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MU Calls for Busking to Be Permitted

An update on our call for busking to be permitted again in England, following the Government’s Spring 2021 roadmap – plus further legal advice for buskers.

Published: 15 March 2021 | 5:41 PM Updated: 14 May 2021 | 12:03 PM
Photograph of a saxophone up close, the background of a brick outdoor wall implies that the performer is outside, we can only see the performers arm and hand.
We feel that busking can be carried out safely and responsibly and should be permitted much sooner. Photo credit: Shutterstock
Update: Since this story was published, the measures being taken against the Covid-19 pandemic have changed. See our page on coronavirus restrictions for the latest guidance on rules affecting musicians.

The Government’s Spring 2021 roadmap has indoor and outdoor live performance scheduled at Step 3 (no earlier than 17 May) and we have been informed that this is the date when busking will once again be permitted under government guidance in England.

However, we feel that busking can be carried out safely and responsibly and should be permitted much sooner. In its roadmap the Government already states “outdoor activity has been prioritised because the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission is substantially lower in the open air than indoors.”

Under the current timeline, on 29 March the “rule of six” will apply outdoors, and outdoor sport will be taking place, and still busking will not be permitted. On 12 April, outdoor hospitality, non-essential shops and outdoor attractions such as zoos will be open, and even then busking will still not be permitted.

Legal advice on busking

Is busking currently legal or not? As a result of the reaction to a previous MU news story on busking, a lawyer was asked to review the current legislation and provided a detailed view on whether busking was simply not advisable under government guidance or whether it was in fact illegal under current legislation.

For busking not to breach The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 the act would need to meet two conditions: Firstly, a busker would need to be able to prove they were undertaking “work” and, secondly, would need to ensure that they had no audience.

In more detail, this would mean both that buskers could be required to prove busking was their main or significant and regular source of income, otherwise, they would be in breach of the above legislation (Schedule 3A, Part 1) which confirms it is only permissible to leave home with a reasonable excuse - in this case work, where it's not reasonable to work from home.

And also that buskers performing to just one single member of the public, for however brief a moment would technically be in breach of the above legislation (Schedule 3A, Part 2) which confirms that no person may participate in a gathering which takes place outdoors and consists of two or more people.

There are allowances for such gatherings if they are “for work purposes” but our lawyer feels it may be difficult for a busker to argue they meet the criteria for such allowances in Court, suspecting that they are aimed at individuals working together in an office or outdoors, as opposed to gatherings of the public.

As a result of the above, the vast majority of busking scenarios could potentially be in breach of the current legislation, and any busker still choosing to go out and perform will need to accept there is an element of legal risk involved in doing so.

Calling for change

We are writing to the government to urge them to revise their position and permit busking to return now.

Members are also encouraged to join our call by writing to their MPs and letting them know how important busking is to their livelihoods – find your MPs contact details on the website Write To Them.

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Silhouette of a person holding up their hands in a heart shape, against a stadium audience at a live music event.

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