Circus News

London’s Street Performers Face a Crackdown

At the height of the pandemic, during a time when nearly every performer worldwide is unemployed, this local council in London has decided to crack down on street performers, cutting off the last avenue of income for many performers who are in desperate need to make a living. Marketplace cites the reasoning, and it’s not what you might imagine:

 

London’s street performers — the Brits call them “buskers” — are up in arms over a threat to their livelihoods. Their earnings have already taken a beating this year as the number of foreign visitors to the British capital has slumped by three-quarters. And now that the U.K. has entered a second pandemic lockdown, there will be fewer British visitors to the capital in the weeks ahead.

But the buskers are incensed for another reason. A local authority — Westminster City Council — is planning to curb street entertainment in the West End because, the council says, some of the buskers are noisy, anti-social, and in some cases, downright dangerous. The council is proposing to cut the number of sites where the buskers can perform, to impose a licensing and insurance system and to ban certain equipment that it regards as unsafe.

“I’m definitely in the firing line,” said Pete Kolofsky, who used to be a circus performer and now earns a living busking in Covent Garden, a trendy shopping precinct in London’s West End.

“I juggle knives at the beginning of my show, do tricks with a bull whip and then finish with a stunt called ‘The Sandwich of Death.’ I lie between two beds of nails and then get a member of the audience to stand on top for 10 seconds. If the council bans these so-called dangerous props, that would be the end of the line for me as a street performer,”  he said.

Kolofsky claims that he has never had an accident during one of his routines. Nick Broad, who runs an international advocacy organization for street performers called The Busking Project, insists there are no recorded cases of anybody being injured by a busker in London. Broad has branded the council’s proposals as “nonsensical, unwarranted and draconian.”

If enacted, the proposals will affect a much wider variety of street entertainers than just  knife jugglers, fire eaters and other circus performers. The number of busking sites would be cut to just 25 in the whole of the West End, and in only five of those sites would amplified music be allowed…

Read the Full Article at Marketplace