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Have your say on busking

A new, balanced policy for street performance in Westminster

Every day our streets are brought to life with performances from musicians, magicians, comedians, artists and dancers, who come from all over the world to perform here. 

At the same time, we receive around 1,800 complaints each year about excessive noise or overcrowding caused by busking. 

Westminster City Council is proposing a new policy that we hope will allow street entertainment to thrive whilst protecting residents and businesses. This will include a licensing scheme in busking hotspots where we receive the most complaints.

Formal consultation took place between 14 January and 24 February 2020. Thank you to everyone who took the opportunity to have their say. We received over 700 responses. The council is now analysing these responses and will present final recommendations to Licensing Committee in late April. Following this, we will publish updates on this page.

A new policy for Westminster

We listened to street entertainers, residents and businesses, to develop a balanced and targeted approach to address the unique situation in each of our key busking hotspots. 

A new Code of Conduct

There will be no change to busking rules across most of Westminster. However, our policy will promote a voluntary Code of Conduct and encourage performers to join our Busking and Street Entertainment Forum.

Supported self-regulation by performers

Covent Garden has an established Street Performers Associations (SPA) which all performers should join before they work there. In Trafalgar Square, we are piloting self-regulation with the newly-created association in this area.

Light-touch licensing

We'll trial a light-touch licensing scheme in Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown and Leicester Square. Performers will need to apply for a licence to perform here, keep to designated pitches, and abide by specific conditions.

Covent Garden
Oxford Street
Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown and Leicester Square
Trafalgar Square

A self-regulated area

Across our city, some buskers and street entertainers have formed groups known as Street Performers Associations (SPAs). They encourage performers to work together and respect each other and their surroundings. 

The Covent Garden Street Performers Association is a long-established group of regular buskers and street entertainers managing a wide-ranging repertoire of world leading performers.

Under the proposed policy, you will need to join the association in order to perform in Covent Garden.  You can find out more about auditioning to join at Covent Garden SPA - Facebook.

Three regulated pitches

Oxford Street is Europe's busiest shopping street with around half a million daily visitors.  It is also a main thoroughfare for buses and taxis, and there are a number of residents in the surrounding streets.

Our proposed policy sets out specific pitches for Oxford Street and the surrounding side streets. Performances will only be allowed in the 3 designated pitches, and buskers will need to comply with the licence terms and conditions.

Five regulated pitches

Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown and Leicester Square form a popular visitor destination that is host to internationally recognised venues, cultural attractions and film premieres.

Our proposed policy sets out 5 designated busking and street entertainment pitches. Performances will only be allowed in these pitches, in accordance with the licence terms and conditions.

The Westminster Street Performers Association also operates in this area helping buskers and street entertainers understand the rules of the area. They work with businesses to reduce complaints and the need for enforcement.  To become a member, visit Westminster SPA.

A self-regulated area

The Westminster Street Performers Association is a new group of regular performers aiming to improve self-regulation in both Trafalgar Square. Anyone can become a member.

Under the new proposals, we will help the association to encourage self-regulation in Trafalgar Square to see if it can improve the environment and reduce disturbances to residents and businesses.  

To perform here you need to:

join the Westminster SPA
- perform only in the marked locations and keep to the terms indicated on the map
- abide by the Westminster Code of Conduct
- pro-actively tell other performers to adjust their performance if necessary

Our new Code of conduct

There are 7 principles that will make up Westminster’s Code of Conduct, which applies across our entire city.  These have been designed through engagement with performers and set out best practice for being considerate of other performers, residents, businesses and anyone using the shared public space. 

1. Safety first - all performers should be confident that those enjoying the performance are safe.

2. Performance hours - performances should only take place between 10am and 9pm. Amplified sound is illegal after 9pm.  

3. Performers should take steps to ensure they do not upset those around them - this means making sure sound does not affect nearby premises, avoiding song repetition and taking breaks between performances. 

4. Do not cause an obstruction - performers should make sure their act and audience do not cause an obstruction to pedestrians, road users and neighbouring premises.

5. Co-operate with officers and the police - they may reasonably ask that performers make adjustments or move location in the event of an emergency, public disorder, planned events, or to prevent nuisances.

6. Only sell merchandise with permission - you can give away CDs or other items associated with your performance, but you can’t charge for them unless you have been granted a licence for street trading.

7. Talk to the community to build relationships - you can also join the Busking and Street Entertainment Forum, attending community meetings, and providing us with feedback.

Listening to your feedback

We've listened closely to residents, businesses and street performers to explore solutions that are fair for everyone. Prior to consultation, we spent over a year engaging with stakeholders​. This consultation feedback (PDF, 28KB), as well as complaints that we've evaluated (PDF, 3MB), has played a key part in our policy development. We’ve heard some very mixed views, but many people agree that: 

- street entertainment plays a vital part in our culture, and is important to people who live, work, visit and perform here
- a minority of performers cause problems for residents and businesses, and the council needs to do more to stop this
- collaboration between the council, performers, residents and businesses is vital

Working together

We have created the Busking and Street Entertainment Forum to bring performers and council officers together on a regular basis, to share feedback and concerns and work together to promote busking across Westminster.

The forum also serves as a bridge between the busking community and our local resident and business groups to help foster good relations, open communication and partnership working. 

To join the forum, email streetentertainment@westminster.gov.uk.