A coalition of industry leaders and street performers, supported by comedian Eddie Izzard, joined forces at the weekend to protest against Westminster City Council and their proposed new busking and street entertaining restrictions.
The council announced earlier this year that they would investigate a new licensing scheme for street performing, claiming to have received a rise in complaints of noise and overcrowding.
If approved, the Busking and Street Entertainment Policy would make it illegal to busk on more than a thousand streets in the borough which will leave performers competing for 25 pitches.
Performers would have to apply for a busking licence, a street trading license if they want to sell their original music, have two million pounds worth of public liability insurance and they would not be able to work with many theatrical props.
The new legislation will also require a 20 minute break between each 40 minute performance, effectively reducing the number of performances by one third.
They will face arrest, fines and having their equipment seized if they do not comply.
Performers and organisers feel that despite reassurances from the council that they would be involved in any discussions around these potential new laws – they have largely been ignored.
Mathew Boden, who is a Westminster Street Performer Association, said: “We asked the council repeatedly to send us the complaints so we could analyse them and they refused so we were forced to put in a Freedom of Information request.
“This data showed that Westminster receives on average five complaints a day and one fifth of those complaints are people performing between 9pm and 8am, which can be easily dealt with using existing laws.
“Many of the nearly 4,000 complaints appear not to be about busking at all.
“In many, the mere presence of a busker was recorded. ”
“We have been told by the council that there has been a rise in late night noise complaints. Nick Broad from The Busking Project said: “The most mystifying part is that the council has chosen to limit noise and overcrowding during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
“If they would only pop their heads outside for a moment, they’d see that these restrictions are extraordinarily pointless right now.”
A period of consultation between Westminster City Council, residents, local businesses, performers and their unions has been ongoing since January with a verdict expected in November.
A council spokesman said: “We deal with about 1,800 complaints a year from residents and businesses over excessive noise and overcrowding caused by street entertainment.
“These proposals try to address such concerns. We are making these proposals for specific pitches in an effort to strike the right balance, so that people can continue to enjoy performances on our streets.”
“We’ve developed this approach after extensive engagement with key groups including residents, businesses and the busking community.”
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