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Buskers told 'pack up or we'll arrest you'

Police accused of cleansing streets on council orders the night Purple Flag judges came to town

Published on July 17th 2013.


Buskers told 'pack up or we'll arrest you'
 

BUSKERS in Liverpool were threatened with arrest by police as top town-centre award judges made a flying visit during Light Night, it has been claimed. 

Judges from Purple Flag, a national awards scheme that recognises a safe, clean and well-managed city centre in the evening, made the trip in May as thousands took to the streets for the annual cultural showcase which, this year, coincided with the opening of the new Liverpool Central Library. 

Jonny Walker, Don't Mess With HimJonny Walker told buskers
to stand their ground
But police have been accused of attempting to cleanse the streets of buskers, along with beggars and nightclub touts - on the orders of Liverpool City Council - while the assessors toured the streets.

Liverpool City Council denies any involvement.

The allegations came in the wake of last week's announcement that Liverpool has not only retained its Purple Flag but is being held up as a beacon for other towns and cities to follow its night-time experience. 

Assessors from the Association of Town Centre Managers gave the night time city streets a glowing report saying: “Liverpool is a vibrant city with much to do. At all times the assessors felt safe and welcomed. There was a good mix of early, mid and late night entertainment and something for the entire family. 

It went on: “Policing in Liverpool was visible without being overbearing.” However street entertainer Jonny Walker, who runs the campaigning Association of Street Artists and Performers, strongly disagrees. 

Culture

He told Liverpool Confidential: On the night of May 17,  I was performing at Mello Mello as part of Light Night. Just after I finished playing I received calls from buskers that they were being told to pack up and go. I immediately made my way down to Church Street and set up my stuff. 

Two police officers approached me. I asked them whether it was true that all buskers were being moved on. They confirmed that they had been told by senior officers, acting on the instructions of the council, to move on 'all buskers, beggars, canvassers and club promoters' because the city was being assessed that night what they described as 'a city of culture award'. 

They said they were not happy about being asked to move buskers on but that was what they had been asked to do.” 

Another regular entertainer, who did not wish to be named, said: “I was on my regular city centre pitch on Light Night, between 6pm and 7pm. There were about 20 spectators around me. Suddenly I was confronted by police officers. They told me to stop performing immediately. One officer said, It's not just you it's all the buskers. Tonight is a very big night for Liverpool. If you don't stop playing and move on we will have to arrest you. 

"I spoke to other buskers, who had been told the same thing." 

Legal

Some acts did oblige and went home, but many more, on Mr Walker's instructions, stood their ground. 

Liverpool Buskers - More And More Of ThemMore and more people
are busking in Liverpool
I had spoken to David Kirwan, my solicitor, who had agreed to provide legal support to buskers,” Mr Walker said.

“I asked the police officers to inform their commander that there was no proper lawful authority for them to use against buskers and that I had informed the busking community not to move on if told to by a police officer and instead to politely stand their ground.”

He went on: “I later wrote to Purple Flag to inform them of what happened on Light Night and to seek their reassurance that such police action was not at their request. I waited for over a month for a reply which stated that 'Purple Flag welcomes Liverpool’s active support for street performers which regards them as an important part of the City’s make up and vibrancy'.

"This late response was unconvincing and there remain unanswered questions about the way in which public resources were used to conduct a clampdown on buskers on a night that was meant to be a celebration of the cultural life of the city.” 

However, Liverpool City Council says it did not sanction the police actions. Graham Holland, who runs the Liverpool Acoustic events, wrote to Deputy Mayor Paul Brant for clarification, who echoed the following comments from Mike Cockburn, city centre manager for Liverpool City Council.

Mr Cockburn said: “This action was taken without consultation to any council officer prior and those working the Purple Flag assessment were unaware that the action had been taken. 

David Kirwan He Da ManDavid Kirwan: He da manThe police have explained that they took the action because they were unhappy with (in their view) the aggressive begging style busking that a number were adopting to people visiting the Light Night attractions. 

Unfortunately it appears that Jonnie Walker got caught up in this, however the police are clear that later on in the evening regular buskers were not approached by the police. 

The police were also taking action against street begging and club touting/flyering (Council’s established bylaw) but this was with the full agreement of the City Centre Management Team and other agencies such as the Street Nuisance Team.” 

Liverpool Confidential asked Liverpool City Centre Business Improvement District (BID) if it had any involvement and a spokesman said: “Police were not instructed by the council to do anything that night. Further, the team with the Purple Flag judges were unaware of the incidents that have been described to you. “ 

Merseyside Police were also asked for comment but so far none has been forthcoming.

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

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

ladies and gentlemen for one night only we give you liverpools newest street entertainment act... "Police State"

4 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyJuly 17th 2013.

Makes a change from the Scally State.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Same thing, different clobber, John.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Much more peaceful than the 'I'm a musician, maaaan' noisey state.

Oscar PleecemannJuly 18th 2013.

The police are there to keep the peace. 'Buskers' on the other hand, only seek to ruin it for everybody. They think they are above the law.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

I think it's even worse of nobody gave 'the order' Now are are being ruled by thought police, which is even worse. Somebody, in some kind of authority, must have set them loose.

7 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyJuly 17th 2013.

Mistakes have been known to happen somebody say something, meaning one things and some else interprets it with a different meaning. Part of the problem is that in general people do not appreciate how ambiguous English is and I suspect the language the police speak is even more ambiguous.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Some tax-dodging knobheads went out of pocket for a few hours, and that is being 'ruled by thought police' - grow up and cut back on your exotic smoking materials.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

A private body, the BID, asked public servants, the police, to move on buskers to impress Purple Flag, an award that also costs the city to apply for it and is administered by the same people behind BID...at best this is a huge waste of public money, at worst it is the subversion of the democratic process

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

A private body, the BID, asked public servants, the police, to move on buskers to impress Purple Flag, an award that also costs the city to apply for it and is administered by the same people behind BID...at best this is a huge waste of public money, at worst it is the subversion of the democratic process

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

The police have always had the power to deal with obstructions, loiterers, hawkers, nuisances etc. They don't need special instructions. It's what they are there for. What I can't believe how law-abiding people can be 'kettled' for hours, pushed around and arrested for being decent citizens at legitimate demonstrations and no-one says anything. On the other hand in this case all the fuss is about a few tax-dodging chancers being prevented from being a public nuisance for a few hours and they are screaming "police state"! They must be on drugs!

Jonathan WalkerJuly 17th 2013.

How do you define 'loiterers, hawkers and nuisances'? I mean in a legal sense not a troll typing away on a keyboard sense... In actual fact the police and council officials are public servants subject to the rule of law and are not empowered to grant themselves privileges above the law. Performing in the street does not constitute any criminal offence whatever self-appointed guardians of public space would like to imagine.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Better to be a self-appointed guardian of public space than a self-appointed dictator of public space and a noise nuisance to boot.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

For god's sake, they got the award didn't they, nobody lost their lives, couple of quid missing out of a gobby buskers hat for one night, Get a job, pay some tax, move on.

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

Troll yawn....

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

I disagree I think that is a fair comment and really really funny. But if the buskers weren't gobby they would have been legislated out of existence by now and that would be a shame. And we would all have bit less liberty. "When they came for the gobby buskers I was silent..." etc.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

To the first anon, are you deliberately missing the point? It's about who owns the streets and the Purple Flag is an award presented by the Association of Town Centre managers who are part of BID. BID represents big business. Are the streets owned by business concerns or by people? To tell anyone to pack up or risk arrest on the biggest cultural night of the year is preposterous. You say "no one died" but these little Hitlers pursue the death of vibrancy and spontaneity in our city centres. When the pavements are cleared of everything but Primarks and Starbucks and Liverpool looks and behaves identically to Nottigham, Northampton and Blackburn perhaps you will be happy and we can all have a laugh with you

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

The streets are owned by landlords. Didn't you know? Oh I forgot, you don't believe in paying rent like normal people and street vendors.

Jonathan WalkerJuly 17th 2013.

Public highways are not opened by landlords...they are administered by democratically accountable local authorities but the key word is PUBLIC...public spaces belong to everybody and busking is a lawful activity neither begging or street trading...

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Then you'll not mind if Council Crime Wardens stand over buskers to make sure no money changes hands?

Jonathan WalkerJuly 17th 2013.

The beauty of busking is that a voluntary exchange takes place...buskers perform whether or not people choose to make a contribution...it is not a contractual service, nor is it begging. I'm sure in these straightened times that our diminishing Pool of public servants have more important things to be doing than making sure a few buskers don't make any money

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

There's nothing volunary about people who have to use the street getting their eardrums battered by unnecessary noise pollution. There's nothing voluntary about tax, rent, rates, and public liability insurance.

Sheez Garraticketter rah-hahhhdJuly 17th 2013.

The thing about Jonnie Walker is that he makes this stuff up as he goes along. Like a Tory minister on Newsnight he steadfastly avoids acknowledging the question put to him and keeps trying to change the subject with a lot of glib twaddle, always painting himself as some kind of superhero saviour of - er - public nuisances.

Jonathan WalkerJuly 17th 2013.

Anonymous! Lovely to see you again after such a long time. Another complacent person happy to see private interests dictate public policy and the abuse of police power...

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

Abuse of police power! Ha ha!

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

"Private interests"? Buskers are self-employed so they are very much 'private interests'. No wonder they refuse to pay tax, rent, rates, insurance etc. like the rest of us have to!

Jonathan WalkerJuly 17th 2013.

How do you know that buskers don't pay tax, rent or rates? I'm a busker, I pay tax, a mortgage, VAT on all my purchases etc etc... Buskers aren't trying to stop other people using public space, they are part of the informal cultural landscape of the city.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Then why don't they keep quiet? Why don't they leave people in peace? Why don't they 'perform' in some back room of a pub that we aren't all forced to enter as we are the streets of our city? 'Buskers' are not cultural and if anything they have invaded the "landscape of the city".

Earache on Church StreetJuly 17th 2013.

Can't see what all the fuss is about. Those who whine about 'tradition' will support the police action. Traditionally anyone howling, strumming, hawking or any other kind of begging was moved on by the police. This isn't some new repression, it's things returning to what they were in the days before the police mysteriously stopped moving them on and the streets became canyons of cacophony a few short years ago. If this is your idea of a police state try visiting Syria or Russia. In the U.S. Bob Dylan was moved on by a police officer just for looking suspicious.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 18th 2013.

Hear hear!

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

See the coppers are all sticking together

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

You need to clean your purse out then don't you?

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

I rest my case your honour

AnonymousJuly 18th 2013.

Are we in an American court?

George DixonJuly 18th 2013.

Nah then! Nah than!

AnonymousJuly 18th 2013.

I do like the idea that Jonny Walker thinks that elected councillors are 'self appointed'. It's time to rid the streets of this noisy, invasive begging.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
HelpfulJuly 18th 2013.

Hey, where does this story mention elected councillors? Why don't you read it properly and then comment?

Terry WaiteJuly 18th 2013.

Perhaps Uncle Joe can employ Jonny Walker as his Special Envoy? Joe can then send Jonny with his banjo to preach peace and love in “the informal cultural landscape of the city” to the troubled mobs of Cairo, Athens, Damascus, or Sanford in Florida. I’m sure he would achieve great things.

Anne GreemobJuly 18th 2013.

Indeed, and there are several cities in Brazil at the moment where Mr. Walker can enjoy the vibrant feeling of "community" on the streets. I can see him returning to these shores to be made Prime Minister if he pulls it off.

Rushworth N. DraperJuly 18th 2013.

I see from the photograph that despite being elected Mayor poor old Joe is still busking to make ends meet. I suppose his critics will accuse him of having a lucrative new racquet.

TourmanJuly 19th 2013.

The problem with some buskers is that when visitors are not forthcoming with the cash, they start abusing them, also with the amplifers that are being used, it has gone beyond busking and is now a noise nuisance. It is alright for people to say the buskers should stand there ground but they are not adding anything to the ambience of the city, just noise. You sometimes need earplugs walking down Church Street and Mathew Street.

Cap'n GedJuly 19th 2013.

Jonny Walker 'n his raucous scallywags best be thrown o'erboard

AnonymousJuly 20th 2013.

This is nothing new. I remember when Paul McCartney played the Cavern many years ago and the police moved every busker and big issue seller off the streets. I even saw them using a baton on a big issue seller. Let's pretend Liverpool is something that it isn't when the big wigs are in town. Can we please hide Joe Anderson while we're at it?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 20th 2013.

You're making things up now aren't you?

AnonymousJuly 20th 2013.

Is that what you say down at the nick?

AnonymousJuly 21st 2013.

No I'm not making this up. I wish I was

AnonymousJuly 20th 2013.

I knew he played the guitar and the piano, I didn't know he played the cavern. Is it a yodelling sort of thing?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 21st 2013.

I remember when he was on the Red Label or was it the Black Label, back then he was just plain Johnny. Ask your old Lady.

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