Boris, the busker’s friend

Boris, the busker’s friend


norman lebrecht

April 09, 2014

This just in from City Hall, believe it or not:

boris johnson

Mayor urges young musicians to sign up for Gigs busking competition and launches #BackBuskingcampaign to support capital’s street musicians


Reams of red tape and a myriad of confusing rules could force talented buskers off London’s streets, the Mayor Boris Johnson has warned as he launched a new campaign to nurture the capital’s street musicians.


As this year’s Gigs busking competition gets underway, the Mayor is calling on musicians and music lovers to sign up to #Backbuskingand is setting up a taskforce involving the music industry and key agencies, with the aim of developing a pan-London approach to make London the most busker friendly city in the world.


In public spaces like Covent Garden and on the Tube, buskers have become a much loved feature of London life, but a myriad of confusing rules mean musicians are often unsure about where they can perform. Some parts of the capital now operate mandatory licensing charges and can impose potentially large fines, making it financially prohibitive for many musicians.


Busking is an opportunity for new and emerging artists to hone their skills and gain experience, but the Mayor is concerned talented musicians could be put off, even giving up on London altogether. Such an exodus would threaten the capital’s status as one of the world’s greatest cities for music.


The Mayor wants the new busking taskforce to consider a Five Point Plan, looking at the following:


1.         One busking plan for London: Can we create a one stop shop so it’s really clear and easy for musicians to busk in London?

2.         Red tape: can we simplify the rules and regulations across London to make it easier for buskers?

3.         Legitimise busking: can we all agree busking is a good thing and make sure genuine buskers outside designated schemes don’t get moved on?

4.         A London code for busking: can we create an accepted code that local authorities, private landowners, police, and musicians agree?

5.         Celebrate our great busking talent. Busking is too often seen as a form of panhandling or begging and musical talent is overlooked, how can we turn this around?


One idea being considered is the development of a website and an app, creating a ‘digital shop front’ for musicians to exchange news and obtain a range of information, including available busking pitches around the capital and whether popular locations require booking.


The Mayor is determined that London maintains its international reputation as the home of live music. London 2012 showed there is an appetite for outdoor arts and live performance and the Mayor’s Gigs busking competition has become London’s biggest free music festival. Music tourists contribute almost £600m to London’s economy each year and evidence shows live music and performance not only enhance the experience of public spaces for shoppers, visitors and commuters, they help to increase footfall and the amount of time people will stay in an area.


The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: ‘There is no doubt that live music on our streets adds to the city’s vibrancy, but I fear some parts of the capital could become no-go areas for buskers. Rather than shackling our musicians with unnecessary bureaucracy, we should treasure the spontaneity they bring to our high streets and town centres. I want to work with the boroughs, businesses, the music industry and other organisations to cut through red tape and support the talented musicians that are part of the magic of our city. Come on, let’s form a band and make this work – BackBusking now!’



  • Will Duffay says:

    If buskers didn’t amplify they’d have more friends. I do object to the approach to the National Gallery, for example, being dominated by loud, amplified music.