Tag Archives: Jonny Walker

High Court set for challenge to Camden anti-busking law

Some good news!

As posted previously, despite celebrity backing for a campaign by professional busker Jonny Walker, Camden council went ahead and voted in a new law introducing a licensing system with draconian penalties, which will effectively ban any spontaneous music in its streets.

The law was due to come into force from tomorrow, 1st Feb, but after raising money by crowd-sourcing on indiegogo, Jonny has managed to launch a legal challenge which will be heard in the High Court at the end of February, together with an undertaking that the new rules will not be enforced until after the judgement (if at all).

With the possibility not only of radically changing the nature of Camden for ever, but also acting as a springboard for a similar crackdown in public areas throughout the UK, surely this new legislation is of serious public interest. But even before the next round of legal aid cuts takes effect, the sad fact remains that a hearing of this sort can only be safely undertaken by the rich, and the council can threaten to rack up its legal costs to dissuade and scare off legitimate challenges.

However, Jonny first went to court to ask for “protected costs” and the judge has agreed to limit any claim against him to just £7500. With just a couple of days to go, the indiegogo campaign has so far attracted around £7000, so after costs and indiegogo commissions, a good part of the fighting fund is in place, and a last push for donations may yet clinch it.

The hope is of course that Jonny will win the case, forcing Camden to rethink its approach. In which case, the funds raised will go towards establishing good practice forums to find sensible solutions to issues raised by residents, as well as training for young musicians.

The case will be heard on the 27th and 28th February – watch this space and Jonny’s site for updates and news then.


Keep Streets Live Campaign

In the face of new laws and controls on what you can and can’t do on public streets, and the draconian ‘busking licence’ scheme being introduced in Camden next month, I’ve just finished a crowd-funding campaign video for the ‘Keep Streets Live’ Campaign.

Camden Labour council have introduced a new law which from Feb 1st 2014 will make music performance on the street illegal without a council licence. Licences have to be applied for, by supplying full ID details, several days and even weeks ahead of time, and a range of fees are payable. If you sing or play an instrument in Camden streets without a licence, you will be liable to a £1000 fine, and any instruments may be seized and sold by the council if you haven’t paid up in 28 days.

Jonny Walker, founder of ASAP, the Association of Street Artists and Performers, has campaigned against this law from the outset, attending council meetings, collecting more than 6000 signatures in a petition, trying to engage with residents, police, and law-makers, and taking part in every stage of the consultation. He also gained support from musical and comedy celebrities including Billy Bragg, Bill Bailey, Mark Thomas, Jon Gomm, and others.

However, despite strong opposition from Lib-Dem, Conservative, and Green councillors, and a deputation from the Musicians’ Union, this draconian bill was voted through by the Labour majority.

So now, Jonny has secured the services of leading human rights lawyers, Leigh Day, who are challenging the law in court. If that fails, there will be a campaign on the streets to undermine the law, make it unworkable, and embarrass the council.

Seeing that this legislation has national implications way beyond Camden, as part of the ever-increasing privatisation of the public realm, Jonny has set up the ‘Keep Streets Live’ Campaign, and is seeking crowd-sourced funding to seek support.

This 3 minute film hears from a range of voices, and calls out for donations via the crowd-funding site ‘Indiegogo’.

Within hours of posting the film, I’ve been sent two related links – film of a London busker being moved on by police, and a news report of a Welsh busker being banned from Cardiff under threat of a £5000 fine.

As more and more restrictions and controls strangle any remaining freedoms in public places, and as new developments turn previously public land into pseudo-private areas with rules strictly governing behaviour, anyone not there to spend money is made unwelcome in our city streets, so it’s no wonder the ‘high street’ is dying when it has little or nothing more to offer than on-line or out-of-town shopping

Donate to the campaign at http://indiegogo.com/projects/keep-streets-live-campaign

See film of the great Camden Celebrity Busk at https://indyrikki.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/video-of-camden-celebrity-busk-against-proposed-licensing-and-instrument-seizures/

Video of Camden Celebrity Busk against proposed licensing and instrument seizures

Camden Council looks set to introduce new controls on buskers in the area, with a pay-to-play licence scheme, and severe penalties of up to £1000 and even instrument seizure and sale.

Busker and campaigner, Jonny Walker, (http://keepstreetslive.com) has been working with comedy activist Mark Thomas (100 Acts of Minor Dissent), and after forming the Citizens’ Kazoo Orchestra, they introduced an array of celebrity buskers in Camden High Street on 24th Oct 2013.

The line-up featured comedian/musician Bill Bailey, protest-singer Billy Bragg, and virtuoso guitarist Jon Gomm, and was compered by Mark Thomas. Jonny Walker explained the Labour Council proposals, spoke movingly of his own experiences as a busker, the connection to the homeless and the disadvantage, and the subterfuge of Camden Council (who tried to prevent him addressing their Cabinet meeting, and failed to respond to Freedom of Information requests.

A BBC film crew was in attendance, and Mark and Jonny managed to hijack their interview with Councillor Abdul Hai. After repeatedly being asked, he eventually and reluctantly agreed to meet with them before the next Council meeting.

This short video tries to capture the spirit of that day, which was blessed by Indian Summer-like weather.

For a full write-up and some photos, see https://indyrikki.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/camden-council-on-the-run-over-draconian-anti-busking-laws/