Support Street Culture in Birmingham, Don't Strangle It
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Stop the Criminalisation of Street Culture in Birmingham
Labour-led Birmingham City Council have introduced plans to make it a criminal offence punishable by fines of up to £1000 and a criminal record to play musical instruments or sing songs on the streets if any amplification is used. The proposed ‘Public Space Protection Order’ (PSPO) would also apply to political protestors such as the Friends of the Library of Birmingham Campaign who use microphones to make speeches during rallies and protests, and religious groups.
When Birmingham Bobby PC Ian Northcott borrowed a busker’s guitar and gave an impromptu version of ‘Wonderwall’ on the city’s streets, a YouTube video of the incident went viral and became a feel-good international news story about the breaking down of barriers between the police and the public and the power of street music to create a sense of urban community. PC Ian Northcott went on to use his raised public profile to raise money and awareness for Socks and Chocs, a charity that provides food and clothing to vulnerably housed and homeless people.
Under Birmingham’s proposals the ‘Busking Bobby’ would have been committing a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1000 and a criminal record. Far from building good relationships between the police and the community, under these new powers police would be potentially be required to arrest any buskers breaching the PSPO doing damage to to the reputation of the police in the community. At time when police and local authority budgets are under pressure, the PSPO would waste the police’s time by requiring them to arrest people for playing music and singing songs rather than doing vitally important police work and keeping people safe.
As well as being an attack on cultural, political and religious freedoms these draconian new powers are totally unnecessary. Birmingham City Council have a wide range of existing powers that could and should be used against the small minority of street performers and street preachers that cause a persistent nuisance.
The Keep Streets Live Campaign successfully opposed policies that criminalised street culture in Liverpool, York and Canterbury and went on to work with the councils in those cities to introduce policies that support a vibrant street culture. We call upon Birmingham to abandon its plans to introduce a PSPO and to work with the local busking community, business groups, Musician's Union, Keep Streets Live Campaign and other affected parties to agree a best practise guide that promotes harmonious relationships in the city, encourages and actively supports the artists and musicians who animate the city's streets helping to make Birmingham the vibrant city of culture that it is.
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