Camden Borough Council: Don't Stop the Music! Keep Streets Live in Camden
  • Petitioning Sarah Hayward
  • Responded

This petition will be delivered to:

Leader of Camden Council
Sarah Hayward
See response
Mayor of Camden
Jonathan Simpson
Chair of Licensing Committee
Maryam Eslamdoust
Cabinet Member for Community Safety
Abdul Hai

Camden Borough Council: Don't Stop the Music! Keep Streets Live in Camden

    1. Petition by

      Keep Streets Live Campaign

On November 11th Labour-Led Camden Council passed a resolution which criminalised the playing of music in ANY public space in the borough without first obtaining a licence. Under this contentious piece of legislation even singing in the street for fun, even without any container for donations, has become a criminal offence punishable by a £1000 fine, the seizure of instruments in the streets by force, and the sale of those instruments to pay the fine after 28 days.

Despite repeatedly being described by Councillor Abdul Hai, Cabinet Member for 'Community Safety' as 'light touch regulation' needed to deal with an escalation in noise complaints relating to buskers in Camden over the last year, this new policy actually makes Camden the most restrictive place in the UK for performances of music in shared public space. Even singing in the streets is potentially unlawful under this policy, with anyone who wishes to make music with more than one other person, or seeking to play a percussion or wind instument or use any amplifier is required to pay £47 and to wait 20 working days for a Council panel to decide whether they are a 'fit and proper person' to hold a licence. If licences are refused would-be performers have to appeal to a magistrates court in a mind-bogglingly expensive and bureaucratic process clearly designed to deter people from playing music in the streets.


My name is Jonny Walker. I am a Liverpool-born singer/songwriter, musician, a full-time street performer and the Founding Director of the Keep Streets Live Campaign.  I have spent the last twelve years travelling the country as a wandering minstrel, playing music in the towns and cities of the UK and beyond. I have seen the power of informal, street-level performances of art and music to create a sense of colour, vibrancy and urban community at first-hand. I helped start the Keep Streets Live Campaign to protect and preserve informal community uses of public space, as it is now under threat.

Why We Need Your Help:

Sadly, Camden is not an isolated case. In recent years, many local authorities across the UK have introduced highly-restrictive policies and laws that criminalise street performance and threaten the future of shared public spaces that are open to the arts and music.

Why This Matters:

This draconian new law will do great damage to Camden's cultural and social well-being, it will scare and intimidate musicians away from the streets, and it will set an incredibly damaging precedent for towns and cities across the UK, if it goes unchallenged. It comes as a bitter blow at a time when many traditional venues for live music are closing down. The streets have become a vital and democratic forum for musicians to be heard, whether they are just starting out, gaining experience or actually making a living.


The Bigger Picture:

At the very time when our high streets need a helping hand to stay vital in the face of rapid social and economic changes which have seen record number of businesses close their doors forever, policies are being implemented that damage the communal lives of our towns and cities. Free street art and live music is one great way of keeping our high streets alive. It's more important than ever before that local authorities channel their limited resources to support and sustain creative and grassroots communities in our urban centres, instead of heavy handed and misguided clampdowns. By supporting this landmark campaign you will be helping to protect the cultural freedoms of our towns and cities and giving us the resources to work alongside local authorities in the future.

What We Are Doing About This:

I started this petition on behalf of the Keep Streets Live Campaign and made formal representations asking Camden Council to rethink their damaging plans. Our campaign arranged protest events which were supported by comedians Bill Bailey and Mark Thomas, and the musicians Billy Bragg and Jon Gomm amongst many others. We set up the Citizen's Kazoo Orchestra and the Church of the Holy Kazoo as a light-hearted rebellion against the irrational banning of wind instruments. I made presentations to the Cabinet, Licensing Committee and full Council. The Musician's Union released a statement nationally asking Camden Council to preserve their musical heritage and to abandon their contentious policy. Despite this chorus of constructive opposition the Council passed this policy into law in a narrow vote in November. Our options were running out so we contacted a leading Human Rights law firm Leigh Day who told us that this new law was so unfair and over the top that we had a good chance of challenging it in the High Courts. The Human Rights Act protects freedom of expression and this applies to performances of music as well as to speech and the written word. We now had the basis for a historic legal challenge. The High Court upheld Camden's policy so we have taken our case to the Court of Appeal and are continuing to raise funds for this challenge.

 And, It Works!

Last year in Liverpool, a city synonymous with live music, I helped lead a campaign against a license scheme similar to Camden's which threatened street musicians with trespass prosecutions, banned under 18s from playing music and placed severe restrictions on the life of the streets. Our campaign was successful and the new law was overturned. We are now working with Liverpool Council and the Musician's Union to draw together a fair and open 'best practise guide' for street performing that balances the needs of all the users who share public spaces. Thank you to everyone who supported this campaign.

In York we set up a petition calling on the Council to scrap a highly restrictive license scheme and to make the streets more open. Again, as a direct result of our campaign, York's civic leaders made significant changes to their policy and invited musicians, street performers and other bodies to be part of an ongoing dialogue.



Join In:

We are a growing community of artists, performers, musicians and people who value public spaces that are open to the arts. Even if you are unable to contribute financially at this time, we would still love for you to get involved. From handing out leaflets, gathering signatures, playing the kazoo at protests, performing pop-up gigs and helping us send out perks, there are lots of ways in which you can get stuck in and we are very open to suggestions. Join the Association of Street Artists and Performers for free here:

In a nutshell...





This is a landmark legal challenge which will set a precedent for the use of public space in the United Kingdom. Join with us as we seek to protect and preserve the ancient freedoms of the street and find creative ways to build urban community and to Keep Streets Live!


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Recent signatures


    1. More threats to London buskers

      The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are carrying out a 'consultation' on brining in a new law similar to Camden to restrict busking in their borough. We have completed the online consultation which is open until Sunday 19th October. If you have time, please complete this consultation. The more people who complete it, the more chance we have of persuading the politicians that these strict controls are a bad idea. You can use our answers as a guide if you wish:

      Meanwhile, the Church of the Holy Kazoo will be staging an all day protest busk in Camden this Sunday 19th. All are welcome to attend, please bring a Kazoo if possible :-) Join the facebook event page here:


      Jonny Walker
      Director of Keep Streets Live Campaign

      Response to Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Busking Consultation

      The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are consulting on bringing in a busking license which will be almost as restrictive as Camden. We have taken part in their consultation and have reproduced our responses here. You can take part in the consultation which closes on October 19th by clicking on the link below and using our responses as a guide if you wish.

    2. Church of the Holy Kazoo

      Greetings friends,

      A year has passed since the Citizen's Kazoo Orchestra was formed as a protest against Camden Council's draconian and spirit-crushing anti-busking legislation. Only a special orchestra like the CKO could give birth to a new religion in the form of the Church of the Holy Kazoo and we will be holding an all day 'service' THIS Sunday 19th October outside HSBC on Camden High Street near the Tube Station to celebrate our new religion

      Meanwhile our legal challenge against Camden Council is ongoing with our Court of Appeal permission date set for November 13th.

      Anyone who wants to join the Church of the Holy Kazoo this coming Sunday is more than welcome. Persons of all faiths and no faith are very welcome in our religion.

      Remember, music that is part of a religious ceremony or service is EXEMPT from Camden's policy which is handy because, for the Church of the Holy Kazoo, every piece of music that has ever been written or performed in the course of human history is part of our hymnbook, and busking itself is a sacred act within our religious tradition. Buskers are thereby protected against the malign intent of Camden Council.

      So join us friends as we blow a collective raspberry in the general direction of Camden Council and their decision to criminalise and marginalise street culture. You can join and share the facebook event page for Sunday by clicking here:

      With love,

      Jonny Walker
      Director of Keep Streets Live Campaign

      Camden Church of the Holy Kazoo Anniversary Protest Busk | Facebook

      Camden Church of the Holy Kazoo Anniversary Protest Busk | Facebook

    3. Help Stop the Prosecution of Dawson

      The Keep Streets Live Campaign's ongoing legal challenge against Camden Council's restrictive anti-busking law reaches its next stage with a Court of Appeal permission hearing now scheduled for November 13th. Meanwhile we have been providing support to buskers in other parts of London where we are asking Westminster Council to stop their prosecution of an award-winning young musician Dan Wilson aka ‘Dawson'.

      On Wednesday 20th August at 10am a talented 24 year old musician who has represented Great Britain in the world loop championships appeared in court in Westminster answering criminal charges of 'illegal street trading' and using a speaker in the street for a 10 minute busk in Leicester Square in March with a couple of CDs of his own music and a sign saying 'suggested donation £5’ details of his Facebook page. It was the first time Dawson had ever busked in Leicester Square.

      This was his fourth court appearance relating to this one incident of spontaneous live music and he now faces a fifth court hearing in November. 

If convicted this graduate of Leeds College of Music, who is being supported by the Musician's Union, will have a life-long criminal record which will affect his ability to travel aboard, an essential part of life as a touring musician, and face heavy fines.

      Westminster Council’s determination to prosecute Dawson comes against a backdrop of the Mayor of London’s #backbusking campaign launched in April with the intention of making London 'the most busker-friendly city in the world’. Boris Johnson has convened a task force designed to remove obstacles to performing in the capital city which includes Westminster Council, the Musician’s Union and the Keep Streets Live Campaign amongst others. Westminster's decision to prosecute Dawson is completely out-of-step with the efforts the Mayor's culture team are making to remove some of the burdens buskers face in London.

      If you share the view of the Keep Streets Live Campaign that this protracted prosecution is a scandalous misuse of public time and money and that it represents a campaign of legal harassment against a promising young musician please email the cabinet member for Public Protection at Westminster Nickie Aiken on, Paul Reid on and also the Head of Legal and Democratic services at Westminster Peter Large on whose office, bizarrely, maintains that it is in the 'public interest' to spend thousands of pounds prosecuting Dawson. It would be very helpful to Dawson if you could send polite emails asking them not to prosecute this young musician.

      In response to emails they received when this news went public, Joseph McBride, Cabinet Officer for Communications and Strategy for Westminster stated that '...street performance can give rise to real problems for local residents and businesses and in such cases it may be necessary to ask buskers who are causing a public nuisance [emphasis mine] to desist and, in exceptional circumstances [emphasis mine] make use of our legal powers as a last resort'.

      Dawson had never performed in Westminster before and only played for a matter of minutes on the evening he was challenged. He is an accomplished musician and was not causing any nuisance, so why is he being targeted?

      Any emails you could send to the above email addresses would not only help Dawson but also encourage local authorities to work alongside street performers in the future rather then seeking to prosecute them!

      Kind regards,

      Jonny Walker
      Director Keep Streets Live Campaign

    4. Busking Laws and the Lords

      Lib Dem Peer Lord Clement-Jones, a well-known supporter of live music who brought in the Live Music Act in 2012 as a private member's bill, has proposed the effective repeal of the law underpinning Camden's draconian busking legislation.

      (Report by Hamish Birchall with additional input from Jonny Walker)

      During yesterday's 2nd Reading of the Deregulation Bill in the House of Lords, he said:

      'The Mayor of London has rightly been fulsome about the place of busking in London life. In the Bill we should explicitly remove Part 5 of the London Local Authorities Act 2000, which provides for busking licensing schemes at individual London councils' discretion. We should also remove Section 54(14) of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, which was recently used against buskers in Leicester Square.'

      If implemented, these measures would pull the plug on Camden's controversial borough-wide and extremely costly licence scheme (about £70k so far), and prevent buskers being arrested and detained by the police merely for doing what buskers do.

      Lord Clement-Jones continued: 'As I explained to the House [on 30th June], the King's Parade, the winners of the mayor's busking competition, were interrupted by the police mid-song as they performed in Leicester Square and informed that they were in breach of Section 54 of the archaic 1839 Metropolitan Police Act. They were bundled into a van by eight officers and held at Paddington police station for more than six hours. This 174-year-old piece of legislation, which also - I think the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, would be pleased by this - prohibits kite flying, sleigh riding and doorbell ringing, was used to justify the arrest.'

      According to licensing lawyers, a potential criminal offence is committed by buskers under the 1839 legislation if they accept a donation or even hand out a free CD. Moreover, the police can use these powers against any busker in London - even if they are among the select few now licensed to busk in Camden (7, at the last count).

      The Leicester Square day-time arrest, widely reported in the national press, took place on 14th May. It was filmed by a member of the public and posted on YouTube: No-one had complained about the band. This particularly draconian enforcement appears to have been part of a purge of Leicester Square buskers, backed and part-funded by the Heart of London Business Improvement District. See: and note the use of noise abatement notices.

      Lord Clement-Jones went on to explain the rationale for his proposals, at the same time strongly criticising Camden's regime:

      'There are more than adequate powers under separate legislation to deal with noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour. For example, there is the Environmental Protection Act 1990 or the Control of Pollution Act 1974. There are also powers to make by-laws available to local authorities with respect to street nuisance. Camden, under the London Local Authorities Act, has banned street music at any time, amplified or unamplified, except through a special busking licence. Camden's approach runs completely counter to the arguments heard and accepted by government and Parliament during the Live Music Act debates.'

      Busking deregulation will now be formalised as amendments to the Deregulation Bill for consideration at the Lords Committee stage, for which a date has yet to be fixed but could be by October. If the amendments are approved, the Commons would then consider them.

      Another important October date is the 6th when there will be a 'permission hearing' at the Court of Appeal for the Keep Streets Live Campaign against the High Court ruling in support of Camden's busking licence scheme. The Keep Streets Live Campaign is also part of a London Mayoral busking taskforce set up by Boris Johnson to make London more busker friendly.

      The campaign to keep music live on the streets of Camden and protect cultural freedoms is very much on!

      With love,


      Founding Director of Keep Streets Live Campaign

      Key links:

      Greater London Authority and Mayor of London launches #Backbusking campaign 9th April:
      Boris Johnson warns 'Don't let London become a no-go area for buskers'.

      Hansard transcript of Deregulation Bill 2nd reading, 7th July: [search on page for 'busk']

      Lord Clement-Jones' question about busking and 1839 Metropolitan Police Act in the House of Lords, 30th June:
      Support of Mayor of London for busking quoted. Concerns about over-regulation of busking also raised by Viscount Clancarty, Baroness Hamwee and others. Government spokesperson, Baroness Williams of Trafford, is broadly supportive of busking, but mistakenly suggests it is not 'criminalised' when for all practical purposes it is under the 1839 MPA.

      The King's Parade arrested whilst busking in Leicester Square

      We were busking in Leicester Square, London on Wednesday 14 May when we were arrested by officers under Met Police Act 54 Section 14, only two weeks after being named London's Best Buskers by Mayor of London. Spread the word so we can stop this from happening to other musicians.

    5. High Court Decision

      We will seek to appeal against this decision in the High Court announced on Tuesday that Camden's busking proposals were 'necessary and proportionate'.

      High court upholds Camden busking restrictions

      New licensing restrictions on buskers in Camden have been declared lawful by the high court. Comedians Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey and musician Billy Bragg are among celebrities who took to the streets to protest over the restrictions being introduced by the council in the north London borough after noise complaints by local residents.

    6. Reached 7,000 signatures
    7. Crowd Sourcing Campaign Launched in order to fund our High Court Challenge

      We are challenging Camden's decision in the High Court and are raising funds via Indiegogo in order to pay for the legal fees and the campaign costs:

      Follow this link to find out how you can get involved!

      Keep Streets Live Campaign

      Who and Why: My name is I am a Liverpool-born singer/songwriter, musician, a full-time street performer and Jonny Walker. the Founding Director of ASAP (Association of Street Artists and Performers). I have spent the last twelve years travelling the country as a wandering minstrel, playing music in the towns and cities of the UK and beyond.

    8. Reached 6,000 signatures
    9. Sarah Hayward, Leader of Camden Council, Responds to the Petition

      We are glad that Camden Council are taking this petition seriously and have taken the time to respond to it. However, we are disappointed that Sarah would choose to characterise the petition as misleading as we believe it to be scrupulously accurate.

      You can see her response and our reply here:

    10. Reached 1,000 signatures
    11. Decision-maker Sarah Hayward responds:

      Sarah Hayward

      Camden Council has no plans to ban busking in Camden Town therefore this petition is completely misleading.

      Camden Council is currently consulting with residents and businesses on plans to license busking across the borough.
      The publi...

    12. Reached 750 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Hayley Miller LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
      • about 4 hours ago

      music should be free for everyone to enjoy - playing or listening

      • about 4 hours ago

      Busking is part of the culture of the streets and should not be licensed

    • Rachel Horton-Kitchlew TAPLOW, UNITED KINGDOM
      • 5 days ago

      As a student with a very demanding course, busking provides me with a crucial source of flexible income. I can't be taken on by employers as I simply don't have a timetable that allows regular shifts. Busking allows me to live more freely and stops me from being dependant on loans. Busking is so important for me in building confidence with my instrument, it's an excellent way of advertising, and it's a great way to release stressed. For me, to know that my music is appreciated by the general public is one of the most important things. I was so upset when I heard about this proposal.

      • 6 days ago

      This is Ludicrous, its a planned 1000 pound fine for a,being alive and b,being human

      • 6 days ago

      Yet more erosion of civil liberties! How many more before people realise they're living in a prison of their own making?!?


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