Main picure: Sandro Fiumeli; inset left: Conor Doughty; inset right: Encode Zaccare
Published: 7 February, 2013
by PAVAN AMARA
WITH its famously bohemian reputation as a place for wandering musicians to pitch up and play, Camden Town has often been a mecca for buskers.
But a rise in the number of impromptu live performers and complaints from people living nearby has led to calls for a crackdown on live street music in the widened paving area outside the tube station.
New stones were laid outside the HSBC bank at Britannia Junction to make the area more friendly to pedestrians. Buskers and street performers have reacted by turning the area into a makeshift stage, arriving with anything from guitars, saxophones to didgeridoos.
Liberal Democrat ward councillor Chris Naylor said police officers were “wasting their time” on problems triggered by the buskers.
“Anybody can turn up and start putting on a show, there are no rules to stop it and no specific noise control guidelines,” he added.
“There needs to be a system similar to the one Transport for London has implemented on the tubes and Westminster Council have there, where buskers have licences allowing them to play.
“So if they go over a certain noise level the licence can be revoked. Police would then be able to tell who’s meant to be there and who’s not, so if someone is intoxicated and starts busking or causing other trouble they can get rid of them straight away.”
Cllr Naylor said he had been in numerous meetings with officers over the issue, where they cited hours spent filing paperwork for busker spectators who had been pickpocketed.
“Huge crowds gather and it’s a hotspot for thieves, there’s always a couple in the crowd who find their wallet is lighter or gone when they’ve finished watching the performance,” he said.
“But also, often buskers take up a lot of space with instruments and props, not to mention the crowd watching them. Then when people come out of the tube station they have no space to walk and spill out on to the road, on to a dangerous junction.”
Simon Pitkeathley, chief executive of Camden Town Unlimited, said “a couple of people” had complained to him about noise.
“Some business people live above their commercial premises and they feel we need a noise-control plan where performances are involved,” he added.
Obviously, we don’t want to turn Camden Town into Kingston upon Thames, so nothing too heavy handed is required, just licensing which is realistic, and able to be enforced by police.”
SANDRO Fiumeli, 27, plays the electric guitar and says people come to Camden for the buskers. “I don’t even have to be playing music,” he said. “I just have to be setting up and people will gather.
"Some people come and watch us before they go out because it gets them in the right mood. If you take the buskers away it will affect the atmosphere of Camden Town because people kind of expect us.
"Recently there was a real crackdown to get rid of us, but we know the law, and they can't really do anything so we all came back.”
ENCODE Zaccarelli, 23, has been busking in Camden Town for six months.
“The other night the police told me to move on,” he said. ”I later discovered it was someone living in a Camden High Street flat who had called them.
I wondered why he couldn’t tell me himself instead of getting police involved and wasting their time. If people find they’re being disturbed, why choose to live in Camden Town?
In Adelaide they have a system where each busker gets half an hour each, that’s fair so there are no clashes about people competing for time.”
CONOR Doughty, 20, has been a “human beatbox” in Camden Town for five years.
He said: “In Covent Garden the regular buskers will make you audition for them before you can also use that spot. In Camden Town that doesn’t exist, so anyone with the ambition can come and make money.
"I make around £200 a day on a good day, so it’s worth dodging the council and the police. They’re unpredictable; some days they move me on after one show, other days I can stay for the whole day with no trouble. The problem is, no one knows what’s allowed there. Some police officers say they can’t legally move us, other officers insist we have to go.”