St Albans busking code of practice consultation now out

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 April 2018 | UPDATED: 07:40 12 April 2018

A busker outside Jack Wills in St Albans.

A busker outside Jack Wills in St Albans.

Archant

Do you think our city centre buskers should face restrictions on volume and requests?

A busker in St Albans.A busker in St Albans.

The consultation on a local street performance code of conduct, drafted by St Albans district council (SADC), has now been circulated to businesses in the city centre.

If the new rules are implemented, buskers will not be able to play music louder than just above ambient street noise, set up a pitch within 50 metres of another performer, sell merchandise, solicit contributions from passers-by, use amplification, or play “loud” instruments such as drums or trumpets.

They must also take “regular breaks” to allow crowds to disperse and any buskers under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

The new measures are meant to protect businesses and residents in the centre from excessive noise and repetitive performances.

Any agreed guidelines would not be legally binding - merely advisory. However, officers will report back to SADC on the success of the scheme and may consider creating enforceable bylaws.

Liesl Adriaans is a musician from Aylesbury who travels to St Albans to busk: “Personally, as a musician, I understand why they would implement these rules because obviously there are people living in and around the town centre and you don’t want to be disruptive as a performer, but at the same time I do think it’s very specific per act.

“I know they are thinking about taking amplification away so you are performing acoustically, and the problem with that is even myself today, I have a little amp, but I can barely hear myself over the noise of the cars and the general hustle and bustle of it all.”

She conceded that a louder act with horns needs to be aware and considerate.

Adding: “At the end of the day, all of us gig, we all know the appropriate levels, we know what is disruptive and what isn’t, so we should be able to use our own discretion.”

Notably, there is already a bylaw regarding busking in St Albans, which states nobody can make “any noise which is so loud or so continuous or repeated as to give reasonable cause for annoyance to other persons in the vicinity”.

The Keep Street Live Campaign is a movement to scrutinise changes to street performance law and to promote busking.

A director of the campaign, Chester Bingley, said they have created a template code which could be presented to SADC for consideration. This will be discussed at its next general meeting.

He applauded the council for removing a rule about buskers only playing for one hour, saying it showed an awareness of the buskers point of view.

“The problem is that the code is addressing the instruments and amplification rather than where they are causing a nuisance.

“It is banning those instruments and amplification on the basis of what it is rather than if it is causing complaints. A lot of quiet or small instruments use amps so they can be heard.

“We have produced a code of conduct which uses a process of addressing problems as and when they arise, rather than setting arbitrary rules.

“If you have hard and fast rules, they are never going to apply to all situations.”

He used the example of a finger picked guitar, which could not be heard above street level noise and so would need to amplify. He believes most musicians playing loud instruments are reasonable and avoid playing for too long in one place.

Cllr Richard Curthoys is the chair of the SADC licensing and regulatory committee which is conducting the consultation.

He defended the proposed rules: “It’s basically regarding amplifiers and encouraging quality buskers to come to the town.

“Discretion is a great thing when handled properly, but it has to be handled by someone who knows how to handle it.

“It very much depends on who is handling it - some people use discretion to get out of doing anything.”

He encouraged everyone to respond to the consultation: “Until the consultation closes and we see what people think, then we will take it from there.”

Cllr Curthoys has lead his last meeting as chair of this committee, and a new councillor will be elected to the role after the May elections.

The consultation is open until June 12. View the full plans at www.stalbans.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/yourviews/consultations/

Respond by emailing licensing@stalbans.gov.uk

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