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
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