Keep Streets Live campaigners say busking restrictions will lead to ‘lifeless’ streets

By Shaneezah Ally
September 27 2019, 18.15

Keep Streets Live held a three day protest to campaign against new restrictions on busking in south west London last month.

Kensington and Chelsea council introduced a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) this summer restricting busking and amplifications from some tourist hotspots.

David Fisher has been busking for eight years and believes if the ‘Kensington authoritarian approach’ becomes a national template it will threaten the livelihood of buskers.

Mr Fisher said: “I have no doubt that people such as myself who make their living from busking would be out of a job.

“I think a lot of people misunderstand why we need to fight for this. Part of the Kensington laws involves a total ban on amplification, meaning we will not be heard easily over traffic and other noise.

“The idea that all amplified busking is inherently anti-social is clearly misguided.”

Mr Fisher began busking around Kensington shortly after the restrictions were introduced and was told he would be given a £100 fine if he was seen again.

He said: “There are also specific areas that they’ve chosen in which to outlaw all busking. The ban outside Harrods, for example, is a clear indication that the council’s priority is not to improve quality of life for all its residents, but rather to embark on a programme of social cleansing. Keep the riff-raff away from the rich.”

As a musician who has busked in every EU country, Mr Fisher is aware of what it is like to play in a city where busking is severely curtailed and does not want to see Britain go down the route of countries where run-ins with the police are commonplace.

He said: “Our high streets would be made quieter and more lifeless as a result, at a time when we need to be injecting them with energy.”

DISAPPOINTED: Mr Fisher believes the council is embarking on a programme of ‘social cleansing to keep the riff-raff away from the rich’.

KSL have hit back, and a petition calling for the PSPOs to be stopped has gained 1,700 signatures.

Chester Bingley, director of KSL, said: “Keep Streets Live can honestly say that this PSPO is the most damaging to busking and street performance so far implemented anywhere in the country. 

We will continue to present more balanced and positive approaches to grassroots culture, and fight to prevent the criminalisation of performers.”

The council have said that it is incorrect to say this is a ban on buskers but instead there are some highly targeted zones with some restrictions in place on loud performances.

The council’s lead member for the environment, Councillor Cem Kemahli said: “For Kensington and Chelsea and London as a whole, if we are to maintain our proud tradition of being a global powerhouse of music – more needs to be done to support and regulate our busking community.

“We need to strike a balance between what works for both residents and street performers. Our goal is to ensure that street entertainment doesn’t reduce the quality of life for residents.

“Our proposals to regulate busking were created after a full consultation with local people, businesses and representatives from the busking community. We will continue the conversation around the current proposals and test how they will work in practice.”

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