Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Culture Of Capital
Visitors flying into Liverpool arrive at Liverpool John Lennon Airport. Once they arrive in the city centre they're reminded at every opportunity that the Fab Four hailed from these parts. Should they venture down Mathew Street, the overkill may well overwhelm the unprepared. Even the nostalgia apologists admit that the Beatle legacy is milked for all its worth in Liverpool.
Given that, you'd think a city which based its pitch for culture year almost exclusively on John, Paul, George & the one who did Thomas the Tank Engine would welcome & encourage live music in its public spaces. Right?
The unelected, unaccountable Business Improvement District (BID) group, with the not-so tacit backing of the city council, has this week imposed a list of prohibitive measures on all street entertainers in the city centre (http://www.liverpoolconfidential.co.uk/Culture/Ged-Gibbons-v-Johnny-Walker ).
According to the LC piece, all street entertainers will now have to:
" *Prebook their pitches
*Shell out for a £20 permit
*Pay up to £100 for public liability insurance
*Perform only in designated spots around the city."
Liverpool Confidential's article features a video of an exchange between Jonny Walker, a regular busker, & Ged Gibbons, CEO of BID, on Church Street. Mr Gibbons is the archetypal suit. Mr Walker, who trained as a barrister, the busker who holds his own. During the exchange Mr Gibbons states that no one under the age of 18 should perform in public spaces such as Church Street. Mr Walker replies that George Harrison joined The Quarrymen at the tender age of 15.
Opinions will always vary about street entertainers; it isn't always subjective. Some can be highly talented. Others can be bloody awful. However, this isn't about street entertainment per se. The real issue is the arrogant assumption of the major stores that they can dictate who, if anyone, can perform in what is a public space.
The street entertainers have launched their own website (http://keepstreetslive.com ) &, acting upon advice from the Musicians' Union that the conditions are restrictive, have also organised an online petition (http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/keep-spontaneous-street-performance-alive?utm_campaign=petition_page&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=share_petition ).
Liverpool appears to be the only UK city which wishes to apply such restrictive conditions on street entertainment. The "Home of the Beatles" evidently values the Culture of Capital over any authentic cultural legacy from its musical past. One can only surmise that if, say, a world-famous singer/songwriter wandered up to a local busker & offered to join in, the city fathers & their business allies would take a far less enlightened stance than their counterparts in Copenhagen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQzpefkdPl0 ).