Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Very Polite Policemen, a Treatise on Busking

Today, I got moved on while busking by some policemen. They were very polite policemen and I opted to Work With Them, not Against Them, so the experience wasn't at all traumatic, but still, it will be very annoying if I have to give up my little earner.

Nobody seems to know what the law is on busking in my town. The lady who answered my email to the council told me it wasn't allowed, then apologised for her mistake and told me it was. The lady who I phoned up at the council told me it wasn't allowed. The polite policemen seemed to think that you could buy a license for £30. I have decided to believe the lady who answered my email.

The policemen said that 'obviously they weren't offended' by my playing, but that others might find it annoying. To those who would ban busking because it is potentially 'annoying,' I make the following points:

1. Not everybody finds it annoying.

Some people give me funny looks as they walk past. Others smile. Parents send their small children up to my case, and the small children drop in silver. Old ladies tell me I take them back to my youth. The lady who hands out the Christian Healing leaflets chats to me about university. And I consistently make better than minimum wage. Clearly a lot of people don't find me annoying, so why should the people who do get their way?

2. It is not illegal to be annoying.

Supposing everybody did find me annoying? Sometimes lads walk down the street in large groups, shouting and shoving one another and intimidating everybody, but not actually accosting anyone, and most people find this annoying. Sometimes people loudly express opinions I consider stupid, and I find this annoying. Sometimes a woman may pass in a burka or a mini-skirt, and depending on your views on how women should dress, you may find this annoying. However, all these people are acting within their rights. It is legal to be annoying, so why should it be illegal to be annoying with an instrument.

(Note: That was a facetious question. I know that instruments are different to the annoyances I just described because they are loud, and because they carry on being annoying in one place instead of moving on. This is why I never play in the park, where people might be trying to hang out in peace, why I always smile and look friendly, and why when a woman lent out of an office window and asked me to play more quietly, I offered to move. But if some people, walking by and hearing a snatch of my music, find it annoying, tough titties.)

3. In my opinion, freely accessible live music is a good thing.

There are people who can't get to concerts as often as they would like. There are lots of musicians who aren't quite good enough, or lack the PR smarts, to get hired to play concerts, but are still enjoyable to listen to. When busking is legal, people get free-ish music and the buskers get an audience. I think a society with strains of music floating down its streets is richer and more fun than a society whose streets are silent because a few stick-in-the-muds find buskers 'offensive.'

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