London busking arrests lead to calls for code of conduct


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The Independent Online

The “heavy-handed” arrest of four buskers in London has prompted calls to push through a code of conduct to be introduced to prevent confusion over performing on the capital’s streets.

Police arrested The King’s Parade, which last year won the Mayor’s Gigs competition for buskers, after they had been playing in Leicester Square this month.

The band agreed to stop playing after the police raised concerns over the size of the crowd that had gathered to watch, but were arrested after refusing to give their names and addresses.

“It seems to us to be a very heavy-handed approach; it highlights the uneven ground for buskers trying to work in London,” Dave Webster, a live performance organiser at the Musicians’ Union, said.

He continued: “Busking is a vibrant thing for London. We’d like to make it easy for them to go out and work and not have the problems they face at the moment. This needs to be sorted out.”

The arrests came the same day the Musicians’ Union met with the Mayor’s Office to discuss a code of conduct to cover buskers across London.  

Mr Webster said: “It is currently a really uneven playing field; nobody knows exactly what’s going on and every borough has a different policy. That individual boroughs can take strong steps towards buskers is something we’d like to see change.”

The union raised its concerns at a busking task force meeting on Thursday, which included representatives from the Mayor’s Office and the police. Last month Mayor Boris Johnson warned that red tape and confusing rules could force talented buskers off London’s streets.

The code is in “embryonic stage,” Mr Webster said, adding: “We want something everyone, including buskers and police, are happy with. He hopes it will be agreed upon and implemented before the end of the year.

Munira Mirza, deputy mayor for education and culture, said: ‘We’re very pleased with how the first meeting of the busking taskforce went. There seems to be real commitment from all the organisations to working with us to create a clear, simple and consistent approach to busking across the capital. We are now working on developing some practical ideas that we can all agree on.’