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Protect Busking Culture in the West End by Responding to Council’s Consultation

The MU has serious concerns over Westminster County Council's recently published consultation and its potential effects on busking. Members are encouraged to have their say by responding to the council’s consultation.

Published: 27 January 2020 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:30 PM
Photograph of a sign in Westminster, pointing towards Leicester Square, Soho, Piccadilly Circus and other famous locations
We believe the consultation could cause damage to the rich musical heritage of the West End. Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Consultation, if accepted, will introduce unnecessarily restrictive licensing conditions in some of the most prosperous and busy busking areas in the West End. This could potentially end the local culture of busking as we know it.

Busking is a vital part of London's musical ethos, and the West End is an iconic location for street performers. These restrictions could signal an end to the busking culture as we know it.

A ban on amplification and merchandise

Part of the council’s proposed licensing scheme includes banning amplification on many of the main busking spots.

It also includes a retraction of the previously arranged traders’ agreement, whereby members of the public could make a donation in exchange for merchandise. Under the new proposal, this would be no longer be possible without a six-month temporary street trading licence.

The banning of amplification in the West End would have catastrophic effects on musicians and street performers, and will have a serious and negative effect on the area and its musical legacy.

Protect the rich musical heritage of the West End

Busking can provide the first stepping stone into a long and varied musical career and has been the starting point for some of the UK's biggest artists.

We urge Westminster and all those consulted to consider the effect on buskers, their livelihoods and the potential damage to the rich musical heritage of the West End.

The consultation responses will inform next steps and any changes to future policy. We encourage members to have their say by responding to the consultation on Westminster County Council’s website before 24 February 2020.

If you're not sure what to include in your response, you're welcome to copy or rewrite our main concerns:

  • Removing the majority of amplified busking spots means most musicians will be unable to perform in those areas.
  • A retraction of the previously arranged traders’ agreement means members of the public won't be able make a donation in exchange for merchandise. Selling merchandise is a vital revenue stream for buskers and an essential marketing opportunity.
  • Busking is legal on public land and the council already have laws in place to apprehend buskers who are not adhering to the Busk In London code. Extra licensing conditions are unnecessarily restrictive and will be to the detriment of buskers

If you are a busker in Westminster and have any concerns or questions, please contact your Regional Office. You can also contact the Westminster Street Performers' Association through their website.

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