“Busking It”. Manchester.

“Busking It”. Manchester.

The Manchester Busking Convention organised by Keep Streets Live and the Musicians’ Union is the first event of it’s type in the UK.

It is aimed not only at buskers of all levels of experience and those those who might be considering busking, but also at policy-makers and those with an interest in how street performance fits in the general urban environment.

Through a series of interactive workshops on the day we will be exploring the history of the relationship between the MU and KSL, and how we have worked together to protect performers and establish positive approaches to busking in a number of Council areas across Northern England.

There will be an extensive Q&A session on busking and the law where we can tell you everything you need to know about your rights (and responsibilities) as a street performer.

We’ll also be looking at how busking works as part of a wider musical career (facilitating travel, honing your act and generating interest via social media platforms), and examining some of the options available to us in an increasingly cashless society.

In addition to this we will be giving advice on setting up your equipment, getting good sound and minimising disruption to others when you perform in public spaces.

BOOK HERE

Worry in Westminster

Worry in Westminster

It seems that we are entering worrying times in Westminster, and that the Council are moving towards proceeding with a licensing proposal.

Despite our better efforts, including some great work by our former Director Dave Southern, it seems that Westminster feel that the Street Performers’ Association which we revitalised is not doing enough to deal with problems on the ground which amount to 2,000 complaints about busking annually.


For whatever reason the plan put in place at the meeting we attended earlier in the year has not been implemented, so cannot be deemed to have failed. We were promised extensive support in talking to other local stakeholders to make them aware of the new complaints procedure that would be routed directly to performers who were pitch-side and able to respond instantly but this support never materialised. Westminster SPA put together a website, code of conduct and offered free membership of the SPA to all who supported and agreed to abide by the code.

Westminster are making promises that it will be ‘performer led’ but these in practice are worthless. The Council themselves have ultimate authority over the process and licensing under Section V is a one-way contract where performers are legally bound, under threat of criminal prosecution, to accept whatever conditions are imposed. The result of the proposal is a simple ‘divide and rule’ scenario, creating two tiers of performers; one of which is entitled and legalised and the other marginalised and excluded.

The fact that proposals have been changed unilaterally by WCC indicates that their intentions are not to be trusted and is deeply troubling, although ironically this fact has lost them the support of the few performers who were on board with the license, unified our community and strengthened our campaign. The recent incident involving Sammi Jay where an enforcement officer unlawfully seized her CD’s has also fostered more mistrust of the Council.


KSL can vouch for the effectiveness of CPN’s (or other ASB legislation) in dealing with problem buskers because we deal with many cases where they have been issued. Even in cases where KSL believe there are genuine grounds for appeal most buskers do not have the inclination and/or funds to go through the court process. In fact our main concern has been that Community Protection Notices are too powerful a tool and leave performers vulnerable to abuse.


We firmly believe that a ‘crackdown’ of a few days will deal with the perpetrators, and that this would probably have to be repeated once every few months. Simple afternoon pitch walk with your enforcement Officers, Police and performer representatives would suffice. This seems very resource-light in comparison with licensing which is bureaucratic, open to legal challenge, will attract adverse publicity and disproportionately affect those who are NOT causing a problem.  And of course there will still be the additional duties of enforcement on the ground to deal with which will be increased as in addition to genuine problems there must also be checks on those who are busking responsibly but simply do not have a license.


Westminster have access to a wealth of experience in the form of Keep Streets Live, The Musicians’ Union, Equity, Busk In London and others. We’re currently working successfully with Local Authorities in dozens of UK towns/cities, and see no reason why this couldn’t be the same. Between us we really should be able to make something work, and I believe the chances of that are greatly increased by Westminster working with us rather than against us.

Please support the Westminster SPA Crowdfunder to help keep their website active, and if anyone can attend the next meeting in London on 19th November that would be fantastic.

Patreon: Why We Need You.

Patreon: Why We Need You.

JOIN HERE OR MAKE A ONE-OFF DONATION!

“Keep Streets Live is the only organisation working across the UK (and beyond) that is dedicated to fighting for the rights of buskers and other users of public space, against a backdrop where public life is increasingly hyper-regulated.

Having supported KSL for 5 years now in various capacities (I’m currently part of the team in Canterbury, where KSL has managed to develop a positive relationship with the council and local stakeholders to ensure our streets are open to street performers), I’m keenly aware that none of our achievements would have been possible without the efforts those who volunteer so much time and energy for the cause, despite having full-time jobs and personal lives of their own. They add to their own workload and stress to make the working lives of street entertainers possible.

Supporting Keep Streets Live with a regular donation ensures that we can run sustained campaigns against attempts to prevent artistic expression in public spaces. The threat of PSPOs and other forms of regulation isn’t going away – it seems that nearly every week another UK council brings in their own set of draconian measures that stifle public sociality and street culture. We need to treat this threat with the seriousness it deserves, because once we lose these rights they are incredibly difficult to get back.

Particularly if you are unable to get involved in person, giving a little bit of money each month is a way you can be assured that you’re doing your bit to preserve the important and ancient tradition of busking, which brings joy, warmth and atmosphere to so many. KSL’s reach also extends to some of the most vulnerable members of our society; particularly homeless populations, who are so often brought under the same category as buskers and anyone else partaking in an activity that isn’t shopping or passing through.

Our public spaces mean so much more than that – let’s work together to ensure this remains the case.”- Jack Lowe.