Best Practice Busking Guides

Since our first success in Liverpool, we have now worked with several dozen UK councils to introduce best practice guidance for busking, applicable both to performers and the street side community of businesses and residents.

Our guidance is a system based on dialogue, mutual respect, and backed up with properly-used enforcement action where necessary. The approach is flexible, constructed involving all stakeholders, and can be adapted to suit the particular geographical and cultural needs of any given town or city.

You can find links to some of these below which can be used as reference for the specific locations, and also as a template for starting negotiations in the future.

Accrington

Bath

Birmingham

Canterbury

Chester

Liverpool

Worcester

York

This post was written by
Singer-Songwriter/Professional Street Performer/Campaigner/Wandering Minstrel

7 Comments on "Best Practice Busking Guides"

  • Keep Streets Live exists to preserve the informal and spontaneous nature of busking.

    This guide sets out principles around pitch selection and etiquette in more detail then any other guide I’ve seen. Not only that but it is designed for the benefit of businesses and residents too who may not know the best way to approach a busker who is causing an issue.

    There is a detailed description of how enforcement action could be taken against buskers causing noise nuisance.

    There is an explicit recognition from the Mayor that busking is to be encouraged and supported.

    Buskers themselves are able to make use of this code. If you felt yourself to be bullied by the proximity of another busker to the detriment of your act, under this guidance you could call the council and ask for assistance if you had already tried to talk to the busker to no avail.

    Of course, this guidance would need to be adopted to the particulars of each locality where it was introduced, but it embodies values and principles that are relevant anywhere.

    The evening-tide video you saw does not reflect the day time scene in Liverpool. Nor does my proclamation that I am going to play ‘Wonderwall’ reflect my normal repertoire! It is quite simply the most requested song on the streets come the evening so I normally relent and play it once or twice if the person requesting it is adamant! After all, busking is for the delight of the audience as well as the performer!

  • The precise aim of this guidance is to allow street performance to flourish and to enable the council to take necessary steps to address any abuses.

    The on the spot civic mediation you seek is provided for by this guidance. If someone sets up too close or causes an objective nuisance you can call the council and ask for steps to be taken.

    This document contains detailed descriptions of what will happen to address complaints and what enforcement action can be taken.

    What it doesn’t contain is blanket restrictions on where and when people can play. Designated pitches often lead to the delegitimising of busking in public space. In Nottingham there are only three official pitches now, in Birmingham there are only 5. This is plainly nonsensical.

    This guidance treats performers with enough respect to assume that they don’t need to be treated as if they were children or subjected to ‘psychological’ boundaries, rather it calls for common courtesy and mutual respect to be shown to performers and other stakeholders alike.

    With respect it feels like you haven’t fully digested the meat of this guidance which is really contained in the ‘resolving issues’ section.

    The open buskers forum is an informal context to enable people to get to know eachother and to provide support to buskers. It’s also a place where buskers can speak to the council and resolve issues. It’s an ongoing dialogue and is not closed to all but a chosen ‘clique’ but is actually open to everyone.

  • At last a road map that enables buskers to work sensibly and shows a way forward without heavy handed legislation! For God’s sake (and ours) seize this opportunity and make it work! The streets are neither a bottomless money pit for the loudest and most aggressive performer, nor the exlusive property of those who have businesses or accommodation there. They are commonly owned public spaces in which different activities co-exist. Because this is the first policy document which has included input from buskers, it is also the fairest and most sensibly based that I have seen yet. Promote the idea and make it work!

    • Sam Austin says

      Stratford-Upon-Avon is a good example of a busking scheme, but it is far from perfect. A fair number of the pitches are poorly chosen and in some places there aren’t enough of them, they also offer no flexibility for different types of act. From what I can tell this Liverpool best practice guide is an improvement, laying out general rules for setting up.

      I imagine that if Strat-O-A had a code like this in place,with the resolving issues bit, that whole ruckus over Bancroft Gardens wouldn’t have happened, or certainly would have been lessened.

      • Sam Austin says

        Certainly not all spots, which was my point. Most of them are good, but some are not and you never see anyone using them for that reason.

        The code works well in S-O-A, but there are shortcomings, it could be improved.

        Time will tell, but I think this code will be a good one, though I’ve never actually busked in Liverpool. Maintaining freedom to set up where you feel will be best, whilst setting out a comprehensive and friendly set of guidelines for resolving issues.

        P.S. ‘The dispute in the Bancroft Gardens was really about the politics of ‘ownership’ ( nothing to do with the code as such ).’ – The code didn’t provide any reasonable way to resolve the issue, so it was lacking in this instance. Something this Liverpool code improves on.

  • Jonny says

    I would like to point out that when I play ‘Wonderwall’ it is normally because it has been requested for the umpteenth time and not because of any deep love for the song (catchy though It certainly is).

    For the Shakespeare crowd I would choose Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles and some of my own songs.

    Part of the art of busking is tailoring repertoire to geographic and demographic contexts!

  • Shelagh Boardman says

    How I agree about the “busking” in Liverpool. We are a traditional dance team and actually did book spots to dance at with the Liverpool BID team. On arrival at one we saw two buskers on the opposite side of Church Street, so we moved further away from them before setting up. Their response – up the amplification. This not only caused earache for passers by, but overrode our acoustic music and threw some of the less experienced dancers into confusion as they were trying to listen to the music they knew.
    As we had booked the spot, and filled in all the forms for permission, this was certainly a pain in the posterior.
    We can’t dance just anywhere as we do actually draw a crowd, and have to be careful of shop doorways and windows, as well as allowing clear passage for passers by.
    There should be room for all. We give our takings to charity, and are only there for a maximum of 30 minutes at any one time.

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