« | Home | »

Tooting on Kazoos

Tags: |

On my way to band practice last night, I came out of Camden Town tube station to find a group of men and women dancing about, singing songs and tooting on kazoos. They were, they told the assembled crowd, the Citizens’ Kazoo Orchestra, and they were there to protest against Camden Council’s decision to ban unlicensed busking in the borough.

The resolution, passed on 11 November, says that anyone caught playing music in public without a licence – whether or not they’re doing so for money – will be fined £1000. The council may also confiscate – and then sell – their instruments. ‘Just let ’em confiscate our kazoos,’ said Jonny Walker of the Association of Street Artists and Performers. ‘Just let ’em. I put my principles aside yesterday and bought 64 kazoos on Amazon for two hundred and fifty quid. That’s not going to get them very far.’

Under the new legislation, anyone who wants to busk will have to pay £19 for a 12-month licence and wait twenty days while their application is processed. Anyone found not ‘fit and proper’ will have their application denied. Anyone wishing to challenge the denial will have to appeal to a magistrates’ court. Camden, perhaps London’s most musical borough, home to dozens of recording studios, live music venues, clubs and record shops, will become the capital’s most restrictive borough for busking. The legislation is supposedly a response to an increase in the number of complaints about noise from residents, though it will also provide the Labour-led council, which has to cut spending this year by £83 million, with a (modest) new income stream.

I signed the ASAP’s petition on the spot. As I walked off up the street, the CKO launched into a version of that buskers’ standard, John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’: ‘Imagine all the people,’ they sang, ‘tooting on kazoos…’ I whistled along, then shut up in case the council tried to confiscate my lips.

Comments on “Tooting on Kazoos”

  1. jaspreetsinghboparai says:

    “La majestueuse égalité des lois interdit aux riches comme aux pauvres de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans la rue et de voler du pain.” — Anatole France.

    That’s the only Anatole France I’ve ever read, and I only know the French thanks to Google (plus the ‘cut and paste’ function) though the line seems apposite. (NB: much less elegant after it’s been through ‘Google Translate’.)

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • andymartinink on Reacher v. Parker: Slayground definitely next on my agenda. But to be fair to Lee Child, as per the Forbes analysis, there is clearly a massive collective reader-writer ...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: And in Breakout, Parker, in prison, teams up with a black guy to escape; another white con dislikes it but accepts the necessity; Parker is absolutely...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: Parker may not have the integrity and honesty of Marlowe, but I'd argue that Richard Stark writes with far more of both than Raymond Chandler does: Ch...
    • Christopher Tayler on Reacher v. Parker: Good to see someone holding up standards. The explanation is that I had thoughts - or words - left over from writing about Lee Child. (For Chandler se...
    • Geoff Roberts on Reacher v. Parker: ..."praised in the London Review of Books" Just read the article on Lee Child in a certain literary review and was surprised to find this rave notice...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement