Kensington & Chelsea Council consider busker ban on Portobello Road

Street performance could soon be banned on Portobello Road.

Kensington & Chelsea Council (K&C) are considering Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) to clamp down on busking across the borough.

Ideas floated in its public consultation range from banning of performance in the PSPOs’ range to restriction of amplified music.

Musician Aaron Spiers, 33, said: “Street performance makes a difference to any area, adding vibrancy, colour, and are an exciting piece to the puzzle of London.

“People go to Portobello Road to take in the shops and markets, but also to see ‘what’s going on’.

“Banning amps and microphones would be a way to eliminate street performers, making performing on the street almost impossible.

“If people want to engage with me, they do so. Those that don’t, walk on by.”

K&C Council receive an average of 1,200 complaints of ‘noise pollution and anti-social busking,’ saying they want to work with performers to find a solution.

A council spokesperson said:  “If we are to maintain K&C’s proud tradition of being a global music powerhouse, more needs to be done to support and regulate our busking community.

“Our goal is to ensure that street entertainment doesn’t impact negatively on residents’ quality of life.”

Busking pitches suggested for targeting by K&C include the entrances of all nine underground stations in the borough, pitches near the Natural History Museum, and pitches the length of Portobello Road Market.

K&C Council had previously looked at introducing a licensing scheme for buskers in the borough since 2013, but the plans have since been written off as complex and potentially costly.

Chris Summers, manager of K&C record store Rough Trade, near the Talbot Road pitch said: “I’ve got no problems with buskers at all. You just get used to it. I do blame Ed Sheeran for the amount of acoustic songs that get played.

“Their numbers have increased in the last year – now on a site they’ll be queuing to get that pitch.”

Speaking out against any extension of further restrictive measures against performers, a spokesperson for the Musicians’ Union said:  “We would urge RBKC to work with the GLA and become part of the ‘Busk in London’ scheme before reverting to heavier legislation under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

“Busking is itself not an illegal activity and should be supported and buskers should not be criminalised for performing live music.

“If RBKC is committed to maintaining their ‘proud tradition of being a global powerhouse for music’, then the Busk in London scheme is the most effective way of doing that.”

K&C’s rich musical history has seen Hawkwind playing free concerts under the Westway; Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell directing Mick Jagger in Performance just off the Portobello Road; and Caribbean DJs Count Suckle and Duke Vin holding illegal shebeens on Ladbroke Grove, which would go on to influence bands like The Clash.

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