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MU hits out at new busking rules in Camden

By | Published on Wednesday 13 November 2013

Musicians' Union

The Musicians’ Union has hit out at plans by Camden Council to regulate busking in the London borough. New regulations passed by the local authority on Monday mean that musicians will now need to pay for licences to busk in the district, with the risk of fines and having their instruments confiscated if they play a note without a permission letter from the council in hand.

Criticising the scheme, which the MU says may prevent musicians from playing in the borough, the Union’s National Organiser for Live Performance Dave Webster told CMU: “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 went on: “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”.

He concluded: “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. We urge Camden Council to reconsider this policy and the MU would be happy to work with them to establish a code of best practice for busking, as we did in places like Liverpool”.

For it’s part, the Council insists that the new licensing process is “light touch regulation” designed mainly to deal with complaints about amplified and louder percussion-based busking. A basic twelve month licence will cost £19, though certain kinds of performance will require a £47 advanced licence which might have other limitations attached. Once licensed buskers will usually be able to play anywhere that its safe to play in the borough between 10am and 9pm.

Responding to the scheme’s critics, the Council’s Community Safety Councillor Abdul Hai told CMU: “Campaigners against this new policy have been making a mountain out of a molehill suggesting that we are trying to outlaw busking. I can categorically say this is not what this policy seeks to achieve. We’re simply implementing light touch regulation of street entertainment that will strike a balance between the rights of residents to a quiet life and buskers wishing to perform in public places”.

He added: “This light touch regulation will restrict the use of amplified equipment, particularly close to residential areas late into the evening. We believe that all forms of street entertainment are an important part of the musical and cultural heritage of the borough and that is why licences will not be charged at a prohibitive rate, instead costing just £19”.