The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin


Thursday 22nd June 2006 - Busking vs Trooping the Colour

There have been rumours lately of a licensing clampdown on South Bank buskers. Sure enough, Southwark Council's licensing department confirmed today that they require buskers to apply for a Temporary Event Notice under the new licensing laws. This despite the difficulty of providing a precise address for the busking location, and despite the fact that only 12 such permits are allowed per year per premises (total annual cost to the busker: £252).

South Bank buskers could therefore face criminal prosecution if they do not obtain a Temporary Event Notice in advance. Max penalty: £20,000 fine and six months in prison.

One busker, who asked not to be named, said that this is the first time they have run into serious difficulty. Until the new licensing laws came into force, entertainment licensing did not apply to public land, and busking was specifically regulated through local by-laws or not at all. The police would intervene sometimes on the grounds of obstruction; noise complaints were dealt with under the Environmental Protection Act. Under the new law 'premises' is defined as 'any place', which includes public or private land, as well as streets and pavements.

By contrast with the new licensing restrictions for South Bank buskers, on Saturday 17 June over 400 musician members of the armed forces performed live music for the Trooping the Colour ceremony in The Mall and Horse Guards Parade. No licence was issued under the Licensing Act 2003.

A spokesman for Westminster City Council explained that this particular performance was exempt because s.173 the Act exempts the military, and - wait for it - because it was incidental music.  T he incidental exemption may not be persuasive in this case, but the s.173 claim is arguable:

'An activity is not a licensable activity if it is carried on - (f) at premises which, at the time when the activity is carried on, are permanently or temporarily occupied for the purposes of the armed forces of the Crown'. [Licensing Act 2003, Part 9, s.173(1)(f)]

Hamish Birchall