Newham Council - a rant

Discussion in 'music, bands, clubs & festies' started by LeytonCatLady, Apr 4, 2018.

  1. LeytonCatLady

    LeytonCatLady Well-Known Member

    I have now been busking for six months and am really enjoying being my own boss and entertaining London's public. As readers will know, it's not been without its issues - like certain people having a go - but that's survivable. I have about 15 different areas of the city I go to every day, in order to vary my audience. I play punk covers on an acoustic, both old and new, which seems to get attention due to its unusualness from a busker! It brings me enough money to live on, which is fantastic.

    Before I began doing this full time, I did my research to find out where you can and can't busk. buskinlondon.com is the official source of info for London street performers, including a Buskers' Code which was drawn up by the Mayor of London himself in 2015. It also says busking is legal on public land, and tells you the exceptions here: Buskers' Code | Busk in London According to london.gov.uk, the Mayor and his staff contacted all the borough councils before drawing this up, and got this information directly. You can read more on this here: Mayor unveils plan to boost busking across London and beyond

    Now on Tuesday 13th March while busking in Stratford opposite the Westfield steps, a Newham Council enforcement officer approached me and told me busking wasn't allowed anywhere in the borough. This surprised me, as Newham is not mentioned anywhere in the Buskers' Code as a no-go area. Neither could I find anything on newham.gov, either through Google or using the council website's search engine. However, she was pleasant enough, and just doing her job, so I did move on when asked. I contacted Busk in London, who weren't aware of any busking ban in Newham, and said they would investigate. I also contacted Newham Council, who have still not got back to me. I also printed off the list of rules from Busk In London so I could carry this info on me and show it to anyone else who challenged me.

    On Friday 30th March (Good Friday), I hadn't been planning to busk in Stratford, but it was raining and I needed some money for the Easter weekend, so I thought I'd go there as I could take shelter outside Wilko under their canopy (for those who aren't familiar, this is a public pavement and buskers often perform there). I had been playing for about an hour and made £20 when another council officer came over with his walkie-talkie playing the hard guy. He told me "You can't stand there and sing, so leave or I'll report you!" I didn't appreciate his attitude but politely explained that busking is legal on public land, and showed him the info I had printed off which backs this up. He then changed his story to say I could carry on performing, but that it was illegal for me to accept money, which is bullshit. I never ask anyone for payment, either verbally or using signage - I just stand there singing and playing, and accept the tips as and when they come (as per the rule "Performers can accept donations but the public must never feel obliged to pay."). The City of London council does have this rule but it's easily findable on their website, as it should be.

    Anyway, I told him I had never seen this rule on either the Newham council website or Buskinlondon.com and that I couldn't be expected to adhere to a "law" that's not written anywhere. He told me it didn't matter and that I was breaking the law, although he struggled to explain which laws I was actually breaking! I asked him how buskers are meant to know that officers are not just stopping their performance because they don't personally like or approve of buskers, and also if it's illegal, how come I get coppers walking past me all the time and they never say a word. Surprise surprise, he couldn't answer that either; just told me again he was going to report me, with the old chestnut "I'm just doing my job!" I wasn't going to be intimidated and told him he was welcome to report me to anyone he chose, because I wasn't doing anything wrong. I was prepared to carry on playing; however at that point another busker arrived, wanting to use the spot. I told him that was fine but warned him to look out for the busybody. He seemed to appreciate the information, and I then headed for the pub.

    I have been in touch with Busk in London again about this, but haven't received a reply yet. I have also contacted Newham Council and put in a complaint against this officer due to his bullying manner. When approaching me, he threatened to report me straight away, without giving me a chance to either leave or not. Ironically, if he had been nice, like his colleague, I probably would have just agreed to leave and then challenged it through the proper channels. But when someone's being a prick like that, I find that hard to ignore and don't like to let them get away with nastiness.

    Also, I have been told different things by two separate employees of Newham Council now. The first that busking isn't allowed, the second that you can perform but not accept money (and he changed his story). I'm still in the dark as to what's going on - either busking has recently been banned in the borough, or they've been told to "discourage" buskers and are moving us on by telling us we're committing a crime when we're not.

    I don't want to lose Stratford as a busking area if I can help it, as I make some of my best tips when I'm there. And that's the other thing - people round there clearly like buskers, so the council's actions can hardly be described as in the public interest! They clearly want to turn the streets of East London into a soulless, cultureless Daily Mail reader's wet dream. Why can't these jobsworths just leave the fuck alone?

    Thanks for listening, urbs.
     
    Pickman's model likes this.
  2. stethoscope

    stethoscope Well-Known Member

    Can't advise I'm afraid, but yes, Newham Council are a bunch of cunts!
     
    pinkmonkey, tim and Thimble Queen like this.
  3. LeytonCatLady

    LeytonCatLady Well-Known Member

    No problem Stethoscope, your concise reply made me laugh! Time will tell. I rota it, so I'm not due in Stratford again for at least another week. Hopefully I'll have some answers from the council and/or Busk In London by then.
     
  4. LeytonCatLady

    LeytonCatLady Well-Known Member

    UPDATE: Busk in London have now replied to me with the following:


    Hi Leyton Cat Lady,

    I have passed this second email to my colleague who is continuing to investigate this with the borough.

    From what you say below, it sounds as though the council either do not know the rules and are not used to dealing with buskers who do know their rights on public land. The fact that this person changed their story when you challenged him demonstrates this.

    We spent a considerable amount of time consulting with all councils prior to putting any info on our website. As I said, we are not aware that anything has changed in Newham and will be very interested to hear if this is not the case. As you say, their own website does not mention a ban on busking or collecting tips so they need to be very clear one way or another.

    While we continue to look into this, please keep doing what you are doing as there is no mention anywhere that you should not and you know your rights on public land!

    Many thanks
     
  5. LeytonCatLady

    LeytonCatLady Well-Known Member

    Another update! Think I've found out what's going on.

    I busked in Stratford again yesterday and had another council officer come up to me to say busking wasn't allowed in Newham. He was quite friendly actually, and seemed surprised when I showed him the copy of the Busk In London code which I now carry on me at all times, which doesn't mention Newham. I also pointed out that none of Newham's PSPOs or bylaws say anything about busking (I've read them all online), and that people can't be expected to adhere to a bylaw that isn't written anywhere. He admitted that it's his manager (Head of Enforcements) who doesn't want buskers in the borough. He let me complete my set though, and I appreciated that.

    I know councils can pass bylaws restricting whatever activities they choose, but Newham have obviously not done this with busking, or it would be somewhere in the public domain; which it isn't. It sounds like it's not the council's official policy, but this senior manager's personal preferences; and that's not right. Enforcing means upholding existing laws, not making laws up to use against people he personally doesn't like. I have previously emailed this manager directly asking for clarification after another busker I know got moved on (I also CC'd Busk In London so he could reply to them and they could update their info if needed), but never got an answer. I wonder if anyone has any advice on who else's attention I can bring this to, as it sounds like he's abusing his authority? Thanks in advance.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2018
    Pickman's model and maomao like this.
  6. Pickman's model

    Pickman's model Every man and every woman is a star

    Write to a Stratford councillor or the newham chief executive

    Or both
     
  7. maomao

    maomao 四月她爹

    Come to Romford and busk. The main shopping street is very lively and we could do with a bit more variety.
     
  8. FridgeMagnet

    FridgeMagnet Administrator

    Yeah, LeytonCatLady it seems like a reasonable move to write to the council and say “please clarify whether busking is banned and if so what the relevant bylaw is, otherwise please tell your officials not to harass buskers”.

    Not that they will do anything without pressure of course so you might want to look at involving any journos or musicians you know, and certainly keeping the buskinlondon site updated.

    As for dealing with them on the street, I’m not a busker but it sounds like the sort of random baseless harassment photographers sometimes get, and you seem to be dealing with it very well. Knowing your rights, not letting them intimidate you and insisting on going about your lawful business or they can call the police if they like are all good.
     
    Pickman's model likes this.
  9. LeytonCatLady

    LeytonCatLady Well-Known Member

    Thanks guys, will do. I'll let you know the outcome!
     
    pesh and Pickman's model like this.
  10. Pickman's model

    Pickman's model Every man and every woman is a star

    Please do - and good luck! :)
     
    LeytonCatLady likes this.
  11. LeytonCatLady

    LeytonCatLady Well-Known Member

    Well, this saga has kind of ended. For me, anyway.

    I wrote to Newham's CEO but heard nothing back. However, I just found out today that HMV's Westfield branch has closed down, and that's the only reason I busk in Stratford! I don't think I'll be getting as much of a target audience there now. :(

    Still, I'm glad I did escalate further up the chain as in the intervening period, neither me or other buskers in Stratford had any bother from anybody. Maybe the Enforcement guys have been spoken to...or maybe that was a little pig flying past my window. ;)
     

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