The Day’s Media Coverage

The Day’s Media Coverage

Photo: Christian Eriksson.

It was a busy and exciting day for street art and performance in Liverpool, even whilst the council’s coercive and needlessly bureaucratic policy took effect across the city.

The planned celebration of Liverpool’s vibrant street performance culture was well received by all parties, buskers and general public alike. Debates and discussions were opened up and enjoyed. Hearts and minds were won (not a hard task, admittedly, given the ludicrous stipulations of Liverpool’s new policy). Besides collecting hundreds, maybe even thousands, of signatures from sympathetic and incredulous members of the public, we spoke to concerned members of the wider business community whose rights and interests we feel this policy is overwhelmingly aimed at safeguarding.

When he wasn’t busking, our very own Johnny, had the opportunity to speak to various media outlets throughout the course of the day, debating the real issues at the heart of Liverpool City Council’s new policy, and raising awareness of the real problems which Liverpool City Council ought to be devoting their time and scarce resources to.

Liverpool Echo’s Peter Guy took to the streets to report on events and interview a number of members of the public (‘Liverpool musicians take to the streets to protest against council’s new busking rules’). Unsurprisingly, many of them were sympathetic to our campaign.

But yet again, Liverpool Confidential have proved themselves amongst the cream of Liverpool’s journalistic crop in filming a confrontation between Jonny and one Ged Gibbons, CEO of Liverpool’s City Central Business Improvement District (BID), a man who bears partial responsibility for the current shape of the council’s shambolic new street performance policy.

 

 

Recent Press Coverage

Recent Press Coverage

Photo: Richard Parmiter.

We’ve manged to summon up a fair amount of press coverage over these last few days about our campaign, and have successfully raised awareness of the wider issues which Liverpool City Council is effectively ignoring in its launch of its needlessly restrictive new policy.

Beginning with an article in the excellent Liverpool Confidential (see here), we’ve now seen articles in Trinity Mirror’s Liverpool Echo (see here, and our response to one reader‘s questions here) and the always excellent and critical Seven Streets (see here).

Our very own spokesperson and Liverpool-born busker Jonny Walker has been presenting the busker’s view along with the pragmatic case against the draconian, punitive and absurd terms of the new policy this morning over on BBC Radio Merseyside, challenging the narrow case made by the policy by Ged Gibbons’, CEO of Liverpool’s business improvement district.

To listen Jonny’s lively petition to Liverpool council to get back to the drawing board on this policy, go here (beginning from the 2 hour, 25 minute mark).

Our Reply to “Councilstaff”

Our Reply to “Councilstaff”

Photo: Syncretism Associates.

The Liverpool Echo ran a story on our campaign (‘Liverpool busking rules attacked by buskers as ‘highly restrictive‘) in which a Liverpool City Council spokesperson attempted to downplay the true nature of the new policy, and the extent to which it seeks to prescribe every little aspect of Liverpool’s street scene:

What is being implemented [in Liverpool] is standard practice in other major UK cities, including Manchester and London.

But sadly, however, this is untrue. We responded in the comments section on Liverpool Echo’s website that there is no policy in place in Manchester which resembles the one to be rolled out across Liverpool as of today, Monday 9th July, 2012.

Our point did not meet well with all of the Echo’s readers. One reader calling themselves “Councilstaff” responded with a quotation from Manchester Council‘s website:

Busking in Manchester city centre.

Please be aware that busking as live music is considered regulated entertainment under the Licensing Act 2003.

The quote went on to describe the areas in Manchester where busking is permitted.

 

We think our response merits quoting in full:

Hello “Councilstaff”, and thank you for your comment.

In reply to your quotation, the terms and conditions of Manchester Council’s street performance policy differ significantly from the terms and conditions of the policy that is to be rolled out by Liverpool City Council this coming Monday. It would be disingenuous to suggest or imply that they bear any similarity. There are at least four differences:

1. Manchester Council’s street performance policy is voluntary – street artists and performers are not legally required to sign up to it. Liverpool’s policy, in contrast, is mandatory – any person caught performing on the street without signing up to the new scheme stands to be prosecuted for trespass upon land underneath the public highway, land which Liverpool City Council claims it owns.

2. Street performers in Manchester were not issued with trespass notices from council officials in the run-up to Manchester Council’s implementation of their street performance policy. Performers in Liverpool, in contrast, have been issued with trespass notices from council officials in the run-up to the policy’s implementation.

3. Street performers in Manchester are not required by Manchester Council’s policy to be placed on a central database or to hold a valid photo-card identification. Nor, indeed, are they required to carry individual licenses in order to perform. In contrast, all of these requirements must be met in order for individual’s to perform on the streets of Liverpool under Liverpool City Council‘s new restrictive street performance policy.

4. The key difference, then, between Manchester’s street performance policy and Liverpool’s is that whilst Manchester’s merely spells outs the principles under which street performance is expected to occur, Liverpool’s consists in a set of arbitrary and coercive policy guidelines, guidelines which grant absurd powers to enforcement officers (the power to stop a performance if they think the performer is not good enough, for example, or if they take the performer’s act or attire to be ‘offensive‘). In contrast to Liverpool City Council’s new policy, then, Manchester’s policy gives street artists and performers scope for manoeuvre. Unlike Liverpool’s new policy, Manchester‘s policy does not descend into arbitrary policy stipulations.

But just because Manchester council do indeed have a policy which regulates street performance and busking (albeit on a voluntary basis), that is no reason to conclude that Liverpool’s new policy must therefore be legitimate. Quite the contrary. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport‘s position as of December 2006 is that busking is not one the activities which falls under the intent of The Licensing Act 2003. They have published the following commitment:

To make clear in [Licensing] legislation that the policy intention is to exclude e.g. carol singers, buskers, puppet shows for children and poetry readings, from requiring a licence. This measure would most likely be delivered via regulation / and or Guidance.1

The attempt by councils to bring busking under the provision of that act, both in case of Liverpool and of Manchester, is therefore legally questionable at the very least.

In light of this, we feel that Liverpool and Manchester councils stand to benefit from working with streets performers and the Musician’s Union in a genuinely consultative process to find a non-coercive busking policy that works for all sides.

Best wishes,
Keep Streets Live
http://keepstreetslive.com

  1. ‘Lifting the burden – Improving and realising community capacity’, DCMS December 2006, ‘Areas to be explored to achieve further reductions in administrative burdens’, p23, para H. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/LiftingtheBurden.pdf