CAMDEN Council insisted, and still insists, its busking licensing policy was not about driving musicians from the streets. All they needed to do was sign up and they could still play on, as long as it was not amplified and not too late in the evening. Like buskers or hate buskers, the reality of the policy so far is that there are fewer musicians out there by Camden Town station since the rules came into play. Councillors will say they didn’t set out to get rid of the buskers, but take it from someone who walks past five times a day or so, their number have dwindled.
And it’s led to a stranger stage than what was there before. For although the street musicians have looked elsewhere, street performers still appear. Giant bubble blowers sometimes come on a Friday evening and coat the street with fairy liquid. There’s a football skills man in an aged soccer kit, who looks a bit like Glenn Hoddle and juggles it endlessly onto the back of his neck and then down to his laces again. A man on a tall unicycle sometimes juggles knives. Danny Shine, Mr Megaphone, also puts in an odd appearance barracking people for picking up an Evening Standard or eating a McFlurry. Hymn, the chalker, meanwhile leaves messages about humanity across the pavement.
Occasionally, Coke plant fridges outside the station and hand out free cans to the lunch time traffic. After work, there is sometimes a stall and flag demanding the release of Chelsea Manning
But there are few buskers.
Instead, like this lunchtime, the musical entertainment comes from the tinny speakers of a mobile stand with a DJ in a mask playing the Spice Girls and the odd bleeping dance track. He ropes off the pavement in front of him and holds up a sign asking people to dance. Sometimes, the sunburnt street drinkers join in for jig to Billie Jean. Police officers potter by, meanwhile, as if it is all completely normal – and it kinda is completely normal for Camden Town, it is at least what tourists are led to expect from their guidebooks. Here you will find the cops giving out directions to the Lock rather than asking the hip-flipping masked DJ ‘ere you got a licence for that’.