"Busking as we used to know it, is no longer the issue here. The old style buskers have been muscled out. Instead, we're up against “combos”, complete with professional sound systems. As they are totally unregulated , they feel free to operate at any time of the day or night. Mornings tend to be quiet, but from noon onwards, until as late as three or four a.m. the onslaught is an occurrence we literally fear. Can you imagine what it would be like, if you were sitting at a desk working, and suddenly you couldn't hear your own music playing in your own home because a raucous noise had thundered into your space? When this happens, there is no escape, except to leave..."
"Of course we all like the fun and music of Camden Town. But something strange has happened in the last six months since the the City of Westminster expelled unlicensed street performers. It amounts to a new level of aggressive sound, with a disruptive fierceness unprecedented in all our years of living here... This noise makes a mockery of the Council's attempts, long and successful, to regulate the degree of sound generated by licensed premises".
"Yesterday evening we had an amplified guitarist who responded to my plea for him to turn it down by turning it up and saying that "we should be used to the buskers by now", at the same time there a full band at Britannia Junction, then later in the evening (9ish) an amplified guitarist and pipe player."
The comments are just a few showing the perception of 'ownership' some have over Camden's streets. Compromise is quite difficult when someone tells you to "Fuck Off" because they don;t want you to move them from their lucrative pitch.
Ultimately greed took over busking in Camden, and it couldn't self-regulate itself anymore. But Camden's plans don't ban busking (that would be insane) but only introduce a few rules where there were none before, especially with amplified sound. Claims that there will be no busking in Camden Town after this are totally over-blown (the fees for a licence are only £19/£32 amp a year) - given that the hundreds of thousands of tourists who go to the Market every weekend won't be going away.
Here's the eloquent view of a local resident:
For some time now we've been in touch with Camden Council about the exceedingly stressful recent escalation in busking in the centre of Camden Town. We have always made it clear that we did not oppose busking in principle, but that – like any other public activity in a complex multi-use area like Camden Town – busking had to share the same social and legal obligations as the rest of us here.
You listened and we are most grateful. The Proposal to Licence Busking in Camden has been very well thought through. Tony Hawkes, Senior Licensing Officer is to be commended. We have sent in our responses in the question part at the end, and we said how satisfied we were with almost everything in the document.
But now you will be receiving many letters from the performance side of this issue. We have friends in the singer/songwriter side of the industry, and they say that there are many heated email discussions going the rounds. Much of this discussion, we feel, would benefit from careful reading of the Camden Proposal, which answers, in advance, many of the performers' worries.
But specifically, we as citizens and taxpayers and residents do not respond well to the call for “free” busking, if free in this formulation means not having to pay, not having to contribute to the cost of maintaining, caring for, cleaning Camden Town. So if “free” busking means conducting street performances without licences, without fees, without paying taxes, we oppose that sense of “free”. The Borough of Camden must expect buskers to pay their share, even noting that the proposed fees are modest and more token than not.
“Free” has other meanings as well. Some buskers argue that their use of loud instruments (drums, bongos, amplification, karaoke-style sound tracks, etc) is part of the freedom they demand. They cannot be granted this, nor does the Proposal suggest that they should.
- Very loud sound is not acceptable in a complex working and living community, a community of narrow streets (Camden Town) very much folded in upon itself.
- “Free” cannot describe a privilege restricted to a small group. A busker free to make any sound at any time radically reduces the civil freedom of everyone else within hearing: unlike almost any other behaviour, free busking refuses everyone else the option of not listening.
- It is well known among buskers that amplified busking can be highly intrusive upon none-amplified forms of busking. An amplified busker, in other words, much reduces the area in which other buskers are “free” to exercise their trade. (We've noticed on days when there are no drums or amplifications that several buskers of the old school can operate simultaneously in Camden Town, doing their trade and giving pleasure at the same time.)
It is important to remember the fact there had been an enormous escalation since Westminster Council effectively evicted its buskers in September 2012. It was around this time that the online story began to circulate, world wide, of how Camden was the only Council in London that was unable to control busking. Now, as a result, we have people from Spain, Mexico, Germany and France to name some that we have personally talked to. Several of the buskers in last Monday's rather well-behaved protest were in fact from distant parts of England, and were essentially protesting Camden's plans not to (in effect) underwrite their business activities by providing free spaces like Britannia Junction.
And also one of the quite irritating points that the buskers tend to raise is – If you don't like the loud sound, why do you live here? They evidently don't want to concede that many of us have been in Camden Town longer than these young people have been alive. The buskers, especially the ones that come from abroad, know only of the online reputation, and think of this place as free, talent spotting, performance area. Let them join the complex community by taking out reasonably priced licences, and observing civilised agreements about hours of busking, etc.
Finally, as to the coverage of the recent protest, we wish to state that we deeply deprecate the description of people like ourselves and of you, as being involved in “social cleansing”. This is extraordinarily ugly language, which utterly distorts our wish to continue to enjoy our lives in a complex and civil neighbourhood.