THE Church of the Holy Kazoo is not big on dogma. Adherents
simply believe that busking is sacred, and that every piece of
music ever written belongs in its hymn book.
"We are not in opposition to any other existing faith, and you
don't have to abandon your own metaphysics to join," its founder,
Jonny Walker - a "committed Christian" - said on Wednesday.
If it fits into any tradition, it is that of dissent. The Church
was founded after Camden Council introduced a new policy requiring
buskers to have a licence, and introducing restrictions - including
a prohibition on drums, wind instruments, and amplifiers. Those who
busk without a licence can find their instruments seized by police
and be fined up to £1000.
The council says that "all forms of street entertainment are
viewed as an important part of the musical and cultural heritage of
the borough;" but complains that "nuisance has been caused to local
residents and businesses."
Mr Walker, the founding director of the campaign Keep Streets
Live, opposes the "onerous" regulations. "This is not just a
registration scheme or code of conduct. . . it is bringing informal
music into the realm of criminal law."
The policy includes an exemption for "music performed as part of
a religious meeting, procession or service", hence the creation of
the Church. Mr Walker chose the kazoo because, were the police to
seize it to settle a fine, "they are not going to get much for it."
He is supported by the comedian Mark Thomas, who has pledged to
perform 100 acts of minor dissent.
"For many people in an irreligious age, music is their way of
expressing deeply held values," Mr Walker says. "It's a way of
buiding community, and we want to give them something to hang their
beliefs on, so they can carry on performing. . . What I am arguing
is that it's indefensible in the 21st century to privilege
religious freedom when you treat cultural and political freedoms
with disdain, as Camden are doing."
Keep Streets Live has challenged the regulations in the High
Court, which last month ruled that Camden Council had adopted a
policy that was "necessary, and a proportionate response to the
issue of busking". Mr Walker said that there were now plans to take
the case to the Court of Appeal. The Church's first service is
planned to take place on 4 May, on Britannia Junction, in
"I'm not setting up a religion to take the mickey out of
religion," he said. "For me, I am quite clear this is an expression
of my Christian belief. I think it's really important that
Christians should make common cause with other users of public
space. We are in same boat."