Kazoo protest at ‘social cleansing’ of buskers – Comedian warns of attack on ‘spontaneity, creativity and ethos of having a go’

Thursday, 17th October 2013


Citizens’ Kazoo Orchestra line-up on Monday: (left to right) Nick Shields, Tracey Moberly, Jonny Walker, Mark Thomas, Mike Collins, (front row) Ben Van Der Velde and Philippa Morgan-Walker.

Published: 17 October, 2013

COMEDIAN and political activist Mark Thomas joined pro-busking campaigners in Camden Town for a kazoo-playing protest on Monday.

Mr Thomas, best known for his Channel 4 show Mark Thomas Comedy Project, described Camden Council proposals for stricter busking rules as “draconian” and a kind of “social cleansing”.

He was joined by 60 people at the protest by the Citizens’ Kazoo Orchestra following a petition that has attracted nearly 3,000 signatures.

Under plans for new busking licences, which are in the consultation survey stage, wind and percussion instruments would be banned along with amplifiers.

Mr Thomas told the New Journal: “Busking is part of the fixtures and fittings of any city’s life. It is part of the creative eco-system.

"At heart it is a wonderfully democratic form.

“The council might call this a licence but it is a tax, a tax on spontaneity, creativity and the ethos of having a go. Measures brought in against those without a ‘licence’ are draconian and bullying. It is a pleasure to support the fight against the council’s misconceived social cleansing.”

Jonny Walker, a Camden Town busker who organised the protest and petition, said: “It was a carnival atmosphere. People were passing by, picking up a kazoo and joining in.”

Kazoo-blowing protesters played Star Wars’ Death March, The Dam Busters theme tune, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love.

Philippa Morgan-Walker, director of the Association of Street Artists and Performers, said buskers had been a part of Camden for hundreds of years, and was an “ancient form of Englishness”.

She added: “Part of our distinctive national character is having the right to speak and sing in the street. If we stamp down on busking, we are stamping down on Britishness.”

Mike Collins, who travelled from Yorkshire to the Camden protest, added: “Camden is a centre for musicians, yet the council is coming down harder on musicians than any other local authority.

"Many of us have come from the north and areas outside of London because we want to show solidarity to our fellow buskers.”

Lib Dem councillor Chris Naylor said: “What I hope is that the council agrees a policy that works for solo buskers, playing on their own without amplification – and keeps out the big boys, and gives residents a bit of peace.”

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