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Busking is an essential part of UK street culture

3 min read

Lib Dem peer Lord Clement-Jones writes about his Lords question on 'the use of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to prevent or control busking'

Across the UK are many voluntary schemes coming into effect to promote and ensure that there is a thriving and popular busking scene. In Liverpool, York and many other cities voluntary codes have or are being agreed which obviate the need for licensing. Following work by the Mayor’s Busking Taskforce, and drawing inspiration in particular from Liverpool’s experience Busk In London has been created.

They are organizing a National Busking Day and the Young Buskers Competition and with the MU and others they are co-ordinating agreement across the London Boroughs on a new busking code and voluntary online registration as the way forward in London which will be launched on the 18th March and celebrated on a National Busking Day in July.

The aim is to minimise the amount of regulation surrounding the performance of live music and continue the work begun with the Live Music Act 2012.

Some councils and the police have actively used inappropriate or archaic legislation to discourage legitimate busking. London Borough of Camden are using Part 5 of the London Local Authorities Act 2000 to ban street music at any time, amplified or unamplified, except through a special busking licence. Breach carries a fine of up to £1000.

The King’s Parade, the winners of the mayor’s busking competition GIGS  who were busking in Leicester Square were bundled into a van by eight officers and held at Paddington police station for more than six hours under powers contained in the outdated 1839 Metropolitan Police Act.

Busk in London  plans to work with the local authority noise and licensing teams to ensure that we bust any myths about current legislation not being usable against problem buskers.

The vast majority of complaints about busking relate to noise nuisance. There are more than adequate robust powers under separate legislation to use against buskers who are causing a noise nuisance. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 enables councils to issues noise abatement notices against buskers who cause noise nuisance. A breach carries heavy fines and allows the local authority to seize and confiscate instruments and equipment.

There are also extensive powers available to deal with obstruction, illegal street trading, begging and other matters.
To cap it all there are also new powers under the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 which came into force last year. The new Community Protection Notices, and  Public Space Protection Orders could be used disproportionately and pre-emptively by local authorities. It appears that Canterbury is already invoking them and Bath may be about to.

Today I asked a question in the Lords about the use of these potentially draconian powers to make sure that if more evidence emerges the Home Office statutory guidance is tightened up so that appropriate busking is allowed to thrive. I'm pleased to say I elicited quite a positive response!

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