Street performers mount legal challenge against Camden council's decision to licence busking

'This vibrant part of London is in danger of being silenced on the basis of very few non-specific complaints'

Camden council's decision to licence busking across the borough faces a legal challenge from the Association of Street Artists and Performers.

Leigh Day lawyers have written to the Chief Executive Mike Cooke on behalf of Jonathan Walker, a Liverpool-born singer songwriter, political activist and professional street performer. Mr Walker has been leading protests against the decision which will force buskers to buy a £19 annual licence if they want to perform or face having their instruments confiscated and a fine of up to £1,000.

The decision by Camden Council is unlawful for a number of reasons, according to the legal firm, including that the definition of busking is "so wide and vague that it will be unclear to anyone affected whether a licence is needed or a criminal offence is being committed".

Leigh Day's letter states that the council "already has perfectly adequate powers to deal with any nuisance or obstruction which might arise from busking". It adds: "The licensing regime adopted is extremely draconian. Under the standard conditions a curfew will permit buskers only to perform between 10am and 9pm and amplification, drums, and wind instruments will not be allowed."

The new legislation was passed by the council last week by a margin of 25 votes to 17 and will come into force from next February. Councillor Cllr Abdul Hai, cabinet member for community safety, said after the vote: "Campaigners have been making a mountain out of a molehill suggesting that we are trying to outlaw busking.

"We're simply implementing light touch regulation that will strike a balance between the rights of residents to a quiet life and buskers wishing to perform in public places."

Richard Stein, partner in the Human Rights team at Leigh Day, said: "This really is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. This vibrant part of London is in danger of being silenced on the basis of very few non-specific complaints. The Council and the police already have a range of powers that are perfectly adequate to control any unacceptable highway obstruction or noise nuisance they have identified.

"Camden has taken this unfortunate step in a most misconceived way.  The evidence is just not there to justify using these draconian licensing powers, even in Camden Town, let alone across the whole Borough.  With the licensing resolution as drafted people singing in the street on the way home, playing an acoustic guitar in a park or telling a joke to a friend could face a fine of up to £1,000. We are confident that unless the Council think again the courts would not let this resolution stand."

Mr Walker, said: "This legal challenge has become necessary because the law that the Labour-led Council have just approved turns Camden into one the most restricted boroughs in the entire UK for informal offerings of music and street performance.

"Whilst we recognise that Camden Council have acted to respond to the complaints of some residents, this legislation is an incredibly blunt instrument that will have a detrimental effect on the cultural life of the borough by effectively turning all buskers into potential criminals. For a London Borough with an international reputation for fostering live music and the arts this policy is very damaging.

"We want to find an equitable solution that works for all sides and hope that, even at this late stage, Camden will choose to work alongside the musicians, street performers and residents to develop a policy that builds urban community and addresses issues in a more proportionate and sensible way."

Camden resident Jessica Kranish, 26, who has lived in the borough for three years and plays guitar herself, said: "Camden residents have to deal with extremely loud buskers, often with amplification, who perform right outside our homes for 10 or 11 hours at a time. If busking in Camden was limited to reasonable people who perform in non-residential areas at an appropriate volume at a decent hour, Camden Council would not have needed to develop this policy.

“Unfortunately, the buskers in Camden I’ve experienced are inconsiderate: they simply don't take residents’ feelings and concerns into account. 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.”

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor