Witness Statement For PCO

Witness Statement For PCO
  12. and
  20. Witness Statement of Jonathan Walker
  22. I, Jonathan Walker of Director and Founder of Keep Streets Live Campaign Limited, Suite 157, 33 Great George Street, Leeds, LS1 3AJ, will SAY AS FOLLOWS:
  1. I make this statement in support of my application for a protective costs order for Keep Streets Live Campaign Limited.
  2. Personal Background
  3. I am a Liverpool-born singer songwriter, musician, political activist, and a professional street performer.
  4. I am the founding director of The Association of Street Artists and Performers (ASAP!) a community organization which exists to protect shared public space as a legitimate forum for informal and spontaneous performances of art and music by advocating for supportive public policies, and by seeking to build relationships of cooperation and mutuality between local authorities, street artists and performers and other interested parties.
  5. I am also the founding director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign Limited, a not for profit organisation set up to be a fundraising and campaigning vehicle to protect community and grassroots uses of shared public spaces.
  6. I am a volunteer citizen advocate for Leeds Advocacy a not for profit service which speaks out for people with learning difficulties, and I am a patron of the Norwich-based charity Musical Keys, which provides music and movement for children and young people with special/complex needs.
  7. I became a street performer whilst studying towards a Politics degree at Durham University and have been performing music on the streets throughout the UK and Europe ever since.
  8. I have seen the power of informal, street-level performances of art and music to create a sense of urban wellbeing, and to foster opportunities for positive encounters between people from all walks of life, at first hand.  These experiences have demonstrated to me that street performance has a significant part to play in the communal life of our towns and cities, and that supportive local authority policies have an important part to play in safeguarding grassroots culture. To that end I have helped local authorities develop policies for street performance in cities such as Liverpool and York.
  9. This Claim
  10. In August 2013 I received an email from Camden Borough Council inviting ASAP, to take part in a consultation about the Council’s plans to introduce compulsory busking licenses throughout the Borough.
  11. When I saw their proposed policy I was extremely concerned about the effect it would have on the future of street art and performance in Camden.
  12. For many young musicians and students, playing on the streets is their first taste of live performance and can provide a valuable forum for gaining experience. For others, the streets provide a platform for social interaction and confidence building at a time when many indoor venues for live music are closing because of economic and social changes.
  13. I was concerned that young people would be unable to afford the Council’s proposed license fee, and would be deterred from playing on the streets because of the formality of the license application process and the length of time required to apply. A ‘special license’ application can take up to 20 working days to process.
  14. Whatever its intentions, it was clear to me that Camden Council were on the verge of making a decision that would have an extremely adverse impact upon what is currently a vibrant and diverse street art and music scene. Their proposed policy was going to make it very difficult for people to perform in the area without threat of prosecution.
  15. I knew I had to do all I could to persuade the Council to change it proposals. I completed the consultation exercise and a copy of my response is at pages B1-B7. I also made my response available on my campaign website: http://keepstreetslive.com/policy-objections/2013/10/our-response-to-camden-councils-consultation
  16. In September 2013 I had a meeting with Tony Hawkes the Senior Licensing Officer at the Council, who developed the policy, at which I outlined my many concerns. However, he informed me that the Council wanted to implement the policy in order to address the concerns raised by residents about noise nuisance and public disorder.
  17. I began to lose hope that I would be able to change the Council’s view alone. So I set up an online petition addressed to the leader of the Council Sarah Hayward asking them to reconsider their decision and to invite professional bodies such as the Musician’s Union to work out a best practice guide for busking in a more collaborative way.
  18. The petition which I started in September has so far been signed by over 6000 people. It can be accessed via this link: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/camden-borough-council-don-t-stop-the-music-keep-streets-live-in-camden
  19. On behalf of all the people who have so far signed the petition, as well as the 500 people registered as members with ASAP, I made three formal deputations to the Council outlining the reasons why I believed their policy to be damaging to the well being of Camden and asking them to rethink their proposals.
  20. These deputations were made at the Cabinet Meeting of October 23rd, the Licensing Committee Meeting of October 29th and the Full Council meeting of November 11th at which the Council voted to adopt the resolution with a vote of 26 for to 17 against.
  21. Throughout this period I communicated with all of Camden’s councillors and sent examples of the way in which other local authorities manage street performances without compulsory licenses and the level of restrictions Camden proposed.
  22. Specifically I sent them copies of Bournemouth’s policy and a copy of Liverpool City Council’s draft busking policy worked out in collaboration with the Musician’s Union. These policies set out a best practice guide for buskers and explain that powers can be used under existing laws to deal with performers who cause problems and can be found at pages B202-B210.
  23. In practice, these policies, similar to the majority of policies in place across the UK have proved well-suited to the oversight of busking performances.
  24. However, all these attempts to change the Council’s proposals failed and having exhausted the political avenues I turned to Leigh Day for advice about the viability of a legal challenge against Camden’s policy.
  25. As the leader of an advocacy body for street artists and performers, and the person who started a petition with over 6000 supporters, as well as a concerned citizen and former resident of Camden, I feel a moral duty to challenge Camden Council’s decision in the courts.
  26. For many visitors and residents, street music is an integral part of Camden’s cultural identity. Camden’s policy would make it extremely difficult for people to access public space for informal performances of music, especially if they were visiting for a short while. In common with many other concerned groups and individuals I believe the Council’s decision to be detrimental for the cultural and social well-being of Camden’s shared public spaces.
  27. Furthermore, Camden Council has described the character of Camden Town specifically, as follows:
  28. “Camden Town is one of London’s most well-known areas. It is home to a vibrant and diverse local community, as well as a thriving economy with a focus on music, design, creative media, arts and culture. This rich mix of activity has made Camden Town a world famous visitor destination, with over 10 million people coming to enjoy the town centre every year”.[1]
  29. My understanding is that the Court must assess the issues raised here against that background.
  30. Finances
  32. As a self-employed musician with a young family I have very limited personal financial resources available to risk on this claim.
  33. Section regarding household income removed for data protection reasons.
  34. For this reason, there is no possibility of me being able to risk a costs order from the Council if my claim is unsuccessful.
  35. As a community group that has never charged for membership, ASAP also has no funds which it can risk on this challenge. It currently has no funds whatsoever.
  36. I knew therefore, in order to take this case forward I would have to single-handedly try to raise money towards the risks of a judicial review claim.
  37. Of course, I hoped the Council would agree to reconsider its decision in light of my letter before claim. But it has chosen not to, so these proceedings have now proved necessary.
  38. I take this claim in the name of my newly founded not for profit company, Keep Streets Live Campaign Ltd, which has started to receive donations already in order to continue with this legal challenge.
  39. To date, we have £750 in a holding account which has been collected from online donations via ASAP’s website and through fund-raising busking events.
  40. I am confident that within the next few months we will be able to raise at least £5000 from a variety of different sources. I will be approaching all the people who have signed the petition and asking them to contribute to our fund. I will be launching an internet based ‘crowd-funding’ campaign, a tool which enables members of the wider public to contribute to a cause that they wish to support. I also intend to hold a number of fund raising events at various locations across the country in the next couple of months with other musicians and buskers.
  41. The campaign has already attracted significant interest from members of the UK’s cultural community – for example, the well-known comics Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey and the musicians Billy Bragg and Jon Gomm, so I am confident that a crowd-funding campaign about this issue will gather attract interest amongst the musical and wider cultural communities in the UK.
  42. However, I don’t think I will be able to raise more than £5000 in this current economic climate.
  43. Of course, if this proves (and I certainly hope it does prove) incorrect, I will let the court and the defendants know immediately that more has been raised.
  44. Without a PCO limiting the company’s risk to £5000 at this stage, I will not be able to continue with this claim. I simply cannot afford to do so.
  45. It is for this reason that I make this application for an order limiting my liability and I hope the Court will recognise the general importance of this claim and allow it to continue.
  46. I believe the contests of this statement are true.
  47. Signed:
  48. Dated:

  49. [1] http://www.camden.gov.uk/ccm/navigation/environment/planning-and-built-environment/place-plans/camden-town/
This post was written by
Singer-Songwriter/Professional Street Performer/Campaigner/Wandering Minstrel

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