*** DEBUG END ***

Buskers get holy to avoid ban

04 April 2014

jonny walker

Trinity: Jonny Walker (right), Mark Thomas (centre), and Ben van der Velde, with their kazoos

Trinity: Jonny Walker (right), Mark Thomas (centre), and Ben van der Velde, with their kazoos

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 Camden.

"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."



Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)