You Got to Fight for the Right to Party

I've been out busking a couple of times this week. First, I went out to see George and Diane by the taxi stand on the London Road. I went out really to see if I could talk with some of the men and women who live in homeless accommodation in Brighton. A local reporter wants me to put him in touch with some people who live in homeless accommodation because a certain local newspaper would like to run an investigation into the homeless system in Brighton. Unfortuntately, when I managed to get a man called Peter to talk on the phone the local reporter was away from his desk, but he did have a lot of interesting things to say.

Because I was going to see George, I took my guitar. It turned out Peter played guitar too and really rather well. He did an excellent version of 'The Needle and the Damage Done' by Neil Young and 'Comfortably Numb' by Pink Floyd. There was a nice vibe among a small group of people singing along to some classic songs. George was half way through an impressive rendition of 'Massacheusetts' by The Bee Gees when, unfortunately, the sound of music was enough to attract a couple of local Police Community Support Officers. The group were accused of drinking by association and we were forced to disperse. It was true that one or two of the group had a can in their hands, but I felt the local PCSOs were a little heavy handed. People were having fun - there was no agro.

A couple of days later I went out busking on the London Road with Jason. We managed to get him a small drum, so I played outside the co-op some songs from my song folder. We didn't really make any money but we were having a nice time. Two PCSOs stopped on the other side of the road and stared at us for about 10 minutes. Sure enough, a while later they arrived where Jason and I were playing and told us we had to stop busking. Apparently the drum was too loud and Jason was too loud. The police had received a 'complaint'. From whom we were not told. I was handed a small laminated card laying out in black and white the local bye-laws on busking. No amplification. No drumming. I guess what Jason and I were doing amounted to 'anti-social behaviour'. Jason was upset that he couldn't play his drum having been told by the PCSOs that this was the case. Jason and I both accused the local PCSOs of operating double standards. There are lots of buskers in Brighton, especially at Pavillion Gardens, around New Road near the Theatre Royal and all around town. Brighton's a musical town - there are lots of budding musicians here.

I was a little miffed that the PCSOs had picked on us so I told them it was funny how all these bye-laws are suddenly relaxed in August for Gay Pride when the sound of drumming, whistles, shouting and music streams down London Road along with an army of street drinkers. I asked them why there was one rule for revellers on this day and another rule for the homeless who they seem to clamp down as soon as either they feel it is right or a member of the public makes a 'complaint'. After all, I'm sure not everyone in Brighton loves the Gay Pride parade. They didn't appear to have an answer to my question, but told us to move on anyway. Of course, we could move on, but I reminded them that Jason is banned from 44 roads in Brighton, so exactly where were we to move on to?

As we walked down London Road a police van pulled around the corner. A policeman called out to Jason from the window: "I hope you're not thinking of playing with that, are you?" as if Jason had in his hands sawn-off shotgun or something. Poor guy, he'd had his eye on that drum for weeks and we'd wanted to form a small busking band. Looks like the PCSOs have put paid to a little venture Jason and I had wanted to get off the ground. The idea was Jason on drums, George on guitar and vocals, me on guitar/vocals. It could have been sweet...Within 5 years, me, George, Diane and Jason could have been supping champagne on our yacht. As the Beastie Boys once sang, unless you have a certain social status, it looks like in this town you really have to fight for your right to party. Poor man. In Brighton, the authorities have a habit of treating him like an animal. I don't know. The authorities seem to clamp down on the homeless in Brighton and 'move them along' because they are worried what tourists and locals will think. Why can't they just let people think for themselves?


Spirit of Vatican II said…
'Why can't they just let people think for themselves?'

Here are my thoughts: Many of the homeless in Brighton are menacing and threatening. The police are right to move them on. You are an apologist and an enabler for much of the anti-social behaviour which blights Brighton.
The Bones said…
I think you're just a prejudiced bigot.

A homelessphobe.
Pétrus said…
Laurence I am a little bit confused by this blog post.

1) They showed you the byelaw prohibiting the playing of drums. Have you seen the police of PCSOs allowing any other DRUMMERS to busk?

2) They politely asked you to move and even though Jason is barred from 44 roads in Brighton that still leaves plenty of other options.

3) Jason has been barred from these roads for a reason. It isn't because he is being picked on. Jason has a track record of anti-social behaviour remember.
The Bones said…
1) Yes, plenty of drummers in Brighton. The problem was that Jason only has one volume setting: Loud.

That said, I've seen buskers amplified in New Road and nobody tends to move them on. Maybe they just sounded better.

2) Granted, but the options are very limited.

3) True, but even Jason on a bad day is nothing compared to the noise of Gay Pride. The point is that Jason doesn't bring in tourism and money for the local economy, whereas Gay Pride and other events in Brighton do.

My point is that Brighton is ruled by double-standards and hypocrisy.
The Bones said…
In other words, you can champion your sexuality with floats, drums and loudspeakers, but if a poor man plays a drum his show is cancelled by the cops.
Anagnostis said…
Fair play to you Lawrence. For two pins I'd grab my Gretsch and jump on the train.
Amfortas said…
I worry that 'the gay issue' has become an obsession in your blogs. The reference to Gay Pride in the context of being harrassed for busking just comes across as a silly side swipe ('The rage of Caliban...). People do get irritated by drumming. The sound carries and invades people's homes.
The Bones said…
One rule for the LGBT, another rule for the homeless.
Amfortas said…
I'm not commenting on the hypocrisy of the establishment, although I think you fail to recognise how irritating and invasive drumming in the street can be. A parade is one thing. It comes and it goes. But the drumming goes on. Believe me I know. I live in Camden Town.

But, as I said, I wasn't commenting on the hypocrisy of the establishment. I just worry that you're starting to see the whole world through a scratchy lens and that lens has LGBT etched on it. As the psalmist says, 'I lift up my eyes to the hills...'
The Bones said…
What do you mean a scratchy lens?

I live in Brighton.

LGBT agenda is everywhere.

You can't even go swimming without seeing an LGBT 'Out to Swim' banner across the west side of the pool.

Amfortas said…
Now you know why I don't live in Brighton anymore!