Buskers in Camden, north London, could face a fine of up to £1,000 and have their instruments confiscated if they fail to adhere to new rules brought in by the council this week.
As of February, anyone caught busking in the borough will need a £19 licence. The Labour-run council introduced the new measures after 100 noise complaints were recorded by local residents.
In addition, a curfew will mean buskers cannot perform on the streets after 9pm and before 10am.
Yesterday, musicians including Billy Bragg and Comedians Bill Baily and Mark Thomas joined a protest organised by the Association of Street Artists and Performers to campaign against the move.
The Busking Project. “That’s what busking is about – it’s like the people’s X Factor. It would be terrible if Camden ended up becoming another dull and dead backwater place because of this.”
Dave Webster, the Musician’s Union National Organiser for Live Performance, said in a statement: “It is a real shame that just a year after the Live Music Act was brought in to encourage the performance of live music that Camden Council has decided to bring in these draconian measures against busking.”
He added: “Live music is an integral part of London’s identity and the onerous and potentially expensive requirements that Camden is placing on buskers will threaten the borough’s vibrant atmosphere. The references to ‘noise’ and ‘nuisance’ in Camden’s policy are particularly unhelpful and do not reflect the positive cultural contribution made by buskers to London life. The borough has given in to complaints made by a small group of residents who live on and around Camden High Street, which is inevitably a loud place to live irrespective of busking.”
However, Jessica Kranish, a Camden Town resident told The Guardian: “Residents don’t want to banish music from the borough: we just don’t want buskers to force their choice of music on us at their choice of time. Residents should be entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their homes, but with loud busking right outside, it’s impossible to concentrate on anything besides the disruption.”
In 2012, protesters successfully secured a high court injunction that forced Liverpool City Council to review its policy when it attempted to pass similar legislation.