Friday, 19 November 2010

Buskers Code Of Conduct

I miss the old days of buskers: the dodgy bloke smelling of wee and singing half a verse of “Here Comes The Sun”, the two students who can only remember three out of four chords and the sad-old-bugger playing “The Happy Wonderer” on Harmonica.

That’s what busking should be about – turning up and being so appallingly awful that people pay you to go away . It’s also a good venue for people to try out their sound before they go professional or start getting gigs: but not these days.

These days you have to have a licence – and the process of getting a licence and the accompanying rules are torturous to say the least. No wonder that my home town hasn’t had a music scene for 30 years. Here is the official list of rules, as requested by Argent and sent by NoFun Ltd (and please note, I'm not making this stuff up):

Successful candidates will be added to the Approved List, which will be reviewed annually.

NoFun Ltd will only license competent and vibrant performers who they feel would make a positive impact on the City Centre.

Exactly how do they measure this? Is there a fun-ometer? If one in ten people are not said to have received a “positive impact” do they reject?  Was the punk movement "vibrant" and "positive", were The Beatles?

Street entertainers should only perform within the approved entertainment

So what? If you audition as a knife thrower does this mean you can’t juggle fruit instead? Can you audition with your guitar, but turn up on the day with a tap-dancing baboon?

A pitch can only used from the hour until half past the hour e.g. 12.00 – 12.30, 1.00 – 1.30 There should be NO busking on any site between half past and the hour e.g 12.30 -1.00pm.

So: you can only play between the hour and half-past the hour, then you have to wait around for half an hour before you can start again? Why exactly? What is so sacrosanct about those times?

No sale of merchandise or goods will be allowed without a valid Street Trading Licence from NoFun Ltd.

So you can’t sell your demo tapes or T-Shirts? Hmmm

Only one entertainer or group of entertainers (maximum four people) shall be allowed in any of the entertainment areas at one time.

So children’s choirs, jazz and soul bands – any brass bands: all out.  And if the pitch is already gone: tough

Low powered amplification may only be used at certain sites (see site list), with express permission from NoFun Ltd, and the sound must be kept to a reasonable level so as not to cause disturbance or nuisance to surrounding businesses or the public. All sound levels to be set by NoFun Ltd staff.

Noise (for example music or voice) should not be so loud that it can be plainly heard at a distance of 50m.

So what? If you want to have amplification do you have to wait until a council official turns up with a tape measure and a noise registering machine to ensure that it’s not too loud. If you’re not using an amplifier are you supposed to pace out 50metres to ensure no one can hear you beyond that point?

Where accompanying backing music is used, the entertainers own music must form the greater part of the performance. Drumming should only be included as a minor part of the act.

So that rules out the Salvation Army and those steel bands then (admittedly no great loss)

Entertainers must not make use of street furniture such as public seats, lamp-posts and railings.

So during the half-hour where apparently you have to ensure you utter not a single sound you also presumably have to do a bit of yogic flying or just sprawl on the floor?

Animals are prohibited from being brought into the city centre by street entertainers while they are performing.

So performing animals presumably cause some kind of offence? What about Working Dogs?

Entertainers should stand unless their performance requires them to be seated. If the performance requires the entertainer to be seated then they should NOT sit directly on the floor – a suitable folding chair should be used.

So – not allowed to sit down during the act either

Non musical entertainers (eg. Jugglers / Stilt Walkers etc) must have proof of their current public liability insurance with them whilst entertaining. NoFun Ltd will require a copy of the certificate. Performers must take necessary precautions to prevent themselves or member of the public being put at risk.

So if you fall off your stilts you could be sued by us as well as by the public. Nice

Entertainers who appear to be under the influence of either drugs or alcohol will not be permitted to continue performing and will be reported to Local Police. NoFun Ltd will also remove them from the list of Approved Street Entertainers.

So that’s pretty much all musicians out straight away

Maybe it's just me - but shouldn't music (and entertainment) be spontaneous?  Surely the spirit and "vibrancy" of a place is not improved by laying down needless rules and regulations to ensure that no one is ever offended?  Maybe we should just learn to chill out?


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that I don't know where you live but when I lived in Croydon (not the most brilliant location on the planet granted) they had a pair of brilliant buskers

I shouldn't be doing their advertising but they were such fun and they did all the things that your document told them they couldn't do!

the watercats said...

I feckin hate this sort of crap!... nofun is right!... apparantly you're meant to have a permit over here aswell, but by and large, you ignore it until someone actually questions you and then you claim ignorance and pack up and find a new place to busk. we've never been questioned, but then we're not exactly hard-core buskers. I would highly reccommend busking, it's much more lucrative than gigging and you get a real sense of satisfaction when someone actually lingers about to listen. And kids are the abosolute best spectators, they genuinely love you and you often see them being dragged past by their parents, craning their necks to look at the guitars and people singing. Kids are garanteed fans, if any do manage to stop, we always give them a go on a guitar, spread the joy! I love it!
Bollix to the rules, just go and do the thing :-D

Michael said...

Hello "Don't Feed The Pixies". Very interested to read your views. I work at the news and sport radio station Radio 5 live and we're doing a discussion on busking next week. If you might be interested in coming on drop me an email with a contact number to michael.hamilton AT
Many thanks!