Latest News From The Streets

If you haven’t kept up to date with Jonny’s ongoing mission to keep public spaces alive with art and music, then here’s a little snippet as to the latest protests against Camden Council, London that sees Jonny team up with stand-up comedians Mark Thomas and Ben Van Der Velde. Visit http://keepstreetslive.com for more information. As written by Jonny on the hop between a festival in Belgium and the debut demonstration in London:

The Orchestra….

I am writing these words a few hours before the inaugural public performance of the Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra (CKO) on Camden High Street and a tangible feeling of Kazoo-infused excitement is rising up within me. The CKO has been formed at great haste because of Camden Council’s plans to impose a draconian license scheme for busking in shared public spaces of this great London Borough, which will give the police and council officials extraordinary powers to seize busker’s instruments, to impose fines of up to £1000 and to sell instruments if the fine is unpaid after 28 days. The central ideas of the CKO is that everybody can play the Kazoo, so it’s democratic, and everybody is welcome to join, so it is inclusive. Most importantly, if the police or council decided to try and seize an illegal Kazoo, they would,

a) Look very silly indeed

b) Be unable to stem the tide of replacement Kazoos filling the breach. At 5o-pence-a-pop they are the citizen’s choice to blow a fulsome raspberry at badly misconceived local government policies.

The Politics…

Camden is a Labour-led Council. A party that at a national level is presenting itself as ‘One Nation Labour’, giving a voice to the voiceless, standing alongside the dispossessed and the vulnerable and against powerful special interests that restrict freedoms and erode communities, especially the evil Tories who are privatising everything that moves. Local authority budgets have been some of the hardest hit by the austerity agenda of the Coalition Government. This year alone Camden Council are having to find ‘savings’ to the order of an incredible £83.3 million pounds from their already over-stretched budgets. These cuts will inevitably fall most heavily on those with the greatest needs: the old, the disabled, the sick, the unemployed and others who are marginalised. In this light, it is simply staggering that Labour-controlled Camden have mobilised thousands of pounds of public money in order to carry out a public consultation with a view to implementing one of the UK’s most restrictive busking policies, effectively privatising huge swathes of public space for those who wish for nothing more than the right to play music on the streets. Camden Council have attempted to cloak their decision making in a veneer of reasonableness by saying they are protecting residents who have complained about the noise that street musicians make, particularly around the tube station at the top of the high street. Apart from the fact that Camden is known for being one of the busiest and most vibrant places in London, these complaints – around 100 in total

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over the last 12 months in the whole of Camden – represent an insignificant fraction of the overall complaints received by the Noise Team in the whole borough, and yet the licence scheme is all-encompasing affecting every street and public space in the Borough of Camden. Research from the Live Music Forum indicates that over 90% of complaints about relate to noise from private residences and venues, not from buskers. In addition, the noise from the millions of tonnes of metal-entombed mobile internal combustion engines that roar down the street every day also comes with CO2 emissions for good measure. If the Council were really serious about controlling noise and environomental pollution they would mobilisise resources against persistent noise offending venues and private residences, and consider pedestrianisng the high street for the benefit of residents and visitors alike. Instead, the Council have decided to focus their limited resources upon a a small group of individuals who are easy to scapegoat and easier still to overlook, namely, buskers!

 

Public and Private

By requiring would-be buskers to fork out between £30 and £123 for a license, by banning all wind and percussion instruments and amplifiers REGARDLESS of the volume they are played at or the aptitude that they are played with, Camden Council are removing any potential for spontaneity and creativity and giving the police and council officials the power to destroy the livelihoods of individuals whose only crime is trying to make an honest living in one of the world’s most expensive cities. No one is saying that buskers don’t create noise issues from time to time, but the police and council ALREADY have extensive powers to move buskers on IF they are creating a genuine nuisance. The Environmental Protection Act 1990, The Highways Act 1980 and the Public Order Act all give the police powers if they need to use them. What these laws DON’T permit is the confiscation of instruments and the arbitrary imposition of £1000 fines with the threat of selling instruments if the fines are unpaid. Even bailiffs are not permitted to confiscate the tools of a person’s trade when collecting debts for the very good reason that this will prevent them from being able to earn in the future. The powers that Camden Council are proposing to give themselves are wide open to abuse and are an affront to any reasonable sense of proportion and balance. The plans are also an assault on the rights of people to use public space for informal performances of music, and as such, represent a further erosion of communal forms of life and cultural freedoms.

 

The Reasons Why

Camden Council claim that this is a consultation and that the outcome is not pre-judged. However, a revealing article published in Camden New Journal back in April tells a different story. Deputy Mayor and Labour Councillor Lazzaro Pietragnoli, went on a ‘walkabout’ along with other local politicians and council officers and a concerned resident.

He said: “We had to see the problems for ourselves.

“In the short-term we will be reinforcing existing laws, for example when a busker obstructs passage we can legally move them.

“In the long-term we are changing policies and opting for a strict new one, meaning very specific powers to deal with busking. It will involve designated areas for them, and will not allow amps or more than one person at a time. So instead of bands we’ll see the return of traditional busking musicians.”

We know exactly what those ‘very specific powers’ are now, and they are an insult to freedom and to fairness. Many street performers use battery-powered amplifiers to support their performances. For anyone playing a classical or electric guitar they are an essential piece of equipment enabling music to be heard above the noise of traffic. Amplifiers can always be turned down if there are complaints, but to ban them entirely, along with percussion and wind instruments will have the effect of destroying livelihoods; whilst doing little to alter the fact that Camden is a noisy place. People flock to Camden from all over the world precisely because it is known as a cultural and musical epicentre with a vibrant night-life. In an all-out assault on buskers, Camden Council are demonstrating a tin ear for what really makes the place tick.

Later in the same article and in a clear sign that the wrongheadedness in Camden Council crosses party lines, Lib Dem councillor Chris Naylor cryptically alludes to development plans that might well alter the unique character of Camden for good…

He said: “There were plans to build a huge shiny shopping centre all the way from HSBC bank to Buck Street which would have knocked down the church and Camden Market.

“Now, we don’t want to do that in as big a way, but a smaller scale version is being talked about. That would mean this whole area would be changing anyway, and within that we could discuss options.”

Banning buskers whilst making plans to build a new shopping centres in the ruins of an iconic Market which is synonymous with Camden against a backdrop of savage local authority cuts? It’s a deeply depressing story which is why it is so important that the plans to regulate street music out of existence must be opposed in a spirit of creative and loving resistance. That’s where the Citizen’s Kazoo Orchestra and the 2600 and counting people who have signed our petition calling on Camden to think again come in and why we won’t go away until these wrongheaded plans are abandoned!

 

Sign the petition here.

Join the Facebook Group

Join the Association of Street Artists and Performers

 

 

Jonny Walker Band LIVE at Surya, London October 25th

£6 adv | £8 otd | Doors 7.30pm | 18+ | at Surya, 156 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9JL

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The Jonny Walker Band are back in London headlining an intimate evening of music at one of the capital’s premier music venues. With spectacular support from ‘Indie, Funk, Ska mix masters’ Roger The Mascot, the next big thing in the world of indie rock ‘n’ roll and Cri De Velours another top act from the LMC stable it promises to be a memorable evening…

Jonny has been working with internationally renowned composer Peter Byrom-Smith to develop his alternative folk/pop songs and has assembled an exceptionally talented band to come along for the ride. With the phenomenal Tom Coxhead on keyboard who studied Music at Leeds University alongside the aptly named Tim Hearson on bass, the band also features soulful backing vocals from Abbe Smith and the creative grooving of Jon Hunt on the drums, a veteran of Leeds College of Music.
2013 has seen Jonny Walker, singer songwriter, street culture activist and Britain’s best-known busker form a band swapping street for stage for a series of spectacular indoor gigs.

Passionate about keeping public spaces open to the arts; Liverpool-born Jonny has dedicated a decade to delivering his soulful folk ballads on the streets of over one hundred towns and cities throughout the UK and Europe.

Jonny’s rich vocals, sensitive guitar playing (having been taught by the highly-acclaimed guitar master Jon Gomm) and hauntingly beautiful songs have captivated his ever-growing fan base, who have, in turn, propelled him into a Youtube sensation, with his songs receiving thousands of plays and his Facebook posts seen by millions.

Jonny has been featured on BBC and ITV news, the Guardian and extensive local publications, for his on-going campaign to overturn restrictive council policies that place burdens on buskers and damage our shared culture of street performance. His debut EP ‘This Is Not Me,’ has been met with sparkling reviews that reflect both his music and the man himself…

“Heartfelt, unpretentious and utterly charming”… Rocksucker

Jonny has been described as a heady mix of Dylan, Neil Young and the enigmatic Leonard Cohen. He is a natural storyteller with lyrics that challenge the depths.

.“ A modern day Ralph McTell as his ability to tell a story with conscience” … Liverpool Sound and Vision

His much awaited debut album is due for release later this year. Jonny will be performing several tracks from his new album at his forthcoming gigs.

www.jonnywalker.co.uk

Cri De Velours www.facebook.com/CriDeVelours
Since bursting onto the scene six months ago, Cri De Velours, who hail from Stoke-on-Trent, have been signed to a record label, and their début single Oak Door has been met with rave reviews.

Lead-singer Stefan Smith’s lyrics are reminiscent of the informal chronicler Dylan. Impressive vocals, punctuated by a hard hitting range – take you on a buckle-up journey through a landscape of life experiences…poignant emotions, with an upbeat delivery.

Under the umbrella of folk/rock, six strings and a beat; builds to foot-stomping and catchy tunes, which have you singing along merrily to the highs and lows of life. The complex nuances of relationships – captured with a gritty determination to roll with the punches… Jangly guitar riffs, clear vocals and melodic harmonies weave a powerful hook.

Roger The Mascot www.facebook.com/rogerthemascot
Roger The Mascot, a four piece energetic indie band from Nottinghamshire. Formed in January of 2012 by four dedicated musicians with the desire to create their own brand of authentic and catchy indie music.

The Powers That Be?

A typical damp Wednesday busking in York. That’s me, Jonny Walker, looking a bit upset on the left. On the right, partially obscured, are no less than SIX public servants from the council and the police who are taking time out of their afternoon to deal with that social menace otherwise known as busking.York Council charge street performers £40 per day if they want to sell CDs of their music to the public. That is a lot of money when you are already performing for free in rain or shine. So I have written a sign that says ‘cd available, suggested contribution £7, these CDs are not being offered for sale, contributions are voluntary and at your discretion’. The lady in the black jacket told me to take the sign down and the CDs out or I would lose my busking permit. I have had a permit for nine years, but that doesn’t seem to count for anything.
I politely refused at which point she called the licensing department who accused me of street trading. I said that the CDs were not for sale, they are an extension of my busking act, any contribution is voluntary. At this point the man said, ‘Take away his busking permit’.

I was told to turn off my microphone or that the police would be called. I said

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that I was doing nothing unlawful and was not prepared to stop playing. At this point the police were called.

There I was with two council officials, two licensing officials and two police officers. I don’t know whether they enjoyed my version of Hallelujah, but the Licensing Enforcement officer gave me a caution, read me my rights, took a photo of my sign and took two copies of my cd. The lady from the council walked away and told me she would be speaking to her boss to see whether I would have my permit revoked for the insubordination.

I was left in peace to carry on singing…but for how long?

The Association of Street Artists and Performers has been set up because accross the country local authorities are getting heavy handed with people who want nothing more then to perform their art on the streets. Public space belongs to all of us, and the High Streets, under pressure from Internet shopping, out of town developments, high rents and the dire economic situation need to be full of life and music to keep people’s spirits up. Street performance gives a place a sense of community and well-being, and is one of the many reasons people still have for actually physically going to a place.

So instead of sending 6 public servants to try to intimidate a street musician, why doesn’t the local authority work with the street artists and performers to build a sense of community, and public places that everybody can feel part of. The campaign to Keep Streets Live is only just beginning! Whether you are a street performer yourself, would like to be, or just value art at street culture level, join us on this journey….

Please feel free to share this with other people. The time has come for the streets to be acknowledged as the vitally important spaces that they are, both for music, the arts and for a greater sense of community…

Join the commentary on my Facebook page

Song Lyrics: This Is Not Me

This Is Not Me

Walker/Wing

Verse 1

Why do bad things happen?
Too many crosses to bear.
Why does God stay silent?
Is it ‘cos he’s not there?

Chorus

So many times I have begged for forgiveness,
So many times I’ve been down on my knees,
So many times I have waited in silence for you,
In some kind of dream,
But this is not me,
This is not me,

Verse 2

Why must people suffer?
Too many crosses to bear.
Why does God stay silent?
Is it ‘cos he’s not there?

Chorus

Chorus (X 2)

This Is Not Me,
It’s not who I am,
It’s not what I’ve seen.

WATCH THE OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO NOW!

 

Copyright Jonny Walker. All rights reserved.

Song Lyrics: Song For Bernie

Song For Bernie

Walker/Kipper

There’s an empty space on Church Street, where Bernie used to dance,
With passing drunks and travelers,
She never missed the chance,
To move her beaten body, broken, badly with the beat,
To briefly find herself at one with the music of the street,

There’s an empty place on Church Street where Bernie used to fight,
With passing drunks and lovers,
And other strangers in the night,
Her sad dark face was filled with fire as tears fell to her feet,
And lifetime’s trickled sadly into the river of the street

Chorus

And if it’s alright,
To pretend that you don’t notice,
And if it’s alright to look the other way.
And if it’s alright to say that you won’t listen,
While she’s lying there,
She’s the one we just don’t see

There’s an empty bench on Church street, where Bernie used to lie,

She didn’t see the years and people,
As they slowly trickled by,
And left her sitting on her own beneath the Church Street sky,
To wait in heavy sadness,
For the day to say goodbye.

WATCH JONNY’S LIVE PERFORMANCE OF ‘Song For Bernie’

Copyright Jonny Walker. All rights reserved.

Song Lyrics: Strange Disease

Strange Disease

Walker

Upon the good ship nowhere,
The slaves awoke one morn,
The salty smell of seaweed,
Filled the dew-kissed air of dawn,

There was a sudden murmur,
As some could see the land,

And in the far horizon,
The sun reflected off the sand,

Chorus

Ride this boat with me,
We’ll sail these empty seas,
Hoping to be healed,
From this strange disease,

And as the ship drew closer,
The sky began to change,
From brightest blue, to bloodshed red,
The harbour now in range,

And I could see those colours,
Dancing in the sky,
As I strained to hear the music,
Of the siren’s lullaby,

Chorus,

This

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ship will sail forever,
For there’s nowhere to arrive,
And we’ll just sit here waiting,
For the final sun to rise,

Yes, I still see those colours,
Dancing in the sky,
As I wonder will I get the chance,
To say my last goodbye?

WATCH JONNY’S LIVE PERFORMANCE OF ‘Strange Disease’

Copyright Jonny Walker. All rights reserved.

Song Lyrics: Last Waltz Of The Summer

Last Waltz Of The Summer

A Walker/Wing song

It’s late as my head hits the pillow,
And my weary eyes close for the night,
But I’ve no time to lay here and wallow,
For I’ve seen the most gruesome of sights,

And I’ve listened to the whispers of children,
Whilst they’re hiding out under their beds,
And I’ve spoken those words left unspoken,
When no-one is sure what’s been said,

And my conscience is slowly eroding,
Washed out to sea with the tide,
And I’m left with a few empty smiles,
And the little that’s left of my pride

And I can’t stand the fact it’s the morning,
As the sunlight pours in through the door,
‘Cos I can see all my yesterdays,
Strewn all over the floor,

No and don’t talk to me of forgiveness,
For there’s none to be found anymore,
The priest has gone home and retired,
And the enemy is winning the war,

And still we’ll be looking for answers,
And for reasons to open our eyes,
But we are just wastrels and chancers,
Too eager to cut all our ties,

And the waves of the ages wash over,
And we are the dust left behind,
A people in need of a prophet,
Or seekers with no-one to find.

WATCH JONNY’S LIVE PERFORMANCE OF ‘Last Waltz Of The Summer’

 

Copyright Jonny Walker. All rights reserved.

So what do you think of the site?

This is the web designer for the site signing in.

Jonny and I would like to get a bit of feedback from you all.

What do you think of the site, your gut reaction. Does it seem easy to navigate? Does it take too long to load? Also what would you like to see in terms of content?

Feel free to critique the site by posting comments on this post.

Looking forward to hearing from you all.

 

Keep Streets Live and Media Coverage

This is an extract from a letter I have written to media contacts:

BBC Northwest ran a story on our event, but I have to say that the coverage was slightly mis-leading and misrepresented our grievances. Anybody watching the report on Monday 9th would have been forgiven for thinking it was a bunch of buskers moaning about paying a £20 registration fee for a council permit. BID CEO Ged Gibbons talked about the policy about giving ‘everybody a chance’ whilst in the same breath reducing the number of performing pitches on Church Street and Lord Street from around eight spots to one. Coercive letters threatening buskers with trespass prosecution were not mentioned. The only clip used of my many interviews was the one time I acknowledged that busking can cause issues for councils.

There is a wider, on-going story here, much bigger then the one that has so far been reported on in the BBC or the Liverpool Echo. It is about restrictions on the use of public spaces for spontaneous gatherings of community and civil society. It is about the Council using legally dubious threats of trespass against performers and musicians to frighten them into signing up to a coercive and restrictive scheme. It is about a body with limited accountability that advances a narrow, but powerful section of interest, in this case the Business Improvement District, attempting to advance a policy that affects the whole city of Liverpool without consultation. It is about a Councillor, in this case, Stephen Munby, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, a man who talks about getting youth workers for our children who have no places to go and nothing

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to do (New policy stipulation no under 18 performers) rubber stamping and giving legitimacy to a piece of sloppy and badly thought through policy without proper accountability and daring to dress it up as something that BENEFITS performers. They thought they could do it by the back door because street artists and street performers are soft and easy targets for a council that has many serious problems to deal with like, a housing crisis, runaway youth unemployment, rising homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse to name a few. Well, they were wrong.

Today is Saturday 14th July. There are crowds of people playing music in the streets of Liverpool without a licence today with the support of the team at http://KeepStreetsLive.com/. The atmosphere is celebratory, but the message is deadly serious, and it is not a petty grievance about a £20 fee. Our online petition has reached over 2500 signatures. We have collected an additional 2000 in paper form. This is an important movement. Our streets belong to the wider community. Narrow interests cannot be allowed to dictate to an entire city what kind of street culture it has. Music and culture are the lifeblood of this city, and the council’s policy sets a terrible precedent and sends a damaging message to the world. But we have stood up and said, ‘No!’. An enormous debate has begun. I would like to know if the media are interested in running a story that brings out the deeper issues here?

Please find attached a copy of the press release I prepared yesterday for the team at Change.Org where our orignal petition is still live and gaining signatures by the hour: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/keep-spontaneous-street-performance-alive

Love,

Jonny Walker