Busking pianist fined for breaching COVID-19 rules and ‘causing a crowd’ in York

30 March 2021, 09:27

Busking pianist fined for breaching COVID-19 rules and ‘causing a crowd’ in York
Busking pianist fined for breaching COVID-19 rules and ‘causing a crowd’ in York. Picture: Andy D'Agorne

By Sian Moore

The street performer was handed a hefty fine and was told he will not be able to busk again until May, despite showing legislation which said he could legally perform.

A pianist was fined £200 by police for breaching coronavirus regulations after “causing a crowd” while busking in York.

Alistair Lawrence was playing a piano in the city centre over the weekend, when police officers and Covid marshals told the musician he had to stop.

The pianist was told he was breaking coronavirus rules by “causing a crowd” in King’s Square, and was handed a pricey fine – despite showing a copy of legislation that proved he could legally busk, YorkMix reports.

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A busker was fined £200 by police for breaching coronavirus regulations by “causing a crowd” when he performed in York.
A busker was fined £200 by police for breaching coronavirus regulations by “causing a crowd” when he performed in York. Picture: Andy D'Agorne

Speaking to Classic FM about the incident, Alistair revealed that after playing one piece he was approached by two Covid marshals who told him busking was illegal until 17 May.

“I contested this and showed them legislation I had printed out from Keep Streets live,” Alistair said.

The marshals went away to check the information, but returned shortly after with a police officer.

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“At first they issued me with an official warning and an order to stay away from the city centre for 48 hours,” the pianist continued.

“Then they changed their minds and scrapped that, but issued me with a fine.”

Alistair Lawrence was playing his piano in the city centre at the weekend when police officers and Covid marshals told the musician he had to stop.
Alistair Lawrence was playing his piano in the city centre at the weekend when police officers and Covid marshals told the musician he had to stop. Picture: Andy D'Agorne

As Alistair continued to contest his right to busk, he said the police officer actually began to agree with him.

“However she claimed I was drawing a crowd which in her eyes was deemed to be illegal,” he said.

The busker explained how he and his friend Karl, who shares the piano with Alistair, still tried to use the legislation to prove their right to play.

Alistair added: “The week previously, buskers were performing in York without being challenged by Covid marshals and the police, and also busking today in York unopposed.”

According to the Musicians’ Union, busking with an audience is not currently advised, and the body has been advised that it will not be permitted until 17 May.

However, as of 29 March, and now the ‘rule of six’ applies outdoors, the MU is calling for busking to be permitted again, saying on their website: “We feel that busking can be carried out safely and responsibly and should be permitted much sooner.”