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Musicians’ Union opposes plans for busking licences in London’s Notting Hill

Portobello Road in London, where buskers may need to have a licence to perform. Photo: Flickr/Morgaine.
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Plans to introduce licences for street performers on Notting Hill’s Portobello Road have been labelled “counterproductive” by the Musicians’ Union.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is consulting on plans to introduce a licensing regime to “control busking in designated streets”.

According to the council, there have been several complaints, which prompted an initial consultation last year to find out if busking needed to be controlled in the area. This found that more than half of residents believed there was a need for the council to control busking, with 49% of businesses agreeing, and 73% of market traders also claiming street entertainment should be regulated.

Local residents, businesses and market traders, as well as buskers, are now being asked whether a Street Entertainment Policy – including licensing – within Portobello Road and the surrounding area should be implemented.

The policy would see busking controlled on Fridays and Saturdays between 10pm and 6pm. A licence would cost £15 for six months, and performers would be allowed to book a maximum of two slots out of 42 available.

The consultation follows a similar scheme in Camden, north London, which introduced a licensing regime for buskers earlier this year.

MU live performance organiser Dave Webster has criticised the plans to introduce the licensing regime in Chelsea and Kensington, claiming that they go against Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s own campaign launched earlier this year to simplify the rules around busking across London.

“Given the proactive steps being taken by the Greater London Authority in bringing together all London’s local authorities, buskers, the police, the MU and [campaign group] Keep Streets Live, the introduction of consultations on the licensing of buskers in Kensington and Chelsea is counterproductive and goes against the spirit of cooperation which we believed to be the way forward for busking in London,” he said.

Earlier this year, a motion was passed at Equity’s annual conference, which called on the union to campaign for the rights of street performers to work more freely across the UK.

A council spokeswoman said the council had received a “number of complaints from traders and residents related to busking”.

“We are looking to adopt a policy which will allow the council to balance the different needs of traders, residents and buskers and are consulting on these proposals as required by the London Local Authorities Act.”

She added: “We are looking to achieve a balance which will respect the needs of the community while allowing busking in some areas. We are not opting to ban busking.”

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