Is busking allowed during lockdown?

Is busking allowed during lockdown?

“The law states that: “If you cannot work from home you should continue to travel to your workplace… You do not need to be classed as a critical worker to go to work if you cannot work from home.”

Our understanding is that, as long as a crowd is not being drawn and social distancing remains possible, busking is allowed under the current guidelines.

We would strongly encourage street performers to maintain social distancing and take measures to ensure their workplace is Covid-safe


Below are some bite sized chunks of law and guidance to help you make things clear to those who challenge your right to work.


Restrictions on movement

6.—(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.

(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need

(f)to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living;


If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay in your local area – unless it is necessary to go further, for example to go to work.

You can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home. This includes, but is not limited to, people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that require in-person attendance.

You do not need to be classed as a critical worker to go to work if you cannot work from home.

You are allowed to stay overnight away from your home if you… require accommodation for work purposes or to provide voluntary services.


The police have a range of powers they can use to enforce coronavirus restriction regulations. They can only use these powers in response to a public health need.

Differences between Government information and legal restrictions caused confusion about how the lockdown should be enforced… officers have sometimes (wrongly) enforced guidance rather than the law.


You can travel from the other end of the country to Cleethorpes or wherever in our area so long as you have a reasonable excuse. Not being local is not a reason we can give an FPN for. Fact. You don’t need to be local so having to define it is not relevant.

The issue is, do you have a reasonable excuse for being out and that can apply to someone from Hull or Grimsby or Bradford or London.

There is a real difference in what you can and should do but as long as you have a reasonable excuse you are allowed to leave your house.

You can travel to where you want for exercise but whether it is wise… Doing something unwise doesn’t make it illegal.

Making a complaint to police.

This incident provides a handy example of how to make a complaint to police when mistreated under lockdown laws.
“I was approached by an officer (2377) today whilst working as a busker in Norton, who insisted I move on under the Coronavirus regulations as he claimed my work was ‘non-essential’ and threatened me with a Fixed Penalty Notice.
I politely tried to explain to him that you can leave home for work purposes “where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or provide those services” from home according to the law itself.
In addition the guidance to the law clarifies that “The government is NOT saying that only people doing ‘essential’ work can go to work. ANYONE who cannot work from home can still go to work” This seems abundantly clear.
A statement from my union, the Musicians’ Union, in line with government authorities says “busking is allowed for work purposes as long as it is not encouraging mass crowds. Audiences will need to adhere to the appropriate social distancing guidelines.”
There was no crowd, no issue of social distancing, and there had also been no complaints about the nature of my performance.
The officer was abrasive in nature and refused to listen to what I was saying, despite having screenshots of the above information on my phone. He claimed that what I was saying was my ‘opinion’ or ‘interpretation’ despite the fact that I was reading the law and guidance word for word.
He talked over me constantly and insisted I “show some respect’ and wait until he had finished then once he had and I took my turn to speak he walked away from me and turned his back, before returning to reiterate that he would take enforcement action if I didn’t move on.
I am concerned that police officers are unaware of the true content of the Coronavirus regulations. Even when presented with the exact wording from the government’s own website this officer chose to ignore it and insist on his own interpretation.
Although I am repeating myself I would like to emphasise that the government guidance does not distinguish between essential and non-essential work. You can go to work where it is ‘unreasonable to do your job from home’. Clearly, as a self-employed street musician, it is not possible for me to do this from home.”

Safer busking, social distancing and the future.

Safer busking, social distancing and the future.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the concepts of busking and social distancing are not obvious bedfellows.

However, in these uncertain times, it looks like us buskers are going to have to find ways of reconciling the two if we are to survive the foreseeable future. So to that end we’re making a few suggestions about how to operate as the streets slowly open up again.


The Covid crisis has undoubtedly speeded up the move towards a cashless society. Not only is it likely that punters will be carrying less cash in the first place, but processing contactless donations reduces the risk of transmission. A card reader such as iZettle (preferably with a repeat function) will be a very handy addition to your arsenal. We’d also recommend looking into an app such as The Hat app, and/or setting up a profile at The Busking Project. If you have a PayPal account you can set up a link in a few seconds.


As the Coronavirus can be passed on through use of both coins and notes you’ll probably want to disinfect your daily takings. The best way to do this is to collect them in a sealable plastic container and not touch them until you get home. Then you can open the container and spray them liberally with disinfectant. Make sure they are well covered and wipe any notes clean with a tissue, then leave them for an hour or so. Then you can pour/wipe away the excess disinfectant and dry the money with some kitchen roll. Leave it again to stand until it is fully dry before bagging it up, rolling it or whatever you’d normally do. Make sure you also give the container (and your work surface) a good wipe down before reusing it. If you normally use a hat you should probably line it with a plastic bag so you can easily collect the contents without touching them.


Wash your hands thoroughly after handling your equipment, your money, before eating, after driving etc. As regularly and frequently as possible. As access to hand washing facilities may be limited when you’re out and about, carrying and hand sanitiser may be a good idea.


Social distancing can make choosing your pitch more complicated than usual. Firstly you will need to leave a good distance between yourself and your case/hat/container etc. We’d suggest at least 2 metres to make people feel extra comfortable AND also to make it very obvious that you are acting responsibly and social distancing. Then there needs to be enough space beyond that to allow people to pass safely without donating. Be aware of whether people might need to get behind you or to the sides and leave a couple of metres in each case if they do. Another very important consideration is to anticipate where people may need to queue to enter businesses, as this could make customers nervous, cause complaints and lead to you being asked to move on. It is worth checking out our general tips on pitch selection as well.


Learn the law, regulations and guidelines regarding working, travelling, gathering and social distancing wherever you are. Print relevant documents or store them on your mobile devices so you can refer to them if challenged. You can find some useful links on our Coronavirus help post. It is also worth considering how other (non-Corona) legislation might be used to prevent you performing.


You may find that you feel less comfortable than usual in ‘digging in’ when asked to move during the crisis, or also that pedestrian flows change in unanticipated ways or queues develop. For this reason it may be beneficial to reduce your equipment to a minimum so that your set up and take down times are as short as possible.


This is particularly important if there are restrictions on gatherings. It is your responsibility to manage your crowd. For walk by acts it is relatively easy to ask people between songs to disperse or be aware of social distancing. Circle acts may want to look at adapting their shows into a number of short ‘segments’ where you can bottle and ask punters to move on rather than trying to build a large crowd for a big finale.