The High Court ruled yesterday that Camden Council’s draconian new busking law is ‘necessary and proportionate’.
The campaign group Keep Streets Live had launched a legal challenge against the new rules, which will mean £1,000 fines for anyone busking without a licence.
The new law is anathema to this vibrant and chilled-out part of London, with its lively street-music scene. Not only will buskers have to apply in advance and pay for a licence, the licenses also come with restrictive conditions which will suck the life out of street music.
The very notion of a licence undermines the nature of busking which is – in the words of Keep Streets Live director Jonny Walker – ‘an informal and impromptu form of entertainment’. Buskers move from place to place, playing in up to 40 different cities in a year, and pitches ‘are often fluid and change with the dynamic of the street and the time of day’.
Camden Council has also set precise rules on the kinds of licensed busking which will be permitted. There are restrictions on where buskers may stand (50 metres away from each other, and leaving 1.8 metres clearance on the pavement). The council has pretty much banned amplification, even though this is necessary to make many instruments and singing voices audible over background noise. The council has also limited the use of drums and wind or brass instruments, including flutes and recorders, which are too noisy, apparently; entire sections of the musical repertoire are barred at a stroke.