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MU Backs Buskers in Birmingham Noise Ban

The Union fiercely opposes a new ‘noise ban’ in Birmingham which will see buskers face a £1,000 fine for performing in key city center areas.

Published: 12 August 2022 | 5:27 PM
Dollar bills visible in busker's guitar case on cobbled street.
"We’ll be working with Equity and Keep Streets Live to fight this and call on the council to think again". Image credit: Shutterstock.

Earlier this year Birmingham City Council announced a consultation to introduce two PSPO (Public Space Protection Orders) zones in the city centre that would effectively ban busking in two of the main parts of the city centre, New Street/Temple Street and New Street/High Street.

Although the MU has argued for a busking exemption in these zones, the Council has since advised that after careful consideration, it has decided to declare both PSPOs. This will have the effect of displacing people using amplification and musical instruments from around the two residential blocks.

The PSPO will mean a 24-hour ban on busking on stretches of New Street, Lower Temple Street and parts of Temple Street. Busking will also be banned on Stephenson Street between the hours of 8pm and 8am.

Police will have the power to issue fines of up to £1,000 to anyone who fails to comply. The noise ban will also apply to street performers and religious preachers using amplification equipment in the affected areas.

The PSPOs will become effective on 15 August 2022.

What we’re doing

The MU is working with Midlands Regional Committee Chair John Patrick and Vice Chair Louise Braithwaite, along with Keep Streets Live (KSL) and Equity’s local Secretary to create a campaign to challenge the decision.

At present, the MU, Equity and KSL Busking Policy Agreement with Birmingham City Council is still in place, but these developments undermine it. There will be further consultation with Equity, KSL and the Regional Committee to decide upon a programme of action in response and we will update members as soon as we are able to.

Regional response

MU Regional Organiser for the Midlands, Stephen Brown, who spoke the The Birmingham Mail said:

“We are utterly dismayed at this regressive move by Birmingham City Council to effectively ban busking in the two main parts of the city centre which are peak busking locations. They’ve handled it really badly and sent out mixed messages about who it affects based on a poorly worded PSPO that will lead to more confusion and likely draconian responses from officers.

“It’s yet another attack on our public spaces and cultural life at a time UK citizens are already having their rights curtailed by Government. Ironically, the city’s cultural offering has just been showcased to the world in the Commonwealth Games and yet here they are hypocritically closing off an important aspect of the city’s cultural heartbeat, as well as important income for musicians in a cost of living crisis.

“The existing policy we agreed years ago with them already had mechanisms within it to deal with noise nuisance as it is based on dealing with negative impact. If they lacked the capacity to enforce that properly, another law won’t change this nor will it improve relationships with the busking community. It was clear in the consultation that the core of the noise problems weren’t from busking, but other elements, and they have totally ignored this.

“The fact that they have chosen to do so indicates the value the council places on the cultural vibrancy of our city is next to zero. We’ll be working with Equity and Keep Streets Live to fight this and call on the council to think again.”

 

Need to know more about working as a live performer?

For more information on how the MU helps ensure busking best practices and what to do if your right to busk is being threatened, visit our dedicated resource page below.

Read more about Busking

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