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Street performers told to cough up or shut up

Exclusive: New fees and rules will allow police and officials to remove acts lacking talent

Written by . Published on June 6th 2012.

Street performers told to cough up or shut up

HARD UP buskers and street entertainers in Liverpool will be singing for more than their supper, under new council rules. They will be singing for the hefty cost of public liability insurance and a licence to perform.

And police and council officers will be able become civic Simon Cowells with powers to order street entertainers to put a sock in it – if they deem a performance not good enough. 

The new edict, which comes before the Mayor's cabinet this Friday, comes into force on June 15 and will empower officials to exit-stage left street entertainers not playing by the rules. 

'...such reason may include the Constable or Officer not being satisfied in their opinion that the performance is of a satisfactory quality'

Permits will cost £20 a year and insurance could cost up to £100 – a sizeable chunk for some buskers entertaining on the streets because they are skint.

As well as needing the right paperwork, buskers will  only be allowed to entertain at authorised pitches around the city centre. 

ScaryThe buskers "charter" is part of a council Street Activity Management Plan, backed by Mayor Joe Anderson.

A report to the cabinet says it recognises the value of  street entertainment for local people and visitors.

“Good quality and regulated entertainment adds to the ambience of the city centre and provides an added attraction," says the officer’s report. 

“Street entertainment includes musical performances, busking, singing, dancing, street statues, mime, juggling, puppetry."

It adds that businesses and partner agencies are not always clear who is responsible for the regulation of street entertainment. 

The report says: “At present street entertainment within the city centre can be intrusive to both businesses and residents alike. Street entertainers have in the past been accused of noise nuisance violations, repetitive performances, offensive/ inappropriate behaviour and causing dangerous obstructions. 

“There has been an increase in reports of abusive and offensive incidents which has caused alarm and distress to members of the general public and businesses within the city centre.” 

6831363149_06Cc0511b5_BAre they good enough or well off enough?

The long arm of the law will become the long arm of the gong as police and other officials will get to judge the quality of a performance and take steps to stop it if they think it isn't up to scratch. 

The report adds: “Entertainers must cease their performance and move on if requested to do so for any reason by a Police Constable or a Council Officer. For the avoidance of doubt, such reason may include the Constable or Officer not being satisfied in their opinion that the performance is of a satisfactory quality.” 

The cabinet report says in 2008 a voluntary code of practice was introduced. But this has not succeeded in eliminating complaints from businesses, residents and others. 

The new rules have been developed after looking at what happens in other cities, as well as consulting Musician’s Union, street entertainers, businesses and partners. 

The council has already clamped down on the activities of chuggers – clipboard-armed canvassers who at one time seemed to outnumber shoppers in Church Street. 

This has constrained the activities of individuals seeking to sign members of the public up to charitable causes. Following complaints from the public and business owners, chuggers can now operate only on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday on parts of Bold Street and Church Street  with only five people per site. 

The new buskers charter is seen as playing a part in supporting the Mayor’s pledge to “Transform Liverpool into one of the most business and enterprise friendly cities in the UK”.

Street Entertainer LiverpoolThumbs downBut others would argue that it is attempting to turn art into a commodity out of which it may make a fast buck. 

“The proposed terms and conditions will support the provision of busking in the city centre, something for which the city has been long associated; but allow agencies to effectively manage such animation to everyone’s benefit,” says the city council.”

We asked this street statue for a comment, but he was saying nothing.


'No power tools': A drilldown of the new rules

* Entertainers must not perform in a manner dangerous to them or the general public, and they shall not dress or say or express in any other way anything which is likely  to cause alarm, distress or offence. 

* Entertainers shall not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

* Entertainers must stand unless their performance requires them to be seated or if they have a disability which prevents them from standing. If their performance does require to be seated then this must NOT be directly on the floor – a suitable folding chair should be used. Tents, gazebos or other structures must not be used. 

* Animals will not be permitted either as part of the street entertainment. 

Power-Tools-1Banned* Power tools, pyrotechnics or hazardous materials may not be used. 

* Money must not be actively collected or solicited, but an open receptacle (e.g. box, hat or musical instrument case) into which donations from members of the general public may be placed. 

* Entertainers must cease their performance and move on if requested to do so for any reason by a Police Constable or a Council Officer. For the avoidance of doubt, such reason may include the Constable or Officer not being satisfied in their opinion that the performance is of a satisfactory quality. 

* It is illegal for persons under 18 to play, sing or perform in a street for money or monies worth. 

* Amplification will be permitted, but not such where the volume gives rise to complaint; entertainment must not be audible beyond 30 metres of the performance  above the normal level of street noise. 

* Musical entertainment must provide a varied repertoire and must not take place for more than two hours at any one location. 

* Pitches on Bold Street, Williamson Square, Cavern Quarter, Queens Square, Lord Street and Church Street must be reserved not more than one week and not less than one day in advance via City Central Business Improvement District office.

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88 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Sheez Garraticketter rah-hahhhdJune 6th 2012.

Most buskers are OK but the Council really ought to get rid of the ones with amplification because their lack of talent is all the more jarring to the nerves.

1 Response: Reply To This...
MikeyBJune 11th 2012.

Agreed. Most buskers are quite good but there are others who are crap and are merely hoping the public will feel sorry for them.

Sheez Garraticketter rah-hahhhdJune 6th 2012.

On the other hand that lot outside Primark in the photograph are very proficient musicians as well as not using amplification.

Adolf HitlerJune 6th 2012.

And will undoubtedly be prohibited from this ludicrous scheme because they haven't got the right papers

D. SharpJune 6th 2012.

Unfortunately this new measure will prevent improptu performances from good foreign musicians performing at the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen popping into Liverpool for a day to give Liverpudlian ears a treat.

Adolf HitlerJune 6th 2012.

Fascist scum

Nev HawkinsJune 6th 2012.

sanctioned pitches seem like a good idea to me. I do have some qualms about them sterilizing busking. I haven't lived in the city for years. I remember when I was a kid there was a guy who played a cardboard guitar near the side road that Probe records was on. He was a poor down on his luck drunken old guy. He was invited on to one of the local radio stations to perform. I'm guessing that the Police/ council Simon Cowells would tell him to sling his hook.

AnonymousJune 6th 2012.

The arts police???? WTF?? This is shocking!

E. FlattJune 6th 2012.

This isn't about the arts, it's about busking!

Some are good but too many are guitar-strumming whiners with a tin ear and a very narrow repertoire.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
PaulJune 11th 2012.

so music is not an art form?

AnonymousJune 22nd 2012.

Around here busking is rarely music.

AnonymousJune 6th 2012.

Yes, but it's not up to some security guard or copper to decide if they are good enough or not.

Derek HobsonJune 6th 2012.

The man with the cardboard guitar was around in the 1970s and he used to sing what sounded like the signature tune to 'New Faces' -
You're a star, superstar/Lame suit and a new guitar, etc.

Libertine DefargeJune 6th 2012.

They'll be putting bar codes on them next and having a drone tazer them for having the wrong permit . What if the officer on duty only likes mantovani ?.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Eggie RoadJune 7th 2012.

What's wrong with Mantovani?

MantovaniJune 6th 2012.

Swedish Rhapsody is a CLASSIC!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Libertine DefargeJune 6th 2012.

* Power tools, pyrotechnics or hazardous materials may not be used.
-----that's the Rapid Hardware Orchestra off the list then ;)

Billy CottonJune 7th 2012.

Imagine a sixty-piece orchestra setting up and performning in Church Street - that would be an event!

It might even stand a chance of being mentioned on our local Manchester-obsessed television news on Granada and the BBC!

Ed Banger & the NosebleedsJune 6th 2012.

I don't think council officers and coppers would be sufficiently highbrow to enjoy Mantovani, just all that professional scouser compulsory stuff - you know "err de beatles, eerr john lennon, gerry maaaahsden and dat!"

Rushworth N. DraperJune 7th 2012.

Is Uncle Joe still busking with his tennis racquet or has he given it up now he's got the big job?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Germany CallingJune 7th 2012.


Ol ManriverJune 7th 2012.

Paul Robeson once performed from the back of a cart in Bold Street for the poor people of Liverpool because he'd entertained the well-off on the Philharmonic Hall.

If buskers were of his quality there'd be no problem

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Anthony SchumacherJune 7th 2012.

Yes, but he was a little horse afterwards.

Ol ManriverJune 22nd 2012.


Darth FormbyJune 7th 2012.

I'm with Libertine Defarge on this.

Jd MoranJune 7th 2012.

I'd rather the quality be judged by the people on the street than council officers. If they're good enough, they get public support and they choose to come back again and again as a result. Those that don't get support will soon either give up or look elsewhere.

The only victors here will be blandness and uniformity. The city centre streets will be a lot duller without a bit of variety and diversity and the option for impromptu performances.

Philip GorryJune 7th 2012.

Have to steady myself at the notion of coppers and, even more disbelievingly council officials being the arbiters of what's musically or artistically, acceptable.

Will we now have an army of idiots who like to swan around town with their little work badges around their necks (just in case they forget who they are) vetting street performers while they wait for the burgers to be done?

I have some experience of this. I was once in the home of someone who worked for the council and the record collection was both miniscule and, wrist slittingly bad. The appalling nature of the experience was compounded when I was offered a glass of rose.I bolted for the door.

AnonymousJune 7th 2012.

I'd guess the £100 insurance is passed on at cost so if 200 buskers pay £20 the council gets £4k of income. which makes me wonder how much will it cost the council to administer the scheme? its fair to guess it will be more than the income from it and so whats the business case? is there evidence that the current crop of buskers deter people from using liverpool city centre?

London CallingJune 7th 2012.

Of course anybody claiming benefits who busks is A) not going to be able to afford this insurance and b) will not risk it or the licence for fear of the authorities finding out, so what we will have is a homogenisation of street entertainment. Posh classical singers, safe and dull performances from people who can afford to foist their repertoire on shoppers. No free expression.

Germany CallingJune 7th 2012.

What does deter people from using Liverpool City Centre, anonymous, is a railway station closed down for six months, astronomical parking fees, even at weekends, and that's after negotiating the ridiculous one-way system

Darth FormbyJune 7th 2012.

This is all just very wrong indeed. It's about oily business school retail managers, having too much influence with the council.

ghost of jackoJune 7th 2012.

It is very wrong, Darth. Liverpool has always been a city of free expression. Let's get Bill Drummond to judge them when he's here on Independence Day. Now there's an alternative universe X-Factor I'd watch.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 22nd 2012.

"Independence Day"?

Riff RaffertyJune 7th 2012.

"Posh classical singers"? What planet do you live on?

"Safe, dull" and discordant howling of dreary Beatles/Oasis clichés are what we need to be protected from!

4 Responses: Reply To This...
PaulJune 9th 2012.

in your opinion..which seems to be much the same as mr.andertons..ie..we need protection from music that you dont like..some people may like these "cliches".

Sheez Garraticketter rah-hahhhdJune 9th 2012.

Who is this "mr.anderton(sic)"?

PaulJune 11th 2012.

i get his name wrong..oh crime of crimes.

Inspector JaaaaazzzzzJune 28th 2012.

Take him away, sergeant!

Darth FormbyJune 7th 2012.

Well said, Jacko.

Jumpin' JehosaphatJune 7th 2012.

More Mellotrons!

AnonymousJune 8th 2012.

"Liverpool has always been a city of free expression."

Really? Since when?

Graham GavinJune 8th 2012.

sooo,this is what joe andersons job is

Paul WardJune 8th 2012.

Why doesn't Joe just get large, ugly people to stand next to them and drown them out - the Liver Building solution, we could call it.

And whoever wrote the above set of conditions - imprecise and unsatisfactory, never mind the standard of English. "Monies worth" indeed.

AnonymousJune 8th 2012.

It's all just another fund raiser for the council. It's the new speed camera, that's all. Sack Joe Anderson, he's a tory in sheeps clothing

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 19th 2012.

You mean the pay rise he gave himself?

Millie TantJune 8th 2012.

Alpenhorns and jew's harps are very underrepresented in the busking community. I really think that the Council should do something about this.

Pauline GibsonJune 8th 2012.

Big issue sellers forever in my face annoy me a lot more than any buskers

Pauline GibsonJune 8th 2012.

Then the patronising 'have a great day' when you do not buy.No need to say anything.

Sweet charityJune 8th 2012.

In that case, Pauline, one hopes you are never down on your luck and have to turn a trick or two

AnonymousJune 8th 2012.

Unbelievable! It;s one of those ideas that sounds good in theory but is completely ludicrous in real life. It will destroy the arts in this city, and there are some people who genuinely depend on what little income from busking they get. Let the passing public decide whether performers are good enough - the ones who get zero money from the public will soon get the message. And if a performer is behaving antisocially or performing incredibly badly, create a comprehensive and effective complaints service for the public to contact. The council are coming at the issues from the wrong angle. Don't censor the performers in this way but let the public decide on their virtue, and have a decent complaints department at hand when they give them the thumbs down!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

What has busking to do with "the arts"? It is overwhelmingly cheap chisellers with no talent making a terrible racket with consent of the sufferers.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Oops, typo there! Ishouls have said: What has busking to do with "the arts"? It is overwhelmingly cheap chisellers with no talent making a terrible racket WITHOUT the consent of the sufferers.

AnonymousJune 8th 2012.

I agree with you Sweet Charity. Pauline - what do you suppose we do with all those unwashed, annoying homeless and destitute then, so that they're not 'in your face' anymore? Let them eat cac?

AnonymousJune 8th 2012.

'No need to say anything' No Pauline because the homeless and destitute should not speak unless spoken too and should know their place. Seen and not heard right?

PaulJune 8th 2012.

i have been a occasional busker in lime street for 20years,and what offends me the most about this is the idea of the police being arbitors of good taste..its possible that the majority of bobbies think im quite good,then one officer comes along,and because he doesnt like me,tells me to move on,thereby ruining my day and earnings.i can understand a busker being moved on for being abusive etc,but the fact remains that a policeman may be tone deaf,or may not like a buskers music beacause he doesnt like the song etc.music is subjective.now we literally do have the (music police).this is plain wrong.

Tricky wooJune 9th 2012.

Pauline, you are disgrace

AnonymousJune 9th 2012.

This is what happens in politics. Joe Anderson is now so power mad that he thinks he can call the shots over freedom of expression.

Charles ShieldsJune 9th 2012.

Paul, you are completely correct. It is up to the public to decide whether you are any good or not, NOT the cold hand of the council or the long arm of the tone deaf law. This is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard.

AnonymousJune 9th 2012.

This is the thought police at work.

Harry OrgansJune 9th 2012.

Why is it that the police or Council officers MUST be tone deaf? They can't be as tone deaf as the whining guitar strummers that set people's teeth on edge.

Happily these days such awful earaches are being supplanted on our streets by proper musicians playing proper musical instruments.

Like the tatty street traders' stalls had to go, the old guard of off-key, wardrobe-mirror whiners needs to go too.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
PaulJune 9th 2012.

they may not be tone deaf...but what are they..trained talent scouts?i think not.so these whiners as you call them,set other peoples teeth on edge eh?you know loads of people with the same opinion?

PaulJune 9th 2012.

what is the matter with strumming a guitar?mccartney likes to do that occasionally...and whats a "proper musical instrument".these comments smack of musical snobbery.

AnonymousJune 10th 2012.

"Mccartney" being the Sussex millionaire?

Darth FormbyJune 9th 2012.

Pauline, people are right... that was a bad attitude to express. During the mid 90's, I found my self on the south coast with no money, and a girl very kindly gave me a few spare Issues to sell. It was hard work to sell them, but worst of all was the invisibilty cloak and the excommunication that came with them. I only did it for one day...enough to buy some food and pay for a campsite.

I think it makes a difference when someone responds in any way at all. It's a bit like being briefly allowed back into society again. Have a think Pauline.

AnonymousJune 9th 2012.

Audio Nazis and their capability as arbiters of what's right aside, I have to say that Church Street on a Saturday is now the most embarrassing, cheap and nasty assault on the ears for a long time.......get rid of the amplified shriekers and their bloody awful din

Harry OrgansJune 10th 2012.

Hear hear!

PaulJune 10th 2012.

i,d love to know the actual number of people who back this.the phrase "after consultation" intrigues me.after consultation with who?after consultation with exactly how many people?was this consultation with people who believe that something should be monitored or banned because they personally dont like it?or with people who believe that other peoples opinions surely MusT tally with their own...as has been shown in some of the above postings.

PaulJune 11th 2012.

to anonymous..what the hell has mccartney being a millionaire got to do with anything..and being from sussex???!is this your intelligent attempt at cynicism/humour?

AnonymousJune 12th 2012.

"mccartney"? That's SIR Paul McCartney to you!

1 Response: Reply To This...
MikeyBJune 12th 2012.

He'll always be Macca to Beatles fans!

AnonymousJune 15th 2012.

Thanks for drawing this to our attention so eloquently. Just published an opinion piece by Denis Joe at www.manchestersalon.org.uk/choke-city-life.html….

Sheez Garraticketter rah-hahhhdJune 22nd 2012.

If Liverpool is to take being a tourist centre seriously then there's nothing wrong with getting rid of terrible 'musicians'.

In London aspiring buskers in Covent Garden have had to pass formal auditions for more than twenty years. The proposed regulation here is far more lax.

It's not so long ago that the police would move on ALL buskers in Liverpool city centre. Do people have such short memories? Presumably that is why there's been an explosion in numbers recently.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 27th 2012.

And who, pray, is to be the arbiter of what is good and what is bad?

AnonymousJuly 5th 2012.

OUr Lord God.

Kenneth HornJune 25th 2012.

Speaking of decent buskers, whatever has happened to Brian the Bold Street trumpeter? His usual pitch was outside Radiant House.

Darth FormbyJune 25th 2012.

Kenneth, I think you mean Barry. He retired, but he's considering a comeback.

EdJune 25th 2012.

He does a cracking trick with eggs does Baz

Kenneth HornJune 25th 2012.

Is it one for the family albumen or is this a yolk?

AnonymousJune 27th 2012.

I'm a Liverpool born busker. I was consulted before the policy was put together. I wrote a document of my thoughts from the perspective of a 'professional busker'. Every point I made was ignored and the policy we have on offer is a cobbled together combination of policies from many other councils. I think there is a wider issue at stake. This is part of a growing attempt to homogenise and privatise public space. I don't care if you are a guitarist with an Amp singing wonderwall or a lute playing chamber orchestral performer playing beautiful acoustic music, if you are harming no-one then why should a council official move you on, or airbrush you out of city life. Cities need misfits. Liverpool does not need this policy.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Woolton HillJuly 6th 2012.

Oh yeah?

Says WHO?

AnonymousJune 27th 2012.

Whatever we need it's not the cacaphonous audio assault we get every weekend on Church Street, it really is the bottom of the barrel

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

My fellow anonymous...Would you like for the council and the police to clear the streets of performances that you don't like on the grounds of taste and personal preference? In your opinion is a judicious and well-thought out use of council time and public resources? If so then I imagine you are in a minority. A vociferous minority, certainly, but a minority none the less...

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

I don't like a lot of the conversations I am forced to hear around town. They're far more offensive than any music. Is there something I can do to stop them?

Liverpool wagJune 28th 2012.

Well the short answer is live ammo

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

We never used have to suffer noisy, exhibitionist people obstructing the pavements years ago. Why must we suffer them now?

Is this progress?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Darth FormbyJune 28th 2012.

Everyone else on the planet is a nuisance. I want the place to my self!

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

There were no market stalls either. If a bloke tried selling stuff from a suitcase in a doorway he'd keep his eyes peeled and scarper the instant he saw the top of a bobby's helmet!
There were certainly no buskers allowed on the streets, that's why they 'performed' in subways under Lime Street.

I blame the Lib-Dems.

AnonymousJune 28th 2012.

So do I

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