish Birchall with additional input from Jonny Walker)

During yesterday’s 2nd Reading of the Deregulation Bill in the House of Lords, he said:

‘The Mayor of London has rightly been fulsome about the place of busking in London life. In the Bill we should explicitly remove Part 5 of the London Local Authorities Act 2000, which provides for busking licensing schemes at individual London councils’ discretion. We should also remove Section 54(14) of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, which was recently used against buskers in Leicester Square.’

If implemented, these measures would pull the plug on Camden’s controversial borough-wide and extremely costly licence scheme (about £70k so far), and prevent buskers being arrested and detained by the police merely for doing what buskers do.

Lord Clement-Jones continued: ‘As I explained to the House [on 30th June], the King’s Parade, the winners of the mayor’s busking competition, were interrupted by the police mid-song as they performed in Leicester Square and informed that they were in breach of Section 54 of the archaic 1839 Metropolitan Police Act. They were bundled into a van by eight officers and held at Paddington police station for more than six hours. This 174-year-old piece of legislation, which also – I think the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, would be pleased by this – prohibits kite flying, sleigh riding and doorbell ringing, was used to justify the arrest.’

According to licensing lawyers, a potential criminal offence is committed by buskers under the 1839 legislation if they accept a donation or even hand out a free CD. Moreover, the police can use these powers against any busker in London – even if they are among the select few now licensed to busk in Camden (7, at the last count).

The Leicester Square day-time arrest, widely reported in the national press, took place on 14th May. It was filmed by a member of the public and posted on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjFLNjtA6uc.  No-one had complained about the band.  This particularly draconian enforcement appears to have been part of a purge of Leicester Square buskers, backed and part-funded by the Heart of London Business Improvement District. See:http://bit.ly/1xL0yd7 and note the use of noise abatement notices.

Lord Clement-Jones went on to explain the rationale for his proposals, at the same time strongly criticising Camden’s regime:

‘There are more than adequate powers under separate legislation to deal with noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour. For example, there is the Environmental Protection Act 1990 or the Control of Pollution Act 1974. There are also powers to make by-laws available to local authorities with respect to street nuisance. Camden, under the London Local Authorities Act, has banned street music at any time, amplified or unamplified, except through a special busking licence. Camden’s approach runs completely counter to the arguments heard and accepted by government and Parliament during the Live Music Act debates.’

Busking deregulation will now be formalised as amendments to the Deregulation Bill for consideration at the Lords Committee stage, for which a date has yet to be fixed but could be by October. If the amendments are approved, the Commons would then consider them.

Another important October date is the 6th when there will be a ‘permission hearing’ at the Court of Appeal for the Keep Streets Live Campaign against the High Court ruling in support of Camden’s busking licence scheme.  The Keep Streets Live Campaign is also part of a London Mayoral busking taskforce set up by Boris Johnson to make London more busker friendly.

The campaign to keep music live on the streets of Camden and protect cultural freedoms is very much on!

With love,

Jonny

Founding Director of Keep Streets Live Campaign

http://keepstreetslive.com

http://facebook.com/groups/keepstreetsliveincamden

http://facebook.com/groups/keepstreetsliveinlondon


Key links:

Greater London Authority and Mayor of London launches #Backbusking campaign 9th April:
http://bit.ly/VDwv9i
Boris Johnson warns ‘Don’t let London become a no-go area for buskers’.

Hansard transcript of Deregulation Bill 2nd reading, 7th July:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/140707-0002.htm [search on page for ‘busk’]

Lord Clement-Jones’ question about busking and 1839 Metropolitan Police Act in the House of Lords, 30th June:
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2014-06-30a.1529.3&s=speaker%3A13517#g1529.4
Support of Mayor of London for busking quoted. Concerns about over-regulation of busking also raised by Viscount Clancarty, Baroness Hamwee and others. Government spokesperson, Baroness Williams of Trafford, is broadly supportive of busking, but mistakenly suggests it is not ‘criminalised’ when for all practical purposes it is under the 1839 MPA.