More strict rules for buskers to obey as councils crack down

Busking culture is one of the most fascinating parts of London. However, buskers might meet a lot of problems in the closed winter as more council officers are trying to prosecute street musicians, mainly because of the noise.

In some of London’s densely populated area, buskers might have to face more tough new rules. A performance license would have to be applied if musicians want to perform in places like Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square.

Performing for five years, young street musicians said that they enjoyed running people over.(©Jiali Li)

New public space protection orders (PSPOs) will be introduced by the council as well, to predefine activities and limit public space usage.

Freedom of performers might be restricted because of these rules and those who just start their career as street musicians are more likely to be influenced negatively. Piers Wood, 20, who works as a full-time street performer around one year, said: “it will be better if everyone can have a chance to give a performance, especially for people who don’t have much experience, as people get better when he or she practices more.”

The council says that around 2000 complaints are received a year about street entertainers, most of which are about noise and public safety. Moreover, a report shows that people fears about exploitation of unfriendly performers. Some people also said that “most buskers seem to gravitate towards pretty boring and sanitised music.”

However, according to a survey carried out by the University of Westminster, tourists generally believe that busking enhanced the visitor experience whilst the majority of residents favoured it for its cultural contribution to the capital. It shows that 86% of tourists and 62% of residents were in favour of busking/ street entertainment, while just 1% of them were concerned about crowd safety.

Lord Clement-Jones, who has championed buskers in parliament, told the Guardian: “the controls imposed on buskers partly comes down to councils’ misconception of how the public views are busking.” he emphasizes the positive side of  street performing, “busking is part of freedom of speech, and it keeps streets safer.”

As a performer, Piers indicated that “shops around can complain if someone played too loud, obviously, because it might be frustrated for them.” But he hopes that busking could be legal unless anyone has caused any problem.

Buskers in London are encouraged to self-regulate and abide by the Busk in London code, launched by Boris Johnson when he was mayor in 2015, which provides guidance on how to busk responsibly.

According to the Buskers’ Code, performing in underground needs a licence.(©Jiali Li)

Richard Sullivan, who specializes in live variety comedy shows, said that no matter how hard it is, he will keep doing the street performance. “I travelled around and pick up street performing after getting tired of working in an office and I have been doing it for 17 years,” he comment that, comparing to other places, London has a great environment of street performing, “Freedom is one of the most important reasons that I love my job. It is good to be well-organized actually, but I hope the government can do more for people doing the street show.

Young performers hope that there could be more freedom for them to playing music. Sion Jones, who has been performed for four years, said, “I hope the government don’t make it so closed off, because it could be the toughest industry to crack.”

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