The High Court has upheld new busking restrictions in Camden, meaning street performers in the borough will have to buy licences and adhere to certain restrictions. Camden Council insists that the new licensing process is “light touch regulation” – designed mainly to deal with complaints about amplified and louder percussion-based busking. A basic twelve month licence will cost £19, though certain kinds of performance will require a £47 advanced licence which may have other limitations attached. Once licensed, buskers will usually be able to play anywhere that it’s safe to play in the borough between 10am until 9pm.
The court case against the restrictions was launched by the Keep Streets Live Campaign, which gained support from celebrities including Billy Bragg, who himself busked around Camden at the start of his career, as well as comedians Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey. The Musicians’ Union has also spoken out against the changes. Following the court ruling on the matter, Bragg told CMU: “Camden claim that this new bylaw is designed to curb the use of amplifiers by buskers ‘late into the evening’. If so, why not target amplified busking after 6pm rather than coming up with this blanket restriction on all types of busking?”
Mrs Justice Patterson ruled that Camden council had adopted a policy that was “both necessary and a proportionate response to the issue of busking”. Ruling the licensing regime lawful, the judge rejected accusations that the definition of busking was too wide in the policy and likely to cause confusion, and there was lack of evidence of a problem justifying the “draconian” step. She also dismissed claims that the policy was disproportionate and breached the human rights of buskers.
Keeping Streets Live Campaign was ordered to pay £7,500 in legal costs. David Wolfe QC, appearing for the campaign group, asked for permission to appeal, arguing that the ruling raised important legal issues and would have an impact on street entertainment across London: The Patterson J refused permission, although the Court of Appeal can itself agree to hear the case..