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Busking consultation

A new policy for street performance in Westminster

Every day, people in Westminster can experience performances from musicians, magicians, comedians, artists and dancers, who come from all over the world to perform on our streets. 

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

For more than a year, we have been engaging with residents, businesses, buskers and street entertainers to develop a new policy that we hope will support street entertainment while protecting residents and businesses from impacts of excessive noise and overcrowding that can be caused by busking.

Following the results of an initial consultation in January, we have updated our proposals to include licensing across the West End and surrounding areas.

Consultation

We consulted on our updated busking and street entertainment proposals between 24 September and 1 November 2020, and received over 900 responses.

Thanks to all those who had their say. We have reviewed all these responses and made some changes to our proposals as a result. In doing so, we have tried to balance the feedback and concerns of those who live, work and perform in Westminster.  

Key changes include an additional pitch in Covent Garden and amplification in James Street, a reduced licence fee, and the removal of some requirements from the licensing conditions.

Read the full consultation report and updated policy.

Next steps

The updated policy proposals will be considered by the council’s licensing committee on 25 November 2020.

Licensing across the wider West End
Westminster-wide code of conduct
Street performers associations and a busking and street entertainment forum

Licensing across the wider West End

The introduction of a licensing scheme across the West End and surrounding areas. In these areas, performers will need to apply for a licence to perform, keep to designated pitches, and abide by the conditions of the licence. The licensed area includes the areas in and around:

  • Paddington
  • Marylebone
  • Bayswater
  • Oxford Street
  • Mayfair
  • Regent Street
  • New Bond Street
  • Piccadilly
  • Chinatown
  • Leicester Square
  • Soho
  • Covent Garden
  • The Strand
  • Charing Cross
  • Embankment
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Whitehall
  • Parliament Square
  • Victoria 
  • Knightsbridge
  • Belgravia

Westminster-wide code of conduct

A voluntary code of conduct across Westminster, which aims to make sure performers are considerate of both the local community and other performers.

Street performers associations and a busking and street entertainment forum

In Covent Garden there is an established Street Performers Association (SPA) that performers are encouraged to join before performing there. 

In Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square there is a newly created SPA that performers are encouraged to join before performing there. 

The council has also set up a Busking and Street Entertainment Forum to allow performers to meet with council officers to share feedback and concerns, answer questions, and work together to find ways to promote busking and street entertainment across our city.

Busking and street entertainment policy previous results

For nearly two years, we have been engaging with street entertainers, residents and businesses to develop a balanced and targeted approach to addressing issues caused by busking in the West End. This includes holding workshops, meetings and analysing written feedback and complaints data.

We formally consulted on a draft policy between 14 January and 24 February 2020. This policy proposed licensing three key areas – Leicester Square, Piccadilly and Oxford Street – that receive most complaints about busking and street entertainment, alongside other measures including a voluntary code of conduct and supporting performer self-regulation. 

We received over 700 responses to the consultation. While 42% of respondents agreed with the proposals, many residents and workers felt the voluntary measures would not do enough to control noise levels, and expressed concern about the effect of displacement to areas outside of the proposed licensing regime.

To take account of this feedback, the council updated our policy proposals to include licensing across a wider area of Westminster.

You can read the full results of the previous consultation here and a quantitative and qualitative data analysis of the consultation result here.

Complaints data

Complaints data relating to street entertainment between 2017 and 2019.

Complaints data relating to street entertainment between December 2019 and November 2020.

More information

Proposed busking and street entertainment policy (PDF, 27MB) (September 2020)

If you have any queries on the development of this policy please email the team at: streetentertainment@westminster.gov.uk

Find more information for street performers, including key busking locations and major events

Have a complaint? 

Please raise any complaints you may have regarding incidents via the Report It form on council’s website.