Musician ‘made to feel like a criminal’ after mistakenly busking without a licence

By Jacob Phillips, local democracy reporter

A musician has said he was made to feel like a criminal after he mistakenly busked without a licence in Piccadilly Circus.

Mitchell Young had travelled into Central London to busk for the first time after he launched a music career in the pandemic.

But after setting up £1,000 worth of equipment in a circle labelled “Buskers” in white paint on the ground – put there by the council – the 26-year-old musician was approached by a Westminster City Council official.

The officer explained the buskers sign had in fact faded so showed incorrect information and Mitchell could not play there without a licence.

He was told if he tried to play any music again then his amp, leads, and guitar would be seized.

Mitchell said: “We have been locked up for hours in lockdown just working on our craft.

“It makes you feel on edge like I’m going to get arrested. We are not there causing trouble in any way.

“There are all these other problems going on in London at the moment. We shouldn’t be punished for playing live music.”

Westminster City Council introduced a new policy on buskers and street entertainers on April 5 following two years of consultation with residents and businesses.

There are 26 locations around the borough in which residents are permitted including Paddington, Oxford Street, Leicester Square and Soho.

Buskers are also only allowed to amplify music in selected locations around the borough.

Performances are also limited to just 40 minutes and there must be a 20 minute break between buskers.

A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: “Every day the streets of Westminster are enlivened by musicians, comedians, artists and magicians from all over the world.

“However, street entertainment and busking can cause adverse impacts, and the council has received an average of 2,200 complaints a year due to noise and obstruction.

“We want people to enjoy the vibrancy of central London without the associated noise, obstruction, and safety concerns.

“The new policy has been highly successful, with the vast majority of entertainers complying with the new rules and performing on our streets as before.

“In cases where unlicensed street entertainers repeatedly cause disruption, we will work with the police to enforce and seize equipment if necessary. However, we stress that this action is absolutely a last resort.

“Our officers will always work with performers who may be unfamiliar with the policy to explain the new rules and help them obtain a licence.

“We hope that this performer will apply for a licence and return to perform in Westminster in the future.”

 


 

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