Cheshire West and Chester City Council’s Assault on Street Culture

Cheshire West and Chester City Council’s Assault on Street Culture

Please sign the petition to stop the criminalisation of the homeless and buskers in Chester

Cheshire West and Chester Council have decided that it would be a good idea to deal with homelessness not by providing shelter for the vulnerable but by making it a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000 to ‘lie down or sleep in any public place’.

In a wide-ranging proposal to tackle ‘antisocial behaviour’ in the city using controversial new Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) powers they are also planning to criminalise buskers who haven’t passed a ‘quality assessment’ first though the private business group CH1 BID company. This proposal turns council officials into civic Simon Cowells with a nasty twist, the power to give musicians a criminal record for singing songs on the streets. It is attack on the spontaneity and informality which is part of what makes busking such an integral part of Chester’s cultural heritage. Ludicrously, the proposed PSPO would also make it a criminal offence to ‘feed any bird’ in the defined area.

When Oxford City Council introduced similar proposals over 72,000 people signed a petition asking them to think again and Liberty issued a legal challenge calling on them to abandon their unlawful attempts to criminalise homeless people and buskers.

As Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty rightly pointed out in that challenge:

“If somebody is forced to beg or sleep in a public toilet, that’s not antisocial behaviour – it’s poverty. Oxford City Council should focus on finding ways to help the most vulnerable people in their city, not slapping them with a criminal record and a fine they can’t possibly afford to pay.

One of the architects of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s proposals, Chief Inspector Jez Taylor, a partnership officer with Cheshire Police, has justified them in the following terms:

“Chester is one of the best preserved medieval walled cities in the United Kingdom. Its Roman heritage and many assets including the cathedral, the walls, the racecourse, the zoo and the river…a PSPO will…improve the image of the city centre

But this approach to policy making privileges the appearance of Chetser and surrounding areas over its’ citizens’ wellbeing, and risks treating rough sleepers, the vulnerable and even buskers as a problem to be dealt with, as an inconvenience, as a threat, rather than as individual human beings.

 The Keep Streets Live Campaign is a not for profit organisation which advocates for public spaces which are open to informal offerings of art and music. We have successfully overturned policies which criminalised buskers in Liverpool and York where we now work with the councils to design best practise policies for street culture alongside groups like the Musician’s Union.

We are calling on Cheshire West and Chester Council to abandon their plan to criminalise rough sleeping, begging and busking. The council and police have strong existing powers to deal with the small minority of people who cause genuine antisocial behaviour, they have no need for the proposed sweeping and arbitrary measures.  We have seen public pressure prevent similar measures being adopted in Oxford, Westminster and Hackney and know that public pressure can stop this from happening in Chester too. Please take a moment to sign and share this petition to stop Cheshire West and Chester Council from making homelessness harder than it already is.

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

74 Comments on "Cheshire West and Chester City Council’s Assault on Street Culture"

  • More ‘nauseating’ Labour Council ‘social’ hygene measures. I remember back in the day eg the1990s, when ‘New’ Labour ( the party of ‘spin ‘ ) were on the ascendency, I thought back then that what was touted as a fresh ‘new’ brand of party politics was in itself a charade, & what we ( the British Public ) were really going to get was merely political ‘style over content’.

    For once I was right & we clearly see here in Chester that its a political ‘attitude’ thats still with us; today a ‘highly’ localised power ‘spin’ ‘modus-operandi’, that manifests itself in our very ( what we took for granted as ‘free’ ! ) public space.

    I thinks now time to get back to what accurately could be termed ‘Classical’ political thinking ( not a ‘recent’ idea but over 2000 years old ) & return to the idea of actually ‘perfecting’ society not merely the ‘image’ of it.

    Now this does’nt mean that we strive theoretically backwards to Plato for example ( *Nb, This imaginative & ‘pivitol’ Greek Philosopher was a great ‘systems’ builder, & yes his grande political concept, contains some pretty amazing ‘internal’ logic. The problem being, that none of it corresponds with ‘reality’! )

    However I do mean taking some ‘inspiration’ from this in many ‘other’ ways great historical figure, specifically in terms of adopting his general definition of politics eg. politics as ‘ the creation of the ‘just’ good Society ‘ – i.e. true ‘utopianism’!.

  • An important established ‘social’ fact is that whether you agree with them or not, its all quite possible to set-up ‘auditioning’ schemes for Buskers & for them to be very successful without resorting to ‘criminal’ sanction.

    Plus we all know ( have ‘witnessed’ how! ) good, traditional ( on-the-beat! ) town-centre policing is the ‘tried & tested’ means for ‘effectively’ dealing with the odd ‘nuisance’ busker, aggressive & ‘troublesome’ beggar etc. Its simply a matter of approaching the ‘culprit(s)’ & asking them, telling them ( ordering them! ) to move on i.e a relatively criminally ‘informal’ way of ‘formally’ dealing with a socially problematic ‘civil’ matter that has ‘cropped’ up in the vicinity.

    Of course, the underlying problem ( for ‘some’ local authorities! ) is that these 2 very ‘reasonable’, justly balanced, well practiced measures for dealing with common ( everday ) ‘low-level’ civil/social problems don’t in the ‘immediate’ term make any money.

    So are Chester Council simply following the political trend laid down by yet another ‘Labour’ Local Borough eg.Wolverhampton? ( Nb a local authority who are now economically forecasted to raise £ 250,000 in the first year of a cynically devised ‘racket’, wherebye unwary ‘drivers’ caught on ‘newly’ installed cameras are ‘automatically’ fined £60 – ‘taxed’! – for slipping into ‘banned’ Bus Lanes. Yes, ‘Super’ profits to be made & all from a relatively small ‘initial’ capital investment of merely £183,000. ).

    No!, this particular Authority, Chester West & Chester Council seem to be willing to ‘stoop’ to even lower levels, in order to raise cash for the town/city treasury coffers, because ‘shamelessly’ they’re looking to not only ‘tax’ but ( sweep away! ) the country’s ( our society’s ) very ‘real’ impoverished, homeless, cold & ragged, marginalised ( & often ‘excluded’ ) poor! ( not just a bunch of ‘jockeyed’ but comparitively well flushed drivers )!.

    • * Note

      I’ve spoken to more than a ‘few’ fellow ‘self-employed’ Buskers on the issue of this years ‘takings’ & all of them testify to their money being down on last year. My earnings are half of what they used to be.

      And of course this is a profession where income is not ‘inflation’ proof nor protected i.e. wages do not necessarily go up in line with the cost of ‘annual’ living ( in fact, a pound in the case today is of less ‘value’ than a pound in the case 5 years ago!).

      I don’t know about yourself but I simply cannot afford to be a fine & penalty stooge for ‘draconian’ ( cynical ‘ ) local councils. These days I just don’t have the money!.

      • * Note

        Ironically ( or is it that ironic? ) its Labour Councils who seem to be ‘tempted’ ( or eagerly without conscience enthused ) by the opportunities that the ‘new’ Tory Anti-Social and Police Bill provides them.

        I’m really angry at ‘the current state of affairs’ that in too many places are developing in our country. Whats truly at stake here is the social fabric i.e. the whole of Englands historical ‘moral’ liberalism plus a very real threat of ‘time’ ( Age ) reversal, we the forever more ( today, increasing rather than lessening ) burdgeoning & ‘unfair’ class based Society.

        • Its not just the civic ‘moral’ climate that threatens to change for the worse ( & yes city-centres ’emptied’ of its poor, swept out, streets ‘cleansed’, busking ‘sponteneity’ & freedom over-controlled, politically repressed are a ‘puritanical’ turn for the worst! ), the creeping ‘feel’ of many places are different too, things just don’t feel right, they don’t feel ‘natural’ nor right at all!. The dawn of the age of Aquarius? No this could well be the age of ‘inauthenticity’ & ‘artifical’ living! The worst case neo liberal ‘consumer’ Post-Modern Enlightenment!

  • * Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

    Whilst Councils & their policy’s can have a ‘negative’ impact on Busking, Street Performing & Street Art, I do recognise that on ‘rare’ occasions ( i.e. its not an ‘unknown’ phenomenon! ) the ‘reverse’ is true with street culture itself representing an ‘assault’ on the town/city-centre environment.

    Personally speaking, as far as the debate about the ‘quality’ of acts out there on the streets goes, its not that big an issue with me. The range runs from very, very good ( not often, if ever excellent ) to absolute crap, & generally as you’d expect the general standard is below average to ‘mediocre’ .

    With Busking I think its a ‘fools’ game ( or a culture snobs! ) to insist on ‘excellence’ on the streets or more so to seek to bring it about through any kind of ‘coercion’ ( State or otherwise ). In certain circumstances ( places/locations ) there are ‘strong’ cases made for ‘auditions’ etc to ensure minimum levels of competency eg. The South Bank, London, Birmingham city-centre etc ( though I instinctively don’t like the idea of being judged by front-line Art Staff Culturati nor Retail BID personnel ). However, as long as ‘volume’ levels are right I personally am not bothered about how good or bad the performer is, for me its all part of the ‘entertainment’ mix that is Busking & Street Performing

    However there are ‘serious’ exceptions & there are times when I do take offence ( & feel deep ‘moral’ upset ) at the appearance of certain types of performer & I believe that if these kind of ‘evil’ player manage to take root & begin to have an influence, things certainly can begin to take on various ominous ‘shapes’ ( & in the worst case perhaps ‘evolve’ into a recognisable subculture! ) & threaten to really damage or at least visibly degrade a city/town envronment to the point of psychological & even physical harm of its inhabitants/visitors.

    With this kind of ‘destructive’ performer its not a case of how good they are or even loud they are ( tho’ by defintion & ‘nature’ they are often loud ) its a problem to do with their ‘characters’ – usually arrogant, egotistical, solipsistic – the sort to ‘instantly’ just with their presence get up other peoples noses, coming across as excessively imposing & overbearing. Emptily so, haughtily so. Yes its this kind of busking ‘fascist’ that I ( & so many others ) ‘truly’ dislike & would with the help of anyone, councils, politicans included like to see the back of!. In all truthfulness, some Buskers out there ( a chosen ‘few’! ), can only be viewed as one thing, i.e. dirty rotten Scoundrels!.

    • Thank not God but ‘nature’, humanity, ‘modern’ science & learning that such ‘moral’ corrosiveness in person & tribe ( lest they be ‘outright’ psychopaths! ) has its ‘cure’ !.

      • And that through ‘good’ means, it is possible to ‘reverse’ their negative effects & improve the general ‘tone’ of a place!

        • And hope & optimism then when it comes to the ultimate victory of ‘natural’ common-sense over the more ‘irrational’ ‘rogue’ Street Performer.

          I believe in that, plus the ‘reasonable’ prospect that any ‘tipping point’ that can be shown to have been breached by the overwhelming ‘negative’ impact of ‘bad’ Buskers, can be ‘effectively’ ( & importantly ‘fairly’ ! ) countered & reversed i.e ’tilted’ or re-balanced in the direction of what ‘the Public want’ eg Good Street Entertainers & decent street entertainment.

          The big problem that persists ( the ‘huge’ obstacle that remains! ) for me, concerns the ‘Scoundrels’ working day in & day out at the town/city Council, & what these the petty officials, Town Planners, Counillors & Property Developers actually want i.e. all those with an alternative vested ‘interest’ ( ‘motive’ !) to exploit, ‘control’ & restrict!. Thats what really worries me!.

          • The problem of ‘handling’ Rogue Street Performers aside ( in the larger scheme of things they’re nothing more than a ‘distraction’, albeit for some quarters a ‘convenient’ one, from wider important ‘national’ concerns ) what is really called for here is a total ‘revolution in housing ‘.

            How fitting ( & truly great ) it would be to see a ‘huge’ public outcry on this ‘issue’ alone, because the current social fact of a record shortage of housing in this country is a ‘national’ disgrace, especially so, given the context forecast by ‘experts’ of an expected increase of 25% in ‘property prices’ over the next few years. Ok yes, its ‘alright’ for some!.

          • ” Build, build, build!” thats the ‘common-sense’ mantra of ordinary people I’ve spoken to ( read about in press articles ) on this ‘urgent’ matter. Stop the dithering around ( prevaricating ) on green-land sites, brown-land sites etc, make the ‘millions’ out there in need of a home, a roof over their heads your ‘priority”

            Cos’ the only ‘obstacle’ at present appears to be the Politicians themselves & selfish ‘profit’ motivated Bankers & Property Developers & Landlords & Estate Agents & the like ( plus a few ‘solipsistic’ centred, blinkered, petit-minded, home-owners who care only for their own property values & not the ‘housing rights’ of others ).

            Everyone across the ‘nation’ knows, ‘we’re not stupid!’ ( they all watch the property makeover programmes so popular with the BBC & Channel 4 ) that the technology is there, the know-how is there etc to ‘mass’ home build in an instant, all it takes is the ‘political’ will & the financial go ahead of the Treasury that plus ‘true’ private ‘social’ enterprise! ( The ‘market’ is there, ‘ready-made’, very ready & eagerly waiting! )

          • And no, do not stop, do not hesitate nor dither, build right now, brick by brick, mortar by mortar, call on the physical labour a 100,000, 200,000, 300,000 eastern Europeans, employ the help of the most undesirable ‘long-term unemployed if you have to, just carry on building until every ‘working’ family, ‘needy’ individual, person in genuine ‘want’ of a shelter is adequately & reasonably ‘housed’ in this country.

            Anything less in a relatively ‘rich’ Western Economy such as ours in the 21st century is nothing short of a ‘moral’ scandal! ( Politically repugnant & socially repudiating ! ).

          • Believe me when I say I would willingly give up the guitar ( & busking ) tomorrow & passionately join in with any organised ‘national’ programme of house-building.

            With a ‘heavy’ hod on my back, & pounds of brick I’d happily toil 12 hours a day, in baking summer sun, if it meant that every man, woman & child in the UK got to have a roof over their heads!

          • It was through an ‘opportunity’ given too me & after working 12 hrs per day, 7 days per week, for over a year, without a single day off ( no holidays, no leisure weekends ) that I found myself with ‘enough’ money ( the first time in my life! ) to buy a decent guitar & amp for ‘self-employment’ & busking.

            I ‘honestly’ would summon & conjour up again that kind of ‘strength’, double, triple, quadruple even that kind of ‘effort’ ( dogged persistance ) to help provide the ‘opportunity’ for someone to have a home, begin a civilized ‘life’!

          • Of course National Housing ‘Programme’ once complete, I would then return to my ‘true’ vocation ( or more correctly the ‘key’ one of maybe 2 or 3 vocations ) i.e. busking!.

  • * On Begging in Public Places ( including the city-centre )

    Having spent most of my ‘working’ life unemployed, it may come as a surprise that only once in my career have I had to resort to ‘begging’. It was the first ( and last ) time that I have felt ‘compelled’ to go out on the streets & beg and the ‘experience’ lasted for 1 week.

    It was 20years or so ago, the mid 1990’s, when having finished ‘training’ ( a 2 weeks ‘touch’ typing course ) with a local Training Provider I turned up to ‘sign-on’ at the job-centre to find out that relevant ‘paperwork’ had’nt arrived from the trainers personnel office & that my job-seekers allowance was thus null & void.

    Stuck with having to wait at least a week for dole-money, I found myself in that very ‘rare’ predicament where I had no one from which to ‘borrow’ & I did’nt have a cent saved at home, I was left with one choice and that was to go out ‘begging’!.

    I spent the first few days begging on the high street outside Tesco’s in Moseley Village ( Birminghams ‘Greenwhich’ Village ) & made quite a few quid. I averaged about £13/£14 over each of the first 3 days. I then graduated ( cd afford the bus fare ) to cadging cash in the city-centre, making £18/£19 during the day ( afternoon! ).

    Its funny how quickly I adapted to the situation, it rapidly became my ‘comfort’ zone, and I can say that I actually started to ‘enjoy’ the experience, not in any ‘masochistic’ way, I just liked the ‘freedom’ & space I found myself in, that plus the ‘public’ interaction & general social intercourse.

    I look back on that experience now, remembering how I ‘survived’ that ‘unfortunate’ week whilst recalling my most recent visit into Moseley, & how on passing noticing the big ‘wanted’ style posters on ‘Sainsbury’s’ shop windows, featuring ‘felon’ like portraits of 2 ‘fringe’ big issue sellers ( here labelled ‘aggresive’ beggars ) & who I recognised from some of my more recent experiences busking in town.

    I can’t help but also reflect on the current predicament of some of today’s ‘jobbing’ homeless Beggars who now face a hefty fine ( & I presume possibly ‘jail’ if they don’t have the money to pay it ) for their ‘deviant’ town-centre activity. Plus a ‘serious’ penalty & possible ‘criminal’ record ( extension of their existing record ! ), for not breaking into & entering an ’empty’ house, shop or factory/warehouse building etc & ‘squatting’, but for simply spending the night on a deserted ‘city-centre’ shop doorway.

  • * Inspiration (Handsorth JobCentre/ ‘Work Directions’ Birmingham)

    My experience of ‘begging’ on the streets for 1 week ( dole-money briefly stopped ! ) back in the 1990s, was ‘ironically’ a sort of ’emotional’ precurser to my taking up busking & earning my living as a ‘self-employed’ Street Musician today in 2015.

    The real ‘inspiration’ though ( a further ‘political’ irony ) came a decade later, when on one hot Summers afternoon whilst working ( jobhunting in fact! ) in offices located in Birmingham city-centre ( ‘windows’ wide open ) my attention was caught by the charming street sounds of an English Folk Melodeon Player busking right outside on New Street (the top of, nr Victoria Square ).

    The context was that I’d been referred to Birminghams ‘ Work Directions’ ( a New Labour Tony Blair/Gordan Brown ‘ back to work programme’ ) by Handsworth Job Centre, despite the fact that I’d already started that year 2004 ( formally ‘enrolled’ on! ) a £7,000 per year guitar course. It was the first & only time in my life that I gone for & have recieved ‘direct’ instrument tuition & a situation which did’nt last long ( just as my ‘ambition’ then to become a Californian Session Musician did’nt last either) as the Dole Office ‘intervened’ & pressurised me into attending this ‘new’ jobs search programme.

    I recall vividly how on a bakingly hot, sultry day in a city office where I did’nt necessarily want to be, turned out to be a ‘transformational’ experience for myself, one I most definitely had’nt expected & which was not only ‘pivotol’ to my decision to take the risk & go for ‘freedom’ ( a kind of ‘self’ liberation through earning a living through busking ) but gave me a vital lesson on how to achieve it authentically i.e. both creatively & publicly ‘aesthetically’!.

    In fact it was the ‘experience’ of the English Folk Melodeon Player that afternoon performing on the street just over the road from the office that taught me that ‘busking’ done properly could be a ‘genuine’ act of entertainment & that it could in the widest sense of the word perform a real ‘folk’ function & thus ‘life’ enhancing.

    Here it performed brilliantly the role ( both ‘naturally’ & beautifully! ) of being the ‘ideal’ substitute to listening to the ‘office’ Radio eg. Radio 1 ( or indeed Radio 2! ) throughout the day. Its true a ‘roomful’ of job seekers on computers remained totally undistracted & warmly encouraged in their ‘activity’ by the skillfully ‘understated’ playing of the busking Melodian Player outside.

    A good case study on how it is possible for a Busker to perform closeby ( ‘outside’ ! ) to peoples places of work & not generate a ‘single’ complaint. Rather their presence being both ‘natural’ & ‘sympathetic’ backdrop to the towns surrounding ‘work’ environment. In fact its this ‘value’ that I over the past few years have been chasing; since I’ve started ‘seriously’ busking for a living, 3 or so years ago, this is the ‘image’/reality I have ‘strenuously’ ( & conscientously! ) sought to achieve myself as a Street Artist ( or Public Musician ).

    Its true but its finally only ‘yesterday’ that I can honestly say that I feel inwardly 100% confident that I finally have found the musical ‘material’ that will truly enable me to reach my ‘artistic’ goals ( & more importantly achieve my personal ‘art of life’ ambition or in other words an individual ‘free’ way of being! ). Its taken ‘dogged’ persistance & much ‘healthy’ obssessive enthusiasm ( passion! )

    Over the last 10 months I’ve been driven by ‘constant’ musicological research & the desire to come up with the kind of Art ‘Gypsy’ sounds that I believe to be the Romantic Guitar equivalent of the poetically beautiful, quaint & ‘expressive’ music of the English ‘street’ Folk Melodeon. Here I guess at last ( without sounding too pretentious ) is the very ‘real’ culmination of a life-times journey of music knowledge collection & ‘self-discovery’ – Q. The ‘result’ ? A. A truly ‘unobtrusive’, genuine form of street entertainment & ‘an artists’ healthy ‘natural’ environmental sound, one that creatively ‘enhances’ the public space. Most importantly
    self integrity!.

    • Yes ‘begging’ gave me ‘a window’ ( fresh perspective ) on the world, my experience of being ‘long-term’ unemployed & ending up ( State ‘coerced’ ! ) on a New Labour ‘ back to work ‘ programme called Work Directions taught me an important lesson about ‘a key’ life value i.e. ‘self integrity’ ( or what some may call ‘Platonic’ fit ) & my Summers job-search whilst listening to a late afternoon Busker & the ‘charming’ sounds of the English Folk Melodian provided me with a valuable ‘insight’ into how I might achieve it!.

  • * Gordan Brown & his New Deal For Musicians ( The Birmingham Custard Factory )

    One question some may well ask is given ‘my’ experience at Work Directions ( long-term unemployed! ) & the ‘inspiration’ of the English Folk Melodeon Player busking outside the office on New Street why not take up English Folk Guitar as ‘your’ main busking instrument?

    The truth is I did, & much encouraged by other ‘artistic’ factors too eg. a ‘solo’ guitar masterclass I attended by the celtic fingerstyle virtuoso Eric Roche ( See book ‘ The Acoustic Guitar Bible ‘ ), plus an ‘open’ world music/folk day at the Birmingham Conservatoire. I was also very influenced by the French DADGAD guitarist Pierre Bensusan & local ( Staffordshire based ) Folk Guitar Pedagogue Michael Raven ( particularly his ‘various’ guitar book collections ).

    However it was during a later experience on a ‘compulsary’ job-centre ‘New Deal For Musicians’ programme ( one of Gordan Browns ‘brainchilds’ ) that I was put off not only working in the Folk world but the whole of the Pop Music industry ( & how it operates ) to boot!.

    The training provider was a company called ‘ Armstrongs ‘ based at Birminghams Custard Factory ( arts complex! ) & it was my ‘run in’ with a member of their staff, a guy connected with the then up & coming ( now established !) Mosely Folk Festival that put me off playing Folk Guitar as my main instrument.

    I won’t detail the experience here but it was a ‘negative’ one & reinforced recently when I took a Spanish built Classical Guitar of mine for ‘action’ readjustment at Birminghams main ( only!) Folk Specialists Shop to get it back in an even worst state that I gave it eg. tuning peg knackered, electronics messed up & the ‘action’ still not satisfactory – a ‘botch up job ( perhaps deliberate! ) that could cost me over £200 to remedy! ( Nb. I also had problems with my ‘card’ payment eg. a ‘double payment. being put throught their bank system ).

    One would think by this kind of treatment I was deliberately being ‘sabotaged’, whether an accurate explanation or not, I decided early on that this is certainly not the ‘working world’ in which I want to operate & that working from an ‘artistic’ base on the streets ( too many comparitively risky! ) was a lot more desirable & again despite the gritty ‘reality’ of all the politics personally more ‘free’!.

    Its a decision I’m not about to give up on & its my full intention to stick with it, & its ‘a choice’ very much helped by that all ‘powerful’ & important ‘key’ life quality, once again, Self Integrity! – the closest ‘alternative’ authentic street artist identity for me being that of the ‘romantic’ street cafe guitar player & the Gypsy ( or specifically English Artist ‘street’ Gypsy! or ‘travelling’ Public Musician! )

    • A correction!, for me English ‘street’ Gypsy ( & ‘travelling’ Public Musician ) is not the next best thing, for me its the better ( the very best! ) artistic identity. Self Integrity ( a ‘true’ self ) I now realise, after all these years without work ( & as the archetypal ‘outsider’ ) is all I’ve ever really wanted. As from ‘yesterday’ real life begins & the chance for me as a ‘human-being’ to be in a core sense truly happy!.

      • Yippee!, I’m an English ‘street’ Gypsy ( & Public Musician ) with a ‘subset’ of ‘Continental’/South American Popular Classical Romantic Guitar! ( See The Classical Guitar in Florence YouTube ).

        • And with a ‘higher’ consciousness i.e. now very wary of buying a ‘Spanish’ classical guitar with a ‘pre-fitted’ pick-up system, & the ‘wisdom’ to know that to purchase ‘without’ is the best way to begin & if you do want ( insist on! ) ‘amp’ capacity, specialist ( expert! ) installation of an eg. K&K set-up with ‘external’ pre-amp is the best way to go! ( recognising that ‘purists’ will always argue that you ‘de-value’ your instrument with this approach & that ‘mic’ing’ up is sole superior! )

          • And with deep ‘ African ‘ roots & ‘griot’ ( West African ‘travelling ‘musicians ) sentiments. The name Nigel ( very English upper m/c ) means ‘Moor’ or the ‘dark one’, in Austalian English its a colloquial term for a male social misfit or a ‘friendless’ person, the name being unusual in the 1980’s & alliterating with ‘no friends!’.

          • Its also Gaelic for ‘champion’ !

  • * The Cultural Revolution ( Down with Muzak! )

    The ‘cultural’ revolution has begun!. My busking ‘money’ has been down of late ( by up to half! ). Ok this is partly due to the fact that ‘visitor’ no’s are down, dramatially so, in some of my favourite street ‘performance’ spots.

    The ‘other’ reason I guess is because I’ve begun to radically change my set. You see whilst I ‘observe’ that Street Performers & Artists ‘are’ becoming more ‘revolutionary’ ( a ‘protest’ movement steadily growing! ) their ‘music’ certainly is’nt revoutionary, this ‘radical fervour it is’nt being expressed in their art!.

    After a ‘shaky’ start, my determination to become more ‘authentic’ in what I play is starting to sprout some healty ‘green shoots!’. A ‘couple’ of women came up to me today, asking about the ‘new’ Gypsy Ballads I was playing on the guitar, & how beautiful & relaxing they were. Just the ‘feedback’ I was looking for, I’m confident now of the possibility of ‘winning the hearts & minds of’ the people with my radically ‘new’ & quite ‘rarified’ musical approach.

    Popular ‘continental’ Classical Guitar is also successfully beginning to ‘morph’ into actual ‘generic’ ‘Neopolitan’ Cafe Guitar & the ‘signs’ are good, ‘takings’ are up today!.

    You know despite our ‘cultural’ differences ‘Jonny'( Streetslive ) I’m fully with you on the ‘protests’ cos’ just as ‘musicianship’ is beginning to ‘grow’ the public space is starting to ‘shrink’ ( & all without ‘just’ reason! )

    • * Playing Advice

      Just some brief advice for any ‘aspiring’ street players who may wish to use classical guitar ( nylon string ) as their main instrument.

      You really can take advantage now of all the self-training ‘resources’ freely available on the internet, in public libraries etc. For example as far as developing ‘technique’ goes you can ‘truly’ get the ‘foundation’ mechanics down thoroughly ( properly ) these days without the aid of any ‘hands-on’ teachers & by nurturing a ‘natural’ trust in yourself to be able to learn whats required.

      Once you’ve learned the basic techniques ( eg, right & left hand placements, physical movements eg rest/free stroke – *flamenco picado Sabicas &/or Paco de Lucia style -, arpeggio, tremelo, legato, specialist ‘flamenco’ techniques etc, you can practice them repetitously in themselves ie alone or in line with the ‘traditional’ studies eg Carcassi, Giuliani, Sor.

      Here you can ‘refine’ other technical factors eg. Sor Studies ( left hand techniques/movements ) but also most importantly you can focus on finding your ‘tone’ which is key to Classical Guitar musicianship & getting to sound ‘professional’. The Carcassi studies alone can provide you with the skill ability to get through much classical guitar repertoire & with a ‘convincingly’ academy trained ethos.

      Up until now I did’nt play much actual ‘classical’ genre music ( the period of Mozart etc ) as part of my ‘street’ set, but now I see the Carcassi studies ( along with ‘similar’ style pieces ) as making up a great ‘pastoral’ cafe sound, very relaxing, & very ‘entertaining’ in the ‘right’ locations & towns esp. in the ‘morning’ & in Cathedral towns/cities where the ‘architecture’ seems to resonate well with this type of music.

      By this stage ( having gone through the studies ) you can also rest assured ( feel confident! ) that you as a ‘street’ Public Musician can do justice to such ‘simple’ ( very ‘clean’ & rational ) yet charmingly beautiful pieces of music.

      • *
        I really must put a ‘blog’ together & pass on some of the things I’ve learned about guitar ( street performing ) as part of the wider network ( information pool! ) now availabe ( & ever growing ) for those who would like to ‘study’ independantly with more confidence.

        What a ‘liberating’ & creative experience it is to to ‘self-teach’. Segovia who single-handedly put Classical Guitar on the map was self-taught, watch him in seminars & ‘masterclasses’ featured on YouTube videos, you’d think he was a Guitar Professor or something, no! merely a humble ‘experienced’ world class, yes ‘concert’ but ‘self-trained’ guitarist.

        Check out his early ‘autobiography of ‘travelling’ around the major towns & cities of Spain being introduced to one ‘middle-class’ circle then another, not just ‘popularising’ but raising the ‘status’ of the guitar then merely considered a ‘folk’ instrument.

        Of course he may ‘sneer’ at someone like me playing guitar on the streets, afterall his mission was to take the guitar out of the cafe & firmly place it on the ‘stage’. Nevertheless I won’t necessarily ‘resent’ him in return ( & saving my counter-arguments for elsewhere! ), all I’ll say here is, he was an ‘amazing’ guy, he truly was!

        • *
          Theres a lot you can learn from Segovias’ opposite too i.e. John Williams, unlike Segovia, an academie guy through & through ( as a ‘product’ of the academie hes in fact renowned for being very ‘critical’ of Segovia ‘teaching’ methods etc, even accusing him of being a bully! ).

          I did’nt used to like Williams guitar style, feeling his playing to be a little too ‘cold’ & metronomal. Today I really appreciate, ‘respect’ even, his ‘solid’ technique, ii fact no other classical guitarist has that confident ‘self-efficacy’, that deep level sense of ‘competence’ that John Williams has got.

          That ‘confidence’ has been passed on, & I state openly here onto myself. Not technically ( not quite yet anyhow, tho’ I’m getting there! ) but in the sense of being a ‘committed’ Performance Artist rather than say ‘composer’.

          It’s because of Williams that I now ‘value’ more & more the role of the ‘specialist’ interpreter/virtuoso. Many people cite eg. Mozart, Beethoven etc as examples of great Composer/Performers i.e. possessing both high ‘creativity’ ( genius levels of it ) plus super high technical prowess demonstrated ‘live’ on stage.

          The classical guitar equivalent to Mozart is often cited as Paraguayan guitarist/composer Augustin Barrios Mangore ( Note he also has the high reputation of being one the classical guitar worlds great Bohemian Figures, a ‘genius’ creative artist who was to die poor or ‘penniless’. )

          The lesson I’ve learned here & what I try to point out to folk who approach me on the street ( mainly young ‘popsters’ !) & ask me ” Do I write my own stuff? is contained in the reply I give them, where I explain that the ‘creative’ standards of Pop Culture do not necessarily apply to the Classical Guitar ( or should I say Classical music ) where there is often a ‘specialism’ divide between performance & composition. For good ‘artistic’ reasons!.

          When the subject of Mozart or Beethoven crops up ( or is raised in the conversation ) I retort , go check out a record/CD by Augustin Barrios Mangore & compare his ‘original’ rendition with the virtuoso ‘interpretation’ of a contemporary specialist ‘concert’ guitarist like John Williams & you’ll see that the Williams ‘recording’ is by far the superior.

          Q Why? A. Because its a ‘myth’ this whole notion about the ‘genius’ Artist Composer/Performer. And its not just the ‘recording’ ( modern ‘studio’ mix ) either that gives say Williams the upperhand.

          Its John Williams ‘focus’ on recording technique, tone production, articulation & feel that simply enables him to ‘outperform’ Mangore in terms of his playing. If you were to listen to & ‘compare’ recordings on YouTube for example, you’ll clearly see the difference, & its Williams who comes out on top!.

          This is why I can feel ‘totally’ confident as an ‘aspiring’ Artist Performer & not necessarily ‘composing’ creative in a way that many Pop Performers ( incl Manufacturd Acts – who often despite the ‘front’ are incredibley unconfident, lack self-esteem & are unstable ) can’t.

          Its through the example of John Williams that I now recognise 100%, the value of the passionately dedicated ‘instrumental’ virtuoso! ( who in the classical world are the artistic ‘key’ to performance & recording excellence! ).

          • * Good Role Models

            Remember when ‘self’-teaching its so important to discipline yourself to follow only the very best examples.

            Talking about the ‘age of the internet’ & the ‘resources’ readily available to beginners these days, it rationally follows that its also worth bearing in mind. that its worth taking the time to ‘distinguish’ between the ‘good’ & ‘bad’ learning aids out there.

            Sadly so many players, performers out there, in a rush to put themelves on a ‘pedastal’ ( or to be ‘fair’ out of ‘genuine’ over enthusiasm! ), download ‘video’s of themselves that in the spur of the moment ‘feel’ to to themselves , but in really are not up to ‘standard’ ( & in ‘reality’ poor versions! ), certainly not to be used for learning purposes anyway.

            So all ‘new’ learners make strides to avoid all these types of learning model including many of the self-elected teachers & virtuosos on-line ( many of them ‘charlatans’, yes really! ).

            Instead, use your ‘insincts’ plus your ‘honest’ listening experiences & take care to choose & ‘copy’ the role-models of ‘excellence’! esp.
            when it comes to learning technique eg. check out ‘Edson Lopes’ on YouTube for a great rendition of Carcassi’s 25 opus 60 Studies ( compare with ‘other’ so called examples & you’ll easily see for yourself his are the best! )

  • * Why I Busk ( Truly! )

    I’ve been asked more than a ‘few’ times by folk ” Nigel why do you busk, honestly tell us why? This is a very good question ( & a more pertinent queston than you might think ) because people like me do pose a kind of ‘moral’/artistic ambiguity ( on the ‘surface’ I’m hard to pin down, categorise, & ‘accurately’ label )

    For ‘some’ that is, because I for one am not a ‘ pop creative’, & I’m certainly not a product of ‘ the academie ‘ so what is my motive, what is my role, what am I actually up to out there ‘visible’ on the streets, busking?

    The ‘intrinsic’ reason I busk is because I simply like going out, taking up ‘public’ spaces and creating an ‘air’ ( or vibe ) with the music I play ( ‘solo’ ) on the classical ( ‘nylon’ string ) guitar. This is what I genuinely ‘enjoy’ doing, & more than staying at home & playing to myself ( a ‘bedroom’ guitarist ), performing ‘function’ work or mainstream ‘gigging’. I love the immediate ‘connection’ you can get, playing on the streets, in city-centres, cafe-quarters/public squares ( theoretically! ) with the general public ( ordinary people ).

    My sense of ‘musical’ creativity is expressed through my ‘ taste & judgement ‘ in terms of the ‘pieces’ I carefully choose to play, & artistic ‘interpretation’ of great art music pieces ( particularly ‘modern’ stuff i.e. looser, colourful ( jazzy, ), space to ‘improvise’ ( feel!, romatic cafe etc ).

    This plus the ‘steady’ development of virtuosic ‘classical’ technique ( an ‘understated’ kind of virtuosity ) & some ‘hybrid’ flamenco playing methods. It this kind of expression more than classical ‘architectural’ composition’ etc that gives me much ‘personal’ satisfaction & I like to think is now beginning to come out in my playing, in turn giving ‘pleasure’ to the public.

    I’ve mentioned I’m not a typical ‘pop’ creative nor ‘academie’ player. This does not mean I don’t like ‘the popular’ in music eg. the beautiful ‘romantic’/prelude melody is ‘one’ of the mainstays of classical guitar, its just that I’m not ‘authentically’ motivated to create or produce pop. Having said that ‘some’ pop arrangements on the ‘solo’ classical guitar, do ( or should I say ‘can’ ) represent for me a kind of ‘guitaristic’ beauty. But what I don’t like is being oversaturated by ‘mass’ culture or ‘pop’ junk ( in other words ‘mindless’, anodine, trite ‘creative’ junk ). Pop, Mcdonalds ( I’m not a culture snob! ) have their place but become ‘unhealthy’ ( the public space ironically ’empty’, meaningless! ) if you have/get to much of it.

    The same with the ‘academie’ , I’m self-taught ( I enjoy being so ) but don’t get me wrong I’ve got nothing against Classical Guitar Professors, I draw ‘inspiration’ ( & learning ) from these important sources, but for me, its most definitely at ‘ a distance’. I just don’t like ‘insitutionalised’ teaching, a ‘mentor’ can be good, but not a ‘full-on’ under-graduate lecturer. I like to take ‘free’ advantage of the revolution that is the ‘internet, that plus ‘books’ ( either bought or from the library ) & like my ‘favorite’ great players, all self taught ( Segovia, Sabicas ) listening to ( & transcribing ) from records and/or the intimate ‘analysis’ of public sheet music.

    I also ‘do’ have a respect for the self-consciously serious ( & great ) ‘guitar artists’ eg, Pierre Bensusan, Michael Hedges, Raphael Rabello etc. These kinds of figure are an obvious ‘inspiration too, however I see myself as ( I ‘consciously’ aspire to being ) more in line with the ‘idea’ of the ‘excellent’ amateur an artistic ‘ideal’ I guess ( & don’t be alarmed by this term ) that could be viewed as a kind of cultural marxism. Though possibly ( & viabley ) ‘re-framed’ as conforming to ‘ the romantic tradition ‘ or ‘ advanced ‘ victorian hobbyism!.

    Again you see I actually prefer the ‘streets’, the cafe, the theatre to the ‘concert’/gig stage plus like John Williams, Segovia et al I’m a ‘virtuosic’ interpreter ( a bit of ‘jazzer’ in me ) rather than ‘architectural’ creative ( this may change in the future, but for now I’m more than happy with my current identity & ‘role’ function ). Plus my ‘core’ architectural creative ambitions I personally see as being expressed in other art forms, I genuinely love ( & am beginning to/’need’ to aspire to – ha! ha! ha! ) such as ‘thinking’ & ‘writing’ ( i.e. literature! ).

  • This small city is top-heavy with quangos and ‘business interests’- CWaC, CH1 BID, Chester Renaissance, the police, the Grosvenors, the race company.. they snap their fingers and we all must obey.
    Today it’s musicians, pigeon fanciers and the homeless. Tomorrow- who knows?
    Not any more. Time to take a stand. Sign the petition and make your voice heard!

    • Whatever it takes, I ( & no doubt many others ) would certainly take great pleasure in seeing a ‘new’ publicly ‘democratic’ re-balancing act out there!.

      • I do think that what would help people ( ‘ordinary’ folk other than Buskers etc ) make up their minds on issues such as this one would be the provision of a few more useful ‘facts’,

        Eg. What precisely is the ‘homelessness’ situation in Chester ?, how many people are currently sleeping in the town centre ( & why ‘ in their own words )?, what is the ‘social’ housing provision at the moment ?, why are these people homeless eg any ‘Chester’ specific reasons ? etc, etc etc.

        These kinds of ‘facts’ are very important given the ‘dominant’ myth about housing & the ‘homelessness situation appears to be the Local Authorities one, & this is the case everywhere, my home town Birmingham included!

        My position is a very straightforward ‘moral’ one & that is I personally don’t want to see ‘homeless’ people ‘criminalised’ for sleeping in the town centre, in ‘deserted’ shop doorways etc, simply because they make the town look untidy.

        This kind of ‘social hygene’ reasoning, that seems to be behind mcuh of the councils pontification on this issue & their possible use of ‘new’ control orders on people who more properly ought to be regarded as ‘unfortunates’ makes me feel quite nauseated!.

        • It certainly raises questions about how we ‘treat’ people esp. those down & out, depressed, the many ‘casulties’ of an ‘imperfect’ system ( not all degenerates & misfits! ), people who up until now the ‘welfare’ state was meant to provide a reasonable ‘safety’ net for.

          Ok times have been hard & there is the issue fo dealing with the ‘national’ debt & the continuation of a policy of ‘relative’ austerity by the Government. However I don’t think that this gives the ‘powers that be’ good reason ( certainly not morally! ) to abandon their responibilities, esp their ‘collective’ ( supposed One Nation ) responsibilityy to those in poverty or from them ‘seriously addressing the very real social imbalance that contributes to the very existence ( creation! ) of those in ‘need’!.

          • And yes as a Busker I do share an ‘affinity’ with the homeless in the sense of not wanting to be automatically de-statused & ‘discounted’ from the ‘democratic’ equation ( the discussion table ) when it comes to ‘local’ policy decision making that could have a ‘serious’ impact ( as it goes a ‘negative’ one ) on your life!.

  • * Playing advice

    Briefly back to thinking about issues ‘musical’, busking & playing the guitar. On my personal journey ‘exploring’ ( & discovering ) the many possibilities of the ‘solo’ romantic guitar ( & the music of the Engish Street Gypsy ) its interesting ‘listening’ ( viewing ) the many ways of ‘arranging’ pop tunes ( i.e. ‘select’ ones – some pop melodies if you can call them that will never work! ) on the guitar.

    Ths ranges from ‘the popular classical romance’ type treatment ( *See The Classical Guitar in Florence YouTube ) to a straightforward ‘acoustic’ genre ‘fingerstyle’ ( much of what you see out there! ). The problem with the former is that in the wrong hands what are potentially ‘beautiful’ romantic preludes can ‘easily’ get de-transformed into ‘kitsch’ ( or chocolate box! ) with the latter its a case of what you get is just ‘more’ bogstandard ‘Guitarshop’ type music eg another guitar magazine ‘rendition’ of say Eric Claptons ‘ Tears from Heaven’. The problem with this approach is that it always comes across ( esp. the ‘mainstream’ rougher, shoddier versions ) as ‘lazy’ bedroom guitar music!.

    What I’ve discovered on my journey, are the many ‘rich’ folk guitar traditions ( Guitar musics, arrangement styles etc ) found in certain regions of the world where ‘popular’ styles of ‘nylon’ string guitar are king!. Its these often ‘folk’ dance traditions that you can draw upon for ‘inspiration’ & add a fresh perspective on arranging & ‘dressing up’ the odd pop tune in your repertoire.

    It can also add a most ‘entertaining’ rhythmic element to your playing, working a bit like a ‘pop’ jingle ( tho’ more festival ‘dance’ like ) your music can most definitely become a pleasure to ‘most’ peoples ears! ( esp. passing members of the public when out busking! )

  • * Finley Quaye

    1990’s ‘new-wave Reggae Star Finley Quaye, one of the most ‘expressive’ vocalists around back then, is currently going through a process of ‘villification’ at present initiated by his own ‘ Promoter it appears, who booted him & his band unceremoniously off stage for a poor performance at a venue called the Convent in Stroud, South West England.

    No Christian mercy for Finley here though, as Matt Roberts the venue holder called his performance ” Bullshit ” before ‘humiliating him off stage. Since the incident has got into the press, predictabley the ‘hang em’ high brigade have been on his case, & as you guess he’s been further pilloried for his supposed ‘stage’ misdemeanors.

    I for one am ‘forgiving’ though, recognising there is a ‘dark -side’ to the Pop Industry, that rather like the ‘homeless’ on the Streets of Chester, tends to get ‘swept-aside’ by the powers that be & surreptitiously hidden from public view!. Like football , music is full of the ‘casulties’ that are ‘fallen’ rock stars etc, who often plummet into drug & alcohol addiction so as to numb the pain of & waning ‘stage’ career & what must be in itself a ‘tortuous’ knock down from the public limelight.

    Rather fittingly just as I’m critical of Chester Council for seeking to brush aside a social problem that perhaps they ( or Gov ) policy could be justifiably blamed for acutally creating I’m more than a little peaved at the ‘high & mighty’ self-righteous attitude of the Promoter who knew that Finley was ‘troubled’ with personal issues ( well known in the trade & ‘inside’ music circles! ) yet still ‘booked’ him in the first place.

    You get the feeling that Quaye was not necessarily ‘saved from himself’ by friends, colleagues ( nor rather ‘tellingly’ the Promoter! ) from his inevitable ‘self-embarrassment’, which leaves you suspecting that at least in part he was ‘set-up’ for a fall. That is he’s been made the carefully ‘chosen’ Scapegoat for issues that blight the promotion & entertainments industry as a whole!. Promoters & their part of course getting off blame-free!.

    For further convincing on this issue & how ‘his’ case bears similarities to the kind of demise that perhaps lies behind the pretty awful predicaments of ‘unfortunates’ such as the homeless in places like Chester, check out the YouTube Video ‘Culture City TV Africa OYE 2014 Highlights’ – featuring an ‘interview’ with Finley Quaye towards the end of what is only a 5min Video clip.
    It is ‘enlightening’ & goes a long way to explaining things i.e. the kind of ‘social’ facts that may conspire to bring a generally ( an otherwise! ) good man down!
    ( See YouTube ‘ Culture City TV Africa OYE 2014 Highlights’ – An Interview with Finley Quaye )

    • *
      Did you know that there are very ‘effective’ methods for handling ( ‘riding’ ) pain & hatred when they come, very useful ( & possibly life -savingly so! ) especially when it comes to dealing with, what USA Black folk ( mainly men ) colloquially call ‘ the man ‘ !.

      The sad ( tragic ) human fact is that justified ‘grievance’ rather than being ‘directly’ confronted & resolved often gets ‘displaced’, & this ‘negative’ spiralling ( a common very human pattern ) does just that like a viral ‘disease’ simply gets passed on ( is ‘transmitted’ ).

      ‘Stress can be good for you’, I know this goes against ‘conventional’ wisdom, but yes it really can, & its a ‘concept’ based on recent science ( psychological research) carried out at Stanford University. Its all a matter of ‘training’ in ( drilling! ) the right psycho-emotional techniqes & if you’re going to ‘control’ anything, learning to
      ‘control’ your state!. Now thats ‘real’ freedom!.

      • I used to love this song, thanks for jogging my memory!

        ‘Your love gets sweeter every day,
        your love gets sweeter everyday,
        your love gets sweeter every day,
        your love gets……..’
        ( Lyrics by Finley Quaye )

  • ” When did the term ‘rehabilitation’ become so popular? For
    offenders, people with injuries, people with addictions? I
    don’t like it. ” ( * Source Withheld )

    • * Original Quote

      ” Rehabilitation is about investment. Investment in family, work, community. Everthing must aim towards that goal. ”
      ( Ian Dunt )

  • * The Housing Solution

    I keep hearing ‘talk’ emanating from the Labout Party ( ‘leadership contest’ now in full swing! ) about the need to build ‘new’ council housing as a ‘solution’ to current problems with the housing market ( eg. a ‘growing’ homelessness in places like Londons East End & skyrocketing property prices etc ).

    As someone who has lived in ‘substandard’ accommodation for most of my life ( * since leaving the ‘parental’ home! ) I tell you I don’t want to live on a Council Estate ( nor end up living on one! ) & I don’t like the idea of returning to live in a Housing Assocation Flat either ( the ‘noise’ from nuisance neighbours its own kind of Hell, the walls notoriously built so cheaply & notoriously thin! )

    No, until I manage to reach the stage of ‘owning’ my own property ( or find the right ( the ‘ideal’ ) form of sublime ‘communal’ living ) I would be actually very happy to persist with ‘privately rented’ living as long as Landlords are ‘compelled’ to re-invest some of their ‘rent’ income into keeping the building up to a reasonable ‘standard’ & charge ‘fair’ ( affordable ) rents!

    • *
      My current Landlord is generally a ‘good’ man ( I’ve lived with members of his own family, shared accomodation with his own Nephews etc ). Where I live also does have a certain ‘monasterial’ quality, a beautiful light fills the living room post ‘noontide’ & throughout the afternoon.

      But like most Landlords he can be a little tight when it comes to splashing out money on ‘inevitable’ repairs, however having said that, in other ways he is a saving grace. Last year I lost so many days ‘busking’ for various reason that I fell significantly behind with the rent.

      A patient & yes, here, ‘generous’ man he tolerably allowed me to catch up with the rent. If this had been a ‘housing association’ I would have been out on the street or at least the ‘process’ of eviction in full motion & ‘serious’ pressure put on me to meet obligations that I simply could not meet!.

  • Hostels ( & People! )

    I’ve only had a ‘few’ jobs in what up until now has been my long-term unemployment career, however one of the most interesting ( & ‘humanising’ ) job experiences I’ve had was whilst working as a Support Worker then ‘Project worker’ in one of Birminghams most ‘notorious’ Hostels for the ‘homeless’ ( mentally ill, released ex-prisoners etc ) located in the leafy ( ‘Bohemian’ ) suburb’ of Moseley.

    Imagine a Victorian style ‘workhouse’ building planted amongst upper m/c Edwardian Houses, trees, avenues & gardens that was the location of this main road, possibly once respectable ‘Hotel’, now converted into a boarding house for the homeless!.

    There are 2 key things I learned whilst working in this particular ‘ social ‘environment’ that are ‘enlightening’ & ‘directly’ related to the kinds of busking ( homlessness ) issues raised here.

    Firstly how the ‘invisible’ ( drunks, drug takers, shop doorway loiterers etc ) become all of a sudden ‘miraculously’ ( magically! ) ‘visible’ once that emotional ‘connection’ has been made & through directly working with them. And how of course once they become visible, how amazingly in the ‘minds-eye’ they once again become human-beings, their ‘humanity’ restored. ( * importantly, the first important step in ‘rehablitation’! ).

    Secondly, in terms of ‘management’ of such people ( & no, this was not a ‘ One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ situation & an institution manned by ‘ black’ bully mental hostpital nurses/supervisers etc ) you soon learn that it is by getting to ‘know who’s who’ in this ‘local’ social strata ( chronic depressives, schizophrenics, personality disorders & yes ‘psychopaths’ – a few slip through! ) that ‘good’ social policing if you like ( or care ‘orientated’ intervention if you don’t like this term ) can take place.

    In other words, in relation to Busking & today’s homelessness problems I know from ‘personal’ work experience ( from being an ‘insider’! ) that the Police in places like Chester, Birmingham could ‘easily’ manage ( even with depleted ‘staff’ numbers ) the relatively few ‘trouble’ Buskers that do ‘crop’ up without resorting to ‘draconian’ measures’ eg. the ‘new’ Anti-social Behaviour Control orders ( in the form of PSPO’s ), nor indeed ‘excessive’ force!.

    There’s also no ‘excuse’ for sweeping the ‘reality’ of our towns & cities homeless under the ‘civic’ carpet either, in fact you won’t wish to do so ( it feeling quite morally uncomfortable! ), once you’ve gotten to know them!.

    • *
      Please note, my personal social ‘work’ experience has taught me that its not just ‘civic’ authorities than can become embroiled in a process that ‘sweeps’ suffering people ( & their otherwise ‘valuable’ lives away ) ‘ the family’ can also be very much ‘culprits’ in the same ‘dehumanising’ process.

      Its not just the mentally ill, the ‘fallen’ eg. drug addicts, alcoholics etc who you find living ( deposited ) in the Hostel World. No, there are ‘ordinary’ sick people too living in these kinds of ‘quarter’ ( usually in the ‘annex’ at the back!) eg. Parkinsons, Alzeheimers sufferers etc.

      There are ‘stroke’ victims right now, living in Care Homes, abandoned by family, looked after by well meaning but ‘busy’ ( overstretched ) staff, lying ‘half’ paralysed in lonely rooms!. And there but by the Grace of God ( luck or fortune! ) go you!.

  • * The Flower Death

    On the subject of death, my memory has just been jogged of a ‘few’ interesting treatise I have on the matter, I’ve ‘dug’ one up. In Myth for example nothing is more terrifying, more alarming yet intellectually intoxicating, seductive, alluring than the concept of ‘The Flower Death’.

    ‘ On the path of the Warrior, the hero devoloped freedom & autonomy as long as combat was single & direct, foe to foe. But in large-scale conflict he faced situations that arose from outside the individual powers of his action. There then appears ‘ the deviant ‘ from the ‘pure’ hero who is never ‘motivated’ by ‘imperatives’ from beyond ‘himself’.

    For Aztecs the Godhead was a rigid dyad. ‘Omeyocan’, the principle of the split-world. This vertical ideology required ‘constant’ war a way to maintaing the world-order. As the warriors below were ‘slain’ others rained down from Heaven to rush into battle seeking, not victory & survival, but a glorious end in ‘sachimquiztli’ or the ‘ flower death’.

    Likewise the Christian martyr draws some of his glory from the mystique of violence generated by the conflict between this world & a superior one. Dragged to his death in ‘passive’ submission, Saint George knows his ‘sacrifice’ will be rewarded in another world – a comfortable assurance which the ‘authentic’ hero denies himself ‘

    ( Source: Withheld )

    • * Note

      The concept of ‘The Flower Death’ in ‘myth’ is often categorised ( ‘classified’! ) by ‘mythologists’ under the ‘theme’ Martyr or Warrior Psychosis!.

  • David Leedham says

    Any Public Space Protection Order as is suggested for Chester will have the potential to cover a myriad of issues such as the anti-social aspects of homelessness, begging, the taking of legal highs, public drunkenness, dossing down and sleeping where ever individuals choose, busking, and the feeding pigeons.
    We have to understand that the highly organized petition of ‘Keep Streets Live’ and the like are part of a national movement that is entirely political and largely indifferent to the situations residents face.
    How many people who signed actually live in Chester? How many are over 25, free of juvenile half-baked romantic twaddle about rights and freedom?
    How many actually know in detail what the council does to provide for the homeless in Chester?
    How many who signed know what has been happening at the Cross in the very centre of this city which depends on tourism for its survival? Do those who signed want the unrestricted selling and taking of ‘legal highs’ even though they are responsible for the deaths and misery of thousands? Do they want more such shops? Do they want drunks to virtually take control of certain areas?
    Would any of the signees volunteer to clean up after the mindless individuals who urinate and defecate in the Rows, where often, only hours later, parties of school-children unpack their sandwiches?
    Do those who so glibly clicked their keypads want pigeons to be fed all over the city? Do they support the cranks that defeat attempts to restrict their numbers by depositing bird food about the place while the rest of us sleep? Do they know anything of the damage to buildings and to individuals caused by these disease-carrying vermin?
    The culture of this city, weak as it is, does not depend on poorly educated individuals who think they can ‘express’ themselves wherever they want whatever their lack of talent. No one is attempting to clear the streets of performers – some have real gifts – but ask those poor people who have to work in shops bombarded by the noise of the talentless for hours on ends what they think.
    Do we want the growing army of teenage pole carriers advertising the least salubrious aspects of this city’s ‘offer’? Or would these petitioners like all shops to put these sorts of adverts on the streets in the free-for-all they advocate?
    All the council is doing is to exercise powers granted by government to help us, those who live and work here, take back control of our streets from those who instead would drag us all down into the gutter.
    Police and Police Community Support Officers, still remarkably clueless as to their roles, need clear guidance and authority. In this way, the absolutely appalling behaviour to be seen at times in Chester can be dealt with effectively by referrals to rehabilitation programmes, hostels, police cells or prison, with on the spot fines for lesser offences.
    One hopes that this petition of nameless outsiders is no more than the last gasp of an uneducated malign underclass and its misguided politically-motivated manipulators. For let us be clear, we are dealing with people, many of whom, though their own fecklessness and stupidity and not government cuts, would be happy to see this city, like them, brought to its knees, in the process holding up two fingers to all our costly efforts to help.
    David Leedham

    • Jonny says

      This petition specifically objects to the inclusion of busking, feeding birds, and ‘Lying down and sleeping in any public place’ on the proposed PSPO. It makes no reference to the measures as they relate to so-called legal highs.

      Whenever new legislative measures are proposed, especially ones that create new categories of criminal offence it is prudent to ask whether existing laws can be used to deal with issues.

      In the case of busking there is no justification for making busking itself a criminal offence. It is completely inappropriate to turn the private business group Chester BID CH1 into the arbiter of what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ busking. This fundamentally misconstrues what busking is, namely an informal and spontaneous aspect of the cultural life of Chester’s public spaces. Many buskers are students still at school gaining valuable experience of performing in a dynamic and exciting context. Formalising busking through ‘designated’ pitches and auditions will have the effect of excluding many people from becoming buskers in Chester, it will also put established performers off from coming to Chester because who in their right mind would want to play in a city where you could face a criminal record and a fine of £1000 for singing songs in the wrong place without pre-approval from an unqualified business funded bureaucrat. It is an absurd proposal, at odds with the current strength of Chester’s cultural offering, costly and contentious to administer, a perfect example of gesture politics.

      There is a wide array of existing powers which can and should be used in cases where buskers cause genuine nuisance. The busking community does not object to proportionate measures targeting specific examples of problematic behaviour, what they do object to is the invention of a new criminal offence attached to summary powers which could be used against any busker even when no nuisance was being caused. If you think it is ‘good for tourism’ to have videos of police arresting musicians on the streets beamed around the world via social media you lack understanding of why people visit Chester (hint, it’s not just to shop at Topshop).

      You imply in your post that the PSPO is aimed at the ‘antisocial aspects’ of homelessness but the police backed proposals make sleeping or lying down in any public place itself a criminal offence. This is absurd and targets punitive action against some of the most vulnerable people in society. It has nothing to do with concern about ‘antisocial behaviour’ and everything to do with seeking to remove the visibility of destitution from touristic areas in Chester for the sake of maintaining a certain ‘image’.

      Once again, a city that targets homeless people with measures that criminalise and ostracise them is unworthy of a good image and will rightly attract public censure and national attention.

      By all means allow the police to target enforcement action against recalitrant individuals who are causing genuine problems for residents, but not through the expansion of arbitrary powers, but instead through the judicious and expedient use of existing powers in partnership with those agencies that are already working alongside the homeless and vulnerable at a time when funding to provide help to this marginalised group is being cut at a national level.

      These proposed measures, which include making it a criminal offence to feed ducks, have everything to do with administrative convenience and nothing to do with the wellbeing of the people of Chester. They are an insult to democracy and a clear example of why the police need to be held to account and scrutinised when they ask for new powers when old powers suffice perfectly well.

    • David I have to say that the political ‘reality’ is that Its PSPO’s in this context have the very damaging potential to be used as national ‘ political ‘ tools by certain, should I say, cynical ( socially utilitarian! ) local councils ( of whom many it appears are of the political ‘philistine’ Labour variety! See. Camden, Oxford etc ).

      You don’t have to be a social ‘activist’ in any shape or form ( certainly ‘not’ part of any ‘national’ movement !), just an ordinary ‘democratic citizen’ possessing a bit of ‘common-sense’, to see that the very real ‘danger’ of ‘public space protecton orders’ is that all they really represent in situations like this, is a ‘cheap’ substitute for ‘good’ policing in our town & city-centres.

      Using ‘new’ Anti-Social Law in this way, may in the ‘short-term’ provide a quick ‘cash-cow’ style boost to the council treasury by creating ‘petty’ misdeameanor’s sanctioned by on the spot-fines for relatively ‘innocent’ everyday family ( mom, dad & yg kid ) type activities like ‘feeding the pidgeons’ etc.

      However in the long-term what is the social pay-off? Nevermind ‘interfering’ with peoples natural affinity to & kindness towards animals, whats at stake are centuries worth of hard won ‘civil’ freedoms in this country i.e. liberal England.

      David I could’nt disagree with you on this issue more, because what we are witnessing here in fact, is something quite socially regressive & very un-English – not ‘progressive’ law!. I & many others i.e. ‘ordinary’ people ( the general public ) don’t want to see even a ‘hint’ of a return to a political climate, a repressive & severely stifling one, that bears more resemblance to the ‘aristocratic’ ancient regime of 17th Century pre-revolutionary France ( i.e. a European style ‘authoritiarian’ police state! ) than a ‘progressive’ 21st century UK town/city ‘civic’ culture.

      The police, town hosts, wardens, civic management are very ‘clear’ about their roles & over the years have evolved very ‘effective’ means of handling trouble, crime etc in our town centres & without resorting to such ‘draconian’ means as proposed today. One problem is the current culture of ‘austerity’ that seems to be a toxin that threatens to poison unnecessarily many areas of our culture’ ( & thats despite very ‘real’ Police cuts & their radical re-organisation etc )

      The truth is ‘local’ business, property developers of late have through BID schemes garnered a ‘power’ that has bolstered in them far too much ‘confidence’ with regards use of ‘public’ space. The truth is a ‘democratic’ inmbalance has developed over recent years whereby the interests of a ‘few’ shopkeepers ( certain types of business ) have been given sway over other important interests eg. Street Performers ( people like myself! ). This is unfair, the kind of social ‘injustice’ that I for one am angry about, not as the ‘true’ believer in a movement but simply as a ‘self-employed’ Public Musician.

      Eg. A Case in point!. I know from experience that a Public Musician needs longer than 1hr on a spot ( the current Chester code! ) to make a decent income from their ‘entertainment’ services. Again I know from experience that only ‘ an in-experienced shopkeeper, or ‘partial’ councillor or BID official would have come up with this kind of rule!. Its certainly not a Street Performers doing! ( lest they be a ‘masochist’ ! ).

      In a very ‘positive’ sense now that this issue has surfaced, we of course today have ‘ the opportunity’ of this injustice being properly redressed. David, in the interests of ‘future’ democracy lets stop ‘carping’ & take this chance, lets ‘negotiate’ & along the lines of ‘common-sense’ work this thing out ASAP & to the ‘mutual’ interests of everyone!

      • * Note

        Yes it is possible for some street ‘acts’ to whip up public enthusiasm, a matching crowd & a hat full of coin over a 1hr period ( I’ve done it myself on more than a few occasions! ).

        Busking is not necessarily just about that though, it serves other important functions & from a Public Musicians perspective not least the creation of a genuine sustained delightful ‘musical’ air in setting & place.

        It also serves as a useful counterpoint to the more usual dominant ‘mass’ cultural expectations of rushing around, A-type personality’s, vacuous ‘motivational’ hype, emotional reaction formation ( ie. negativity masked as positivity ), shallowness & pop ‘junk’ culture etc. See Surface optimism, disingenousness & hollow creativity.

        An ‘authentic’ Public Performer/Musician really does need more than 1hr ( perhaps a minimum of 2hrs ) to perform their potential ‘healthy’ role & ‘true’ artistic function properly!.

        • And so does any actual ‘sane’, down-to-earth Street Performer or just plain decent Busker for that matter!

          • As for busking ‘crowds’, they don’t necessarily mean much ( from a ‘true’ Artists perspective that is! )

            As philospher Arthur Schopenhaur stated & I quote;

            ” Would a ‘musician’ feel flattered by the loud applause of his audience, if it were known to him that it consisted entirely of deaf people? ”.

  • * A National Indices For The Homeless

    Bytheway I back the idea of an national ‘indices’ for the homeless. A great concept & very important for the formation of decent & effective social policy in the future.

    Forming part of ‘new’ broader economic indicator of the country’s wealth & wellbeing, we need to be able to more clearly chart the ‘progress’ of ‘social improvement’ in terms of home provision & the eradication of poverty on our streets ( its not all about ‘abstract’ London trading figure & the ‘footsie’ index! ).

    Currently being touted amongst Labour Leadership ‘battle’ circles this kind of social measure would represent a significant stride forward ( I would say! ) in the ‘positive’ direction towards a more democratic, inclusive, ‘fairer’ society.

  • * Upper Tax Threshholds

    I don’t support raising upper tax thresholds to 60%, this could be just as damaging a brick wall ‘psychologically’ as PSPO’s pose for Buskers et al existing ( surviving! ) on the other extreme of of the scale i.e. on the ‘fringes’ of actual ‘tax’ liability.

    Instead I support there being an emphasis on full-scale moves to collect the 50 Billion Pounds currently estimated to be ‘evaded’ by the Big Corporations. Then let this wealth be fairly socially re-distributed or invested.

    ( *Nb I owe a ‘back-log’ of tax at the moment ( or should I say ‘penalties’ !) however despite my ‘relative’ low income compared to the Big Economic Players I don’t feel any resentment at all paying it. In fact with regards the ‘catch-up’ of my ‘books’ I ‘pleasurabley’ look forward too it & I actually enjoy ( not masochistically but productively! ) the prospect of making my contributions. )

    In fact, on a human level, I’m very pleased with myself in this respect, I don’t suffer from ‘greed’ of this type at all, all the ‘Bohemian’ years living in relative ‘dole’ frugality have paid of in this sense & I am spiritually, healthily very well adjusted!.

  • * Investment Banks

    The proposal to set up a ‘national’ investment bank to support the growth of a ‘hi-tech’ manufacturing base, although sympathetic to in principle, I’m also a little bit sceptical of practically. Here I would prefer the ‘commercial’ banks themselves be left ( under ‘new’ regulation & prompting from the political centre ) to get on with the job of lending money to ‘fledgling’ business themselves & on ‘market’ terms!.

    However whilst I’m a little bit nervous about anything resembling a heavy type old school ‘socialist’ command economy I do strongly believe that ‘active’ government ‘intervention in the ‘housing’ market is long called for.

    Here I strongly believe the ‘racket’ that is the ‘dark’ triangle ie. ‘Property Investors’ sitting on ’empty’ land, vested interested ‘market’ manipulating ‘Estate Agents’ & Money Lenders has in the wider ‘national’ interest got to be broken up.

    I would ethusiastically support a ‘national’ driven programme of house building in this country & if necessary the adoption of a ‘German’ Style long-term rent housing policy. The basic ‘key’ measure of a good society has got to be how well it houses its citizens!.

    • * Note

      The ‘people’ are already doing it for themselves. See the blog by Sweetsway eg. ” D.I.O Regeneration: Proving That We Can Do It Ourselves ”.

  • * Mass Culture

    We live in an age now where its deemed ‘highbrow’ to simply read a book, to watch a ‘documentary’ is in some quarters is a little ‘aesthete’ & playing an instrument properly eg. piano, classical guitar is deemed outright ‘elitist’.

    Well I say to such ‘cultural’ detractors ( the petty, the superficial & the vain ) those who might not want to listen to, & who might deride what they regard as merely my ‘shitty opinion’, that in my best judgement, my most highly ‘informed’ moral opinion that is, I believe that there are some out there who don’t want us to be ‘educated’, they don’t want us to think!.

    So what I’m in fact proposing is not just some inversley snootty re-fashioning of taste, I’m calling for an actual ‘revolution’ in consciousness. You see I’m not an ‘economic’ puritan, I’m a proponent of the ‘rich’ life (& for all! ). And as with all the great ‘sages’ through the ages I identify 2 forms of riches 1. material ( money! ) 2. spiritual ( education, culture, relationships, love etc ).
    When I suggest a need to raise cultural expectations ( standards even! ) I’m not talking about ‘banning’ Boyzone outfits from busking on the High Street, No!.

    I’m talking about a more general raising of public ‘enlightenment’, a greater, wider appreciation & understanding of the arts, intellectual activity, taking part in the ‘big’ conversation etc. In other words everthing the ‘neo-cons’, the establishment, the spiritually cowardly & the perpetually ‘fake’ fear!.

    • *Note

      Reading Geoge Orwell evokes a telling irony, reminding me that the need for a kind of ‘ inverse’ wider cultural consciousness is just as important;

      ” We need to fight against the notion
      that a half-witted ‘public’ schoolboy
      is better at his job than an intelligent
      Mechanic. ”
      ( from the Lion & The Unicorn by George Orwell )

  • * On Charity

    ” While we do our good works let us not forget that
    that the real solution lies in a world in which charity
    will have become unnecessary ”

    ” Charity……….. is the opium of the privileged.”
    ( by Chinua Achebe – ‘The Anthills of the Savannah’ )

  • * Congratulations Chester On Your Busking Code

    I’m very critical of a lot of so called busking ‘guides’ that have been developed in towns & city’s across the country esp my home town’s ‘new’ scheme in Bimingham ( of that I’m basically ‘scathing’ ! ). Patronising, ‘identity’ stealing, beauracratic incursions most of ’em, yeah ‘sheer’ regulatory rubbish’

    However I really like Chesters Code, ‘sensible’, rational & nicely presented despite certain ‘aspects’ of tone that I don’t like. The best ‘busking’ code in the UK I’d say, something I for one cd even support ( not ‘precisely’ for Bham but in general as a well written & locally well considered code ! ).

    One problem does remain of course, & thats these’ codes are all too often simply too ‘one-way’, all about Buskers accountability & not Businesses or indeed Council officials, wardens etc. I’m serious here when I say ‘ I’m not playing any games ! ‘, if I’m to be open to scrutiny & ‘complaint’ then so should all these other organisations, bodies & personnel.

    • * Note

      Failure to take into consideration this latter ‘issue’ means that as Buskers you allow ‘local’ Authorities, ‘council’ officials to walk all over you, to effectively ‘infantilise’ you !.

      For organisations such as the MU to allow this, ‘activists’ to cow-tow to this ‘one-way’ accountability means that you are either a poltical ‘front’ i.e collaborators in this ‘undermining’ process or in essence ‘weak’, too politically feeble to adequately ‘stand’ up for yourselves. Either way ‘politically’ speaking the situation is totally unacceptable ( ‘untenable’ ) for the likes of ‘me’ & no doubt other ‘jobbing’ Street Performers !.

      • * Further Notes

        Above all local ‘regular’ Buskers should be given priority ‘audience’ & opportuniy to consult in the ‘formation’ of Busking ‘codes’ in a particular place ( if indeed neccessary as the ‘national’ Law itself covers most bases, ‘guides’ being most often a ‘pretentious’ buearacratic add-on ! )

        • In the interests of truly fair & ‘open’ liberal democracy Buskers should be included ( tho’ particularly ‘town’/city-centre ‘regulars’ ! ) not as ‘poltical’ organisations, but openly invited into the consultation process as experienced, intelligent & ‘reflective’ individuals.

          • Nb. Personal experience ( & ‘local’ knowledge ) tells me that altho’ I do like something about Chesters ‘overall’ approach to busking in the town, the ‘most’ suitable ‘code’ ( with specific ‘changes’ ) for Birmingham wd have been Stratford upon Avons.

            Overseen by local ‘folk’ Musician Marion Morgan ( or ‘Fleetwood’ ) & incidently one time Stratforward BID Staff Member, the ‘code’ ‘she’ managed to put together cut out a lot of the ‘beauracratic’ patronising clap-trap ‘advice’ stuff & ‘focus’ on a ‘decent’ busking ‘framework’ for the place !. ( See. London ‘Liberty’ Blog for further ‘comment’ !. )

          • What I like about the ‘codes’ ( or busking ‘practices’ ! ) found in Chester/ Stratford Upon Avon is the ‘queuing’ system i.e. avoids certain ‘selfish’ ( & prejudicial ) individuals jealously keeping ‘spots’ &/or passing them on to ‘merely’ friends, ‘in’-gps etc !. No such ‘safeguards’ in Bhams ‘new’ code ( see. details ! ).

          • A place where recently ‘spots’ on eg. New St were taken over by apparantly ‘street’ Gangsters !.

            ( * See. Bham Mail ” Birmingham Buskers Threat To Chop Off Fingers Of Teenage Rival ” Oct 2015 ) .

          • * The Cheltenham Races ( or the best written busking ‘code’ in England ! )

            Which finally brings me finally to my ‘favourite’ written busking code, for ‘plain’ written English & without the office ‘dense’ beauracratese & ‘paltry’ advice anyways & thats the one that pertains for Cheltenham.

            Its sets a ‘nice’ n’ simple framework & without any ‘tone’ of prigishness which for me is a great advantage & ‘refreshing’ relief. The only ‘problem’ is the 1hr spot rule but if that was ‘looked’ at again I’d be recommending this example as nr ‘perfect’ for eg. Birmingham if not elsewhere in the country.

          • ( * See Oxford ‘Open Letter# Blog for further ‘comment’ )

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