News: Comedian Joins Camden Busking Protest


Comedian Ben Van Der Velde will be leading an 'illegal choir'  in a mass busking protest this weekend (Sunday March 23) in response to Camden Council’s draconian new anti-busking legislation. The protest is organised by Camden's Green Party. Van Der Velde is standing as the party's candidate in the May local elections.

On Sunday afternoon protesters will take to the streets to play music and sing in defiance of the new legislation, which makes playing music or singing without a license a criminal offence punishable by fines of up to £1000, instrument confiscation and the right to sell the instrument after 28 days if the fine is not paid.

Camden Green Party have teamed up with Meet and Jam in support of the Keep Streets Live Campaign to organise Sunday’s protest, which will take place at Britannia Junction from 2pm. Comedians Mark Thomas and Bill Bailey, as well as musicians Billy Bragg and Jon Gomm have all protested recently, affirming that forcing street performances to buy licenses will hurt a fundamental aspect of British culture. 

A long-time Camden busker, Van der Velde is standing in the local election to challenge the very councillors who voted through the legislation. "I decided that Camden needs better councillors who are more in touch with what makes the area great, and who will act proportionately when there are problems.  It is a  sad day when local government manages to legislate against the right to play music in public freely, especially in one of the most famously musical boroughs in the land." 

"Over the past few months I have been baffled at how Camden Town’s local representatives could so casually strike at the freedom to perform and refuse to engage in reasonable dialogue with the busking community." The protest comes after a High Court ruling to uphold the new busking legislation, despite the legal challenge brought by the Keep Streets Live Campaign, which will now appeal the ruling.

Despite sufficient pre-existing legislation to deal with noise disturbances, when applied in full the new legislation would essentially criminalise such harmless acts as singing or whistling in the street. “If Camden Council wished to act against nuisance buskers they already have the legal powers to do so, without harming the vibrant street culture of Camden Town.  Instead they have decided to put in place an incredibly harmful piece of blanket legislation that will only act as a tax on creativity and spontaneity."

"There seems to be an opinion in the council chamber - not shared by the hundreds of residents I've talked to on the street - that busking is nothing but a melodic nuisance on our streets, which doesn't reflect the reality that most buskers are generous, community-minded individuals who want to enhance public spaces - their workplaces - rather than diminish them."

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