The Independent London Newspaper
25th March 2017

Buskers set up new 'religion' to fight council rules on street performances

    From left, comedians Ben Van der Velde and Mark Thomas with busking campaigner J

    From left, comedians Ben Van der Velde and Mark Thomas with busking campaigner Jonny Walker

    Published: 27 March, 2014

    BUSKERS in Camden Town say their “religious freedoms” are being threatened by the Town Hall after forming a new religion that deifies “the humble kazoo”.

    The move comes after the buskers lost a High Court battle over Camden Council’s new licensing policy for street performers.

    The rules, which came into force on Monday, demand they have licences, ban amplified music and set a 9pm curfew for performances. 

    Signs have gone up in Camden Town warning buskers they need licences.

    Instruments can be confiscated under the new rules, which the Town Hall says it introduced to protect residents from disturbance. 

    In the latest protest, musician campaigners say the council cannot ban their “religion”, which does not have a name yet but centres around music and instruments.

    On Monday, around a dozen buskers performed close to Camden Town underground station without a licence. They then called police, the council’s noise service, Town Hall leader Councillor Sarah Hayward and community safety chief Councillor Abdul Hai to alert them to the performance. They said that an attempt to remove them would be a threat to their religious rights. 

    Neither police nor the council responded, and both councillors failed to answer their phones. 

    Busker Jonny Walker told a crowd of onlookers outside the HSBC bank branch in Camden High Street: “We are forming a religion. You do not have to drop out of your own religion to join. We are welcoming everyone from atheists to Christians, to Muslims and Jews, Hindus and every other belief you may already be a part of. 

    “We are very open. But we are a religion that respects music and our right to perform in the borough of Camden with freedom. We have hymns, and we believe in the holy triad of kazoos. We want to practise our religion in peace.” 

    Comedian Mark Thomas, who is campaigning for buskers’ rights, said “out of all the things the council could have done, they chose to criminalise busking without a licence”.

    He added: “Talking with us to find the best code of practice would have been the way forward. Instead, we have this stupid law. Labour particularly has a habit of passing laws when they are not needed. This is not a good enough reason for a law. 

    “Camden is the London borough of music. Why would they do this, unless they want to change that? It could be that they are trying to change the tone of the borough, and want to gentrify it.”

    A High Court judge ruled earlier this month that Camden’s policy – and the way it was introduced – was not unlawful.

    Licensing committee chair Councillor Maryam Eslamdoust said:  “I am pleased with the judgment handed down by the High Court.  We had to adopt this regulation to address ongoing nuisance suffered by residents and to prevent public spaces from being monopolised. 

    “The court has affirmed that regulation is not prohibition and we look forward to a responsible busking scene living alongside our residents.” 



    since the modernisation of

    since the modernisation of camden its lost all its culture and spirit. It's just a tourist trap now. It was the buskers, punks, and diverse community that gave it such great character. I used to hang out there every weekend a decade ago, but wouldn't bother these days.

    With these new laws the remaining spirit of Camden diminishes even further. The UK, a free country? pfffft. We cant even sing in the street without being oppressed by rules that no one agrees to, except a minority in the community.

    Bring back our rights to entertain without prejudice and make a few quid to buy ourselves food every now and then, its not too much to ask for, is it?

    Confused and dismayed

    As Camden resident and lifetime Labour voter, I am confused and dismayed at the actions of Camden Borough Council in introducing this ridiculous and unnecessary law. Whatever happened to Labour representing working people and the disenfranchised? I will be looking to vote elsewhere this coming election.

    Save public art!

    Why is it that people who get jobs managing public gathering spaces keep somehow getting these jobs despite holding public arts in contempt? I guess the less power people have, the harder they fight to use it on those they consider "lesser."

    The new busking license... what a waste of legal energy!!!

    Obviously this has been said a thousand times but why on earth would residents complain knowing its one of Londons capitals for music??? of course there will be music playing after hours, i bet most of the noise complaints come from venues not buskers. I happen to know one of the river side bars have had to close certain exits to not disturb residents after hours. I'm sure all this effort for what was a it 112 complaints? could have been used more productively elsewhere...maybe stopping real criminals? what an earth is happening to our society.

    Licensing busking at a local

    Licensing busking at a local level is nonsensical. Any serious musician knows you have to travel to different places to play. If all councils follow Camden's lead, this will no longer be possible as no one will be able to afford a license for every town they visit. So the public will be stuck with the same artists performing in the same places day after day.

    New Religion..

    What a class idea! The Council are full of excrement! Keep the faith.

    And it shows up religion for

    And it shows up religion for the pile of xxxx that is well. Brilliant.

    New Religion...

    The fact that they've created a new 'religion' is farcical. I say put these buskers on a bus and ship them out to zone 5.

    New Religion...

    I say that it's exactly the response that CBC and Mrs Justice Patterson deserve. It wouldn't be possible to take them any less seriously!

    By the way "They" are Thousands of upbeat creative individuals. You represent a mean-spirited, miserable few.

    Nick Shields.

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