Music Supported Here would like to make you aware of the Keep Streets Live campaign. Liverpool City Council have brought in a highly restrictive new policy to regulate street art and entertainment that will prohibit street performance or busking of any kind, unless artists and performers sign up to a compulsory and coercive licensing scheme. We caught up with professional busker Jonny Walker who is behind the campaign in Liverpool to ask him a few questions about the campaign and ASAP! (The Association of Street Artists and Performers).
Q1 – Please tell a bit about yourself and ASAP!?
My name is Jonny Walker. I am a 31 year old Liverpool-born singer/songwriter, musician and professional street performer. Over the last 10 years I have travelled all over the UK and parts of Europe and performed on the streets of many towns and cities. I have found the outdoor urban context to be a brilliant place to play live music. Street performing has given me valuable experience as a musician. It has been the making of me and exposed me to all kinds of different audiences and dynamics.
ASAP! began as a number of conversations between myself, Jonathan Walker, and long-term professional gypsy-jazz violinist Rupert Engeldow over many months and many coffees in Norwich. We were are both musicians who currently earn the bulk of our income through busking, and we noted that there was no specific significant body that represented the interests of street performers and artists at the national level.
As established performers of a professional standard we nonetheless encountered problems from time to time when playing music in public spaces. These issues ranged from being stopped from performing by council officials or the police or being told by retailers that we had no right to be playing on the streets. This was counterbalanced by an overwhelmingly positive response from the public, and many other users of the shared space of the city centre. This matches research that shows that street art and culture add an extra dimension to public spaces, adding colour and encouraging different forms of community interaction. We planned to start an association that would promote and protect street culture. Keep Streets Live is our inaugral campaign.
Street art and performance in public spaces has a long and rich history, extending as far back through history as ancient Rome. Street performers have consistently benefited the social, cultural and economic landscape of many of the great population centres. ASAP! has a vision of our shared public spaces being places of community interaction, engagement and enjoyment. It sees the contribution of street artists and performers as an invaluable part of that social fabric, especially at this time of economic and social uncertainty.
Q2 – What are the issues driving ASAP! in Liverpool?
On June 8th 2012, Liverpool City Council passed a new policy with regards to street performance. This is a link to the minutes of that meeting:
The terms and conditions that performers were being asked to sign up to were extremely troubling. There is a neat summary of our major objections here.
The council made it known that the new policy would be enforced from July 9th onwards. I had previously been invited to be part of a launch event for the new policy by the council. When I read the policy document through properly, I realised that I could have no part of the policy. At this point ASAP! moved from being an idea to being a plan of action.
I spoke to an independent journalist at Liverpool Confidential who published this article in the week preceding the July 9th commencement of the policy.
On July 9th, there was an enormous presence of artists, musicians and many supporters on the streets of Liverpool united in their opposition to this new policy and playing music in a spirit of peaceful disregard for the new council policy. Follow this link and this link for a good flavour of the many articles that were published to coincide with what we at ASAP! called ‘A communal celebration of Liverpool’s vibrant street culture’.
In essence, ASAP! celebrates music, art and culture, and values the streets as a shared public space and the perfect forum for impromptu performances and community activity. Liverpool Council’s policy represented a clear attempt to impose a crushing layer of control and bureaucracy upon the city’s musical and artistic community in a move that would remove all spontaneity from street culture.
For this reason, the ongoing petition and campaign of constructive opposition to the council’s policy is vitally important.
Q3 – Is ASAP! specific to Liverpool or is it for the UK in general?
ASAP! is intended to be an organisation with national reach but at the same time having its roots in each local context. There is a clear need for a national body to give advice and provide street artists and performers with information and opportunities to share information and do community. At the same time, every town and city has its own unique culture and set of issues. We would hope to build up a network of members who work in their specific communities on the issues that arise where they are, and providing them with additional support when it was needed.
Q4 – What can people expect if they do sign the petition?
When people sign the petition they can first be assured of our gratitude for their support. Without the enthusiasm of the many people who value street culture, music and the arts, this campaign would never have been possible.
The second thing they can expect is regular updates as to the progress of our campaign. We send out e-mails to people who have signed up for updates and we invite them to get involved by contacting us at http://keepstreetslive.com or liking our facebook page: www.facebook.com/KeepStreetsLive or our facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/keepstreetslive.
We welcome the support and involvement of everybody who wants to be a part of this ongoing campaign.Tweet