By Harvey Stevens
Buskers who play outside the Tate Modern are “speechless” and “angry” after the local council banned amplified music in the area.
Southwark council put up a sign around October 16 which bans buskers, or anyone else, from using amplified music outside the Tate Modern.
The decision has impacted musicians, who have now been left unable to play at one of the busiest spots in the capital.
Busker Alex Hall (Picture: @storm.silver.m)
The loss of income to buskers has left some fearing for their livelihoods.
The ban means that the musicians who normally play on the South Bank are now scrambling to find alternative spots, which are often already taken by other performers.
Charlotte Campbell, 32, a full-time musician and singer-songwriter from Lambeth, said the ban meant that all buskers are earning less money and getting less opportunity.
She said: “The less pitches there are the more we are compressed into one spot. We share the spots between ourselves but we’re all getting less and less, which creates a lot of tension and hostility.”
She’s worried about the future of busking in London and thinks that if spots keep getting taken away from them then she may have to stop altogether.
“I’ve been a busker in London for 10 years and I’m slowly seeing that it’s just not as viable as it once was. In time I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue to make a living here, which is such a shame.”
It’s a sentiment which is shared by other buskers. Finn Rivers, 38, a singer-songwriter based in Waterloo, also said that he was considering leaving London as the ban had left him without a place to play his music.
He said: “I now walk up and down the South Bank every single day trying to figure out where I can go just to play a guitar and sing and try and make a life out of it.
“But I’m drawing blanks on where to play. It’s getting harder. I’m now at the point of thinking of going somewhere else because if London is what it says it is about music then they’re not showing it.”
The musicians weren’t consulted about the plans to ban amplified music and they found out through a sign suddenly being erected.
Alex Hall, a 35-year-old guitarist and trumpet player based in Surbiton, has started a petition to try and get Southwark to reverse the ban.
He said: “Banning amplified music from this vital area has rendered dozens if not hundreds of buskers speechless, angry and without income.”
Southwark councillor Dora Dixon Fyle said: “Buskers are an integral part of the history and fabric of the riverfront and we welcome them.
“However, we want the riverfront to be enjoyed by all, including those who live in the area. To which end, we ask that buskers please keep the volume down.”
While musicians are still able to play without amplification, Campbell said that this just was not an option.
She added: “That spot is right by the river, so the sound just gets swept along the river, and with the addition of traffic and people, it’s a loud place. Without amplification, the music just doesn’t project.”
Pictured top: Buskers Alex Hall, left, and Andi Pomato, right, have been busking at the Tate Modern since 2016 (Picture: Paula Maria Lembo)