Buskers' Code

We welcome you to perform in London, the world’s most popular city! If you’re busking in Greater London please use this code and you shouldn't experience any problems. It has been created by street performers, the Mayor of London, councils, businesses and the police to promote good relations and a vibrant street culture.

On this page you'll find details about performing in Greater London, our Busker Liaison Team, guidance on Resolving Problems and Enforcement, and a section on The Law.

If you have any questions about street performance in London, you can email info@buskinlondon.com 

What is busking?

Busking is an art form that is practised by professional artists, amateur performers and those who are just starting out. Buskers put a lot of thought and effort into their act, they give a performance, entertain the public and receive tips in return.

Busking includes circus, dance, magic and street theatre shows as well as music, living statues and others. The three main types are:

Shows

Large shows attract a large audience. Small shows attract a smaller audience. People stop and watch for around 10 to 60 minutes.

Music

Music acts can be soloists or groups. Audiences tend to stop and watch for a few minutes.

Walk-by

Walk-by acts can be living statues, writers, close contact jugglers and other types of street theatre that are enjoyed whilst walking-by.

 

Where to busk

  • London has lots of great busking spots. Check out the map of places we recommend at www.buskinlondon.com/map.
  • Read the guidance for each pitch to help you avoid complaints.
  • Introduce yourself to nearby businesses, traders and buskers - this will also make complaints much less likely.
  • Let people get past. There should be space to push a piano past you and your audience - even at busy times.
  • If your audience blocks a doorway, market stall, pavement, ATM or loo, please stop and clear the blockage! You may want to try a bigger pitch or adapt your act for a smaller audience.
  • If there isn’t a suitable space, wait for one to become free. Ask other buskers if there's a queue you can join.
  • If a performer is waiting for your pitch please share it. On really popular pitches this could mean sharing after one hour or less. 
  • Avoid sound clash! Acts involving sound should have lots of space between them.

Your Performance

  • Your performance will have an impact on people nearby. Please be aware of this and be willing to move or adjust your performance if necessary.
  • Please don’t cause offence or humiliation.

Sound

  • The biggest cause of complaints is sound. Sound can travel a long way and go high into the air. Many busking locations are surrounded by flats, shops, offices or hotels. Because the people inside can’t walk away, please make sure your volume doesn't bother them.
  • As a rule - keep your volume just above the level of background street noise and check that it is not distorted.
  • Please don’t repeat music in the same location. Acts with varied content are much more popular. 
  • Some sounds have a big impact on people. If your act has loud, bass heavy or percussive sounds, please monitor your volume regularly, vary your music and limit your time at each location.
  • Keep backing tracks unobtrusive and turn them off when you’re not performing.

Equipment

  • Make sure no-one could trip over your equipment.
  • Never leave equipment unattended.
  • Keep it safe! Check out our guidance page if your act involves anything risky (e.g. fire, knives, high wire, unicycle, diabolo, juggling).
  • Please don't cover your face (e.g. by wearing a mask) as this puts people off talking to you if there is a problem. 
  • If you use fixtures such as furniture, lamp-posts or railings, or you draw on the ground, please get permission beforehand and make sure nothing gets damaged.
  • Please keep the pitch clean and tidy-up afterwards.

Collecting Money

  • Performers can accept donations but the public must never feel obliged to pay.
  • You can give away CDs or other items, but you cannot charge a fee for them. To sell items for a fee you need a street trading licence.
  • If you are collecting for charity you'll need a permit.

Street Team

Busk in London is building a team of buskers and events professionals who will help build a strong busking community and resolve any problems before they get serious. They provide information and advice to buskers. They also collect feedback and hold regular performer meetings where issues can be raised and questions answered. 

As well as working with buskers, the team works with residents, businesses, councils and the police, helping to ensure good relations between all of the people who want to make London's public spaces safe, friendly and a pleasure to be in.

If you’d like the Busk in London Street Team to work in your area please email info@buskinlondon.com.  

To contact the Busk in London Street Team regarding an issue, please call the hotline on 07951 585179.

For an issue in the West End (Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Oxford Street or Trafalgar Square areas) email westend@buskinlondon.com

Resolving Problems

Talking with the performer is the starting point for solving all busking related problems. Unless there is an imminent risk to the performer or others, they should be given the chance to change their performance so that it follows the Buskers' Code.

Enforcement action should only be taken once the following three steps have been taken:

  • STEP 1 - Don't wait until you're irate! If a performer or group is causing a problem it can usually be resolved quickly and amicably by talking. Where posible, wait for a suitable break before talking to the performer(s). Introduce yourself and explain the impact that their performance is having on you. Ask the performer if they know about the Buskers' Code and refer them to Busk in London website.
  • STEP 2 - If you have spoken to the performer(s) and the problem continues, please talk to a local warden or contact Busk in London. They will talk to the performer(s), educating them about the law, the Buskers' Code, the local pitch guidance and what will happen if complaints are received. 
  • STEP 3 - If talking to the performer(s) does not work and they continue to have a detrimental impact upon other people, the problem may be referred to a council enforcement officer or a police officer. 

Enforcement

Everyone must be given the opportunity to fix the problem they are causing. If the problem is not resolved by following the three steps above, it may be necessary to take enforcement action.

Enforcement will only be carried out against people whose behaviour is unreasonable and has a persistent, detrimental effect on the quality of life of others.

One method of enforcement is a Community Protection Notice (CPN). The enforcement process is as follows:

  • A Community Impact Statement will be written using evidence gathered to date and the person who is causing the problem will be given a verbal warning.
  • If the problem continues, a Formal Warning letter will be issued, stating the nature of the behaviour that is causing a problem and what it is they must stop doing.
  • If the problem continues, a Community Protection Notice will be issued. It will contain the same information as the Formal Warning letter. The CPN will last for a specific period and specify an exclusion area. This is likely to be the place where the problem is happening plus surrounding areas.
  • If the CPN is breached there are two options:
    • Issue a max. £100 Fixed Penalty Notice (£50 if paid in 14 days)
    • Issue a court summons which could result in criminalisation and seizure of equipment

The Law

Is busking legal?

Yes - busking on public land is legal in most places. However there are some exceptions:

  • The London Borough of Camden has introduced a bylaw that requires acts with music or amplification to have a busking licence. If you perform without one you could be arrested and have your equipment seized.
  • Uxbridge Town Centre in the London Borough of Hillingdon has introduced a bylaw that requires all acts using the four town centre pitches to have a busking licence. If you perform without one you could be arrested and have your equipment seized.
  • The financial district of the City of London (known as the Square Mile) allows performers but does not allow money to be collected in public places.
  • Some parks and squares have bylaws that don't allow busking.
  • Private land owners may have their own policy on busking and you may require permission from the landowner. It is often hard to tell private from public land, so please check with a local warden or business or contact Busk in London if you are unsure.
  • Private busking schemes that have entry requirements, such as auditions, permits or licences, include: the London Underground Busking Scheme; some pitches at Covent Garden; and the Southbank Centre Busking Scheme (between the London Eye and Hungerford Bridge).

Anti-social behaviour

  • If your behaviour is unreasonable and you are having a persistent, detrimental effect on the quality of life of people in the area, you will receive a verbal warning. If you carry on, you could be issued with a Community Protection Notice under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act (2014).

Noise nuisance

  • If you use amplification after 9pm you could be charged under the Control Of Pollution Act 1974.
  • If a sound is causing a persistent, detrimental effect on a person's quality of life, it could constitute a noise nuisance. If you are the cause of this sound and receive complaints you will be warned. If you don't stop, you could be charged under the Environmental Protection Act (1990). The most common causes of noise complaints are: volume at an unreasonable level; playing the same music repeatedly; not moving regularly.

Obstruction of the highway

  • If you or your audience block people's path you may be causing an obstruction and told to stop. If you carry on you could be charged under the Highways Acts (1980).

Intimidation or conflict

  • If anyone is breaching the peace or intimidating others the police will take action. The person could be charged under the Public Order Act (1986).

Begging

  • Busking shouldn’t be confused with begging. Buskers put a lot of effort into their act, give a performance and entertain the public