Leeds City Council pay tribute to KSL founding director Jonny Walker

 

On Friday the 23rd of July 2021, on what would have been Jonny’s 41st Birthday, friends and family gathered together in one of his most popular busking spots in Leeds City Centre, the city where he lived to dedicate a memorial stone that has been placed in his honour by Leeds City Council.

It commemorates that spot as “Jonny’s Pitch” in recognition of the countless times he would set up and entertain the streets of Leeds; but more importantly, it underlines what a huge contribution Jonathan made to the city, its vibrancy and its musical heritage.

 

As a busy busker, Jonny played in over 50 British towns and cities every year, leading many of his fans in each location to adopt him as their local minstrel, known for live streaming his sets he also broadcast all over the world with fan bases as far as Australia, Brazil and Japan to name but a few.

Jonny was more than just a very good singer and guitar player. As he developed as a street performer he became a leading campaigner for the preservation of street culture in Britain, taking the fight to local councils over the rights of artists, musicians and entertainers to occupy public space and perform.

In 2012 in response to new proposals by Liverpool city council to control busking, he founded Keep Streets Live. Jonny faced similar battles with Camden council in London, launching a High Court challenge against a stringent set of rules on buskers, all of whom would henceforth require a licence.

During his deputation against the policy in Camden, Jonny said:

“Buskers act as civic lighthouses. We give directions. We break up fights. We call the police when we spot trouble. We talk to the lonely. We create moments of enjoyment between strangers, and contribute to the social and cultural enrichment of shared urban spaces. We are an integral part of the ecology of the street. We care deeply about the wellbeing of the places where we perform.”

 

 

Former deputy leader of Leeds City Council and friend of Jonny’s, Lucinda Yeadon opened the dedication event describing: “Jonny brought a whole family together with the work that he did, the love that he gave and the friendship that radiated from him. “Today is a celebration of Jonny. Those of you who knew him know that he was a devoted dad, a loyal friend and a loving brother and son.

“But he was also a passionate activist. We came up with the idea for a memorial stone at Jonny’s pitch so that everyone would know that this is Jonny’s pitch and will always be Jonny’s pitch. I see this as a symbol of everlasting friendship.  “So Jonny, here you go love. This is a brick for your lifehouse – and thank you for showing us the way.”

 

The ceremony featured music performances from Jonny’s friends and fellow buskers including Jake and Nick Keating, Anna Rusbatch, Alex Johnston-Seymour, and his brother Michael Walker. In addition, The Yorkshire Youth Choir then joined Michael who performed Jonny’s part in an emotional rendition of You Raise Me Up.

Director of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Sharon Watson MBE who concluded the event shared the following tribute:

“Jonny’s work has shown us how barriers can be broken down, how participation can be something for everyone.  “Jonny described busking as having a democratic access to spaces. The informality and spontaneity of the art form is what makes it special and significant.

“Don’t ever stop keeping our streets live. Let’s not be silent or still in our actions. Let’s be sure we can be heard and we can be seen.

“Art is the thread which I believe can change many lives and bring equality into a world which has lost so much. Thank you Jonny – thank you for your legacy, and thank you for caring about us.  Let’s continue Jonny’s legacy.

 

To us this stone represents a symbol of hope, a continuation of Jonny’s legacy, of his desire for our city centres to be places of creativity, spontaneity and interaction. We look forward to listening to many more acts performing at “Jonny’s Pitch” and we hope that Jonny’s message to “Keep Streets Live” will live on.

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With special thanks to:

Lucinda Yeadon, close friend of Jonny and former Deputy Leader of Leeds City Council.

Leeds City Council and especially James Lewis and Jonathan Pryor for authorising the stone.

To Chris Simpson who arranged the installation.

To M.A. Clarke and Son, Memorial Masons who generously donated the stone and to the wonderful artists and friends who contributed to the ceremony.

 

 

The work of KSL and legacy of Jonny continues with the support of our passionate team of directors who volunteer their time to continue this vital work.

To learn more about how you can support us contact us at contact@keepstreetslive.com.

Thank you.

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3 Comments on "Leeds City Council pay tribute to KSL founding director Jonny Walker"

  • Gwyneth Ferguson says

    What a tribute to a great and sadly missed man.❤️

  • Derek Manton says

    A wonderful heartfelt tribute to the legend Jonny Walker, missed everyday never forgotten ❤

  • Simon says

    A lovely tribute to Jonny.

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