Guidelines designed to encourage responsible busking and street entertainment in Birmingham city centre have been formally agreed following a period of extensive public consultation.
The aims and principles are captured in a document, which has been drawn up by Birmingham City Council in conjunction with Equity, Keep Streets Live and the Musicians’ Union.
Production of the guidelines follows an announcement by the city council in 2015 that earlier proposals for a Public Space Protection Order were being shelved in light of an earlier period of consultation, in favour of a more collaborative approach to the subject.
The consultation process then began in May 2016, leading up to the finalisation of the document this week.
Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transparency, Openness and Equality at Birmingham City Council, said: “Buskers and street entertainers are a fantastic part of the creative fabric of our public spaces in the city centre.
“Through these guidelines, we are ensuring the performers have a clear set of principles that enable them to entertain people who come into the city centre, whilst respecting the needs of others such as traders and residents.
“Thanks to some excellent partnership working and a genuine consultation process, we have managed to strike a good balance for all that will mean Birmingham’s artistic vibrancy is maintained.”
Stephen Brown, The Musicians’ Union’s Midlands Regional Organiser, added: “The Musicians’ Union (MU) is pleased that Birmingham City Council has both listened to us and worked hard with us to adopt this MU based policy.
“The exciting ‘first’ here for the UK is the ‘mediation and arbitration panel’ which we suggested and which can prevent costly legal action and save money; meaning that other councils in the region are now coming to us keen to follow Birmingham’s lead.”
Jonny Walker, Founding Director of Keep Streets Live Campaign, echoed those views.
He said: “Birmingham City Council deserve enormous credit for introducing a new busking policy which safeguards spontaneous street culture and promotes vibrant public spaces in the city whilst at the same addressing the legitimate concerns of businesses and residents about issues that can arise from time to time.
“By abandoning a PSPO which would have criminalised many forms of busking in the city and working on a new busking framework in close collaboration with professional bodies such as the Musician’s Union and Equity and advocacy groups such as the Keep Streets Live Campaign instead, Birmingham has established a hugely constructive new benchmark for grassroots cultural policy around the use of the public spaces in the UK – a benchmark that other local authorities would do well to follow.”
Francis Mallon, Assistant Secretary – Birmingham Equity Variety Branch, added: “Equity welcomes the Street Entertainment Guide as a great step forward in ensuring the city’s streets continue to benefit from the vibrancy of street entertainment while addressing the legitimate concerns of businesses and citizens.
“We particularly applaud the City Council’s efforts to involve Equity, Musicians’ Union and Keep Streets Live in the development of the Guide and look forward to supporting its implementation.”