In defence of The Moot

We were asked to give a statement to Newcastle magistrates court regarding an incident in late-November.

“I witnessed the incident in Newcastle via the live Facebook feed, after being alerted that there was a problem by one of the band’s followers.

What I saw made rather uncomfortable viewing. Two security guards (actually they turned out to be Council officers but this wasn’t the impression given by their dress and demeanour) were acting in a very menacing manner, circling the defendants. There were repeated threats to take the buskers’ equipment without any adequate explanation of why or the process necessary to do so. 

My immediate advice was to ask what law was being broken (if any) and as no explanation was forthcoming, that the Police be called to deal with the  situation. The aggressive behaviour of the two officers continued for the entire period until the Police arrived, at least half an hour if I remember rightly. It must have been quite frightening for two women to be surrounded by these burly men for that length of time.

Even once the Police finally attended no mention of the 1974 Control of Pollution Act was made, for some time. In fact not until the musicians had actually finally been pressurised into beginning to pack down their gear and leave. It was during this process that the Police and security officers consulted their mobile phones, presumably found the relevant legislation, and then unlawfully threatened the pair with a Dispersal Order to force them to give their details.

The entire incident would have been entirely avoided had the Newcastle staff politely explained the relevant section of the 1974 CPA in the first instance. Instead they chose to intimidate the performers and threaten to make an unlawful seizure of equipment.

Keep Streets Live also questions whether it is in the public interest to pursue this case, as there were no complaints about the busking itself, no harm or loss was being caused, and the fact that the summons was issued a considerable period after the performance had actually stopped and it was clear that it would not continue. We believe claim that one of the buskers had previously been warned regarding this offence is simply not true. Would the Council like to provide evidence to the contrary?”

Clare end Eryl have now launched a crowdfunder to cover their legal costs which they currently estimate at being approximately £1500.

What is particularly ironic about these events is that, as has been previously documented on this site, in 2015 Newcastle City Council published a document entitled ‘Vision for Culture’ which had the ambition of creating

 “a city buzzing with creative spirit, offering opportunities for everyone to play their part in creating our culture – continuing to make ours one of the most vibrant cities in Europe. “

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2 Comments on "In defence of The Moot"

  • Thanks Chester Bingley from Keep Streets Live for this report. Since the incident I pleaded guilty to the offence of using a loudspeaker in the street after 9pm and was given an absolute discharge by Newcastle magistrates court. My solicitor represented me in court and I had a lot of mitigation. As I pleaded guilty I had to pay £85 court costs plus my solicitor fees. However Eryl pleaded not guilty as she does not own or operate any speakers, she plays an acoustic djembe. She went to trial on 4/4/19, Newcastle magistrates court found her guilty of permitting or operating a loudspeaker after 9pm (they upped her charge from permitting to operating and permitting during the trial). They gave her a 6 month suspended sentence. They decided as Eryl and I are a band “The Moot” that Eryl was guilty. Newcastle City council requested costs, Eryl had to pay court costs, altogether the costs totalled nearly £900. She also had to pay solicitors fees. Having spoken to a busker who knows and speaks to buskers in Newcastle it would appear we have been very unlucky as night time busking does happen in Newcastle. I doubt The Moot will ever busk in Newcastle again. I find it ironic that they claim to be a city of culture when they prosecute musicians and street performers and give us criminal records for performing art. The whole experience has made me more determined than ever to support Keep Streets Live and stick up for buskers rights. The upcoming generations should have the same opportunities I had when starting out as a busker. You can support Keep Streets Live by becoming a patron at http://www.patreon.com/keepstreetslive
    I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who donated on the Go Fund Me campaign and also for everyone’s words of support, it’s all made a big difference.
    Clare Dowling
    #keepstreetslive

  • Neil Murten says

    I also witnessed this by the live Facebook feed & was very disturbed & alarmed that two employees of Newcastle council could harass & bully two females & to this day I can not understand were the safeguarding policies that the two males should have been trained in went ie threatening females to the point that Eryl stated that she felt very unwell 3 times & their was no response at all from the 2 council workers Newcastle city council should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this to even get to court a city that wants a vision for culture what a joke

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