Busking row: Enter Mr Megaphone

megaphoneYOUR man Mark Thomas, the campaigning comic who seemed to be the chief organiser of the protesting People’s Kazoo Orchestra, could not be seen at the Town Hall last night. No sign of Billy Bragg or Bill Bailey, those other celebrity busking demonstrators, either, as councillors agreed Camden’s new licence controls and a ban on amplified music.

But there was one guy in the public gallery who gets a lot of hits – more than two million – on YouTube: Danny Shine. Mr Megaphone, himself. You don’t have to spend too much time in central London before you run into him. You can see him chiding customers of McDonald’s as they go into order Big Macs in King’s Cross, or heckling people for picking up their Evening Standards on the way home. He is sometimes outside supermarkets complaining about buy-in-bulk booze deals. It’s not quite clear whether he would need a licence (people stop and stare outside Camden Town tube) for his own performances, but he clearly thinks the council is being silly.

His sticking it to the man divides opinion: an anti-establishment street hero to some, he annoys the hell out of others – particularly, it appears, Westminster Council, who are trying to prosecute him under some by-law or another.

Perhaps, surprisingly, Danny didn’t shout out during the meeting last night. The silly irony of the meeting was that it was the councillors, shouting and bickering, that made more noise than those in the gallery.

But then, Danny had explained – via his megaphone, naturally – before the meeting that he wanted the policy to be approved, suggesting some civil disobedience after it is implemented would prove how unenforceable it all would be.

“Let’s have some fun with it,” he megaphoned on the Town Hall steps. Some people with kazoos cricketed in approval.

3 Comments on Busking row: Enter Mr Megaphone

  1. Funny that no mention was made by either the Tories or the Lib Dems during their long speeches on democracy and draconian powers about new IPNA (Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance) powers – the replacement for ASBOs – which have ghosted through without much public debate.

    The new system will allow courts to impose sweeping curbs on people’s liberty if they think they are “capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person”. They will be able to impose them if they think it is “just and convenient” to do so (a lower burden of proof than before) and are capable of being granted against anyone aged 10 or over and for an unlimited duration.

    Former DPP Lord McDonald QC has led the criticism arguing that preachers, buskers and peaceful protesters could effectively be driven off the streets under draconian new powers designed to clamp on anyone deemed “annoying.”

    A licence actually help buskers in this context – perhaps protests are better aimed at IPNAs but we live in hope.

    • This is a piece of rhetorical sophistry if I ever saw one. Camden’s busking policy is similar in spirit to IPNA. It imposes blanket restrictions based upon principles of preventative punishment and administrative convenience in order ‘to reduce the potential for nuisance to be caused’ anywhere in the Borough. It is frankly ludicrous to suggest that the new busking licences offer any protection whatsoever except from the £1000 fines and instrument confiscations that Camden would impose upon those who do not subscribe to them. Licensed buskers are obliged to stop playing for any reason if asked to by an authorised officer and can lose their licence if they don’t comply with orders.

      IPNA and the Camden Busking License are part of the same kind of lazy, authoritarian measures and the difference between them is one of degree not order.

      I’m now convinced that Camden Labour Group don’t understand the national implications of the Borough wide restrictions they have imposed are. You now need a licence to sing in the street in Camden, even if it is not done for commercial gain. This is madness, and the attempt to deflect legitimate criticism of your policy by talking about IPNAs is transparently silly.

  2. Councillor Blackwell relies on continual misinformation and putdown to support his case. IPNAs will be used in the context of clear antisocial behaviour and breach of them does not of itself constitute a criminal offence, whereas buskers are not considered antisocial of themselves in law, nor are criminals because they sing or play an instrument in public.

    At least not up till last Monday November 11th, 2013, when Camden Council effectively made them so.

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