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Buskers are on board with bid to beat ban

Pub provides the mooring for Grand Union Canal boat, an innovative stage for musical talent

16 August, 2019 — By Briony Pickford

Martin Ash playing his fiddle by The Union Tavern

A CANAL boat has been transformed into a stage for musicians trying to escape the “busking ban”.

Eric Ellman, who lives on the Grand Union Canal, has teamed up with The Union Tavern pub in Ladbroke Grove which is providing the mooring.

The performance space has been used by 10 buskers this week ranging from Frank Sinatra crooners, fiddlers to Texas-flavoured Americana.

Mr Ellman said: “I’ve been offering a £20 guarantee for the first performance and they’ve been coming back for a second go even without the guarantee.

“It’s just such a good opportunity to practise, meet other musicians and take some rather good images for social media.

“I’m trying to create a place where buskers can feel at home, where they can put their stuff down, not lug expensive equipment around, and not be at risk of arrest.”

Singer-songwriter Lea Baruffato on the guitar

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has introduced “public space protection orders” that are used to clamp down on busking musicians in popular spots. The activity is considered “anti-social” and can lead to a criminal conviction.

Mr Ellman said he fell in love with the London canals when he came from his Texas home to visit his aunt, Rose Tobias Shaw, a well-known casting director known as the “Queen of the Mini-series”, who died in 2015.

She is credited with discovering acting talents such as George C Scott, Pierce Brosnan and Kim Novak.

After his aunt died, Mr Ellman moved to London to start a canal touring business called “Bards on Boats”, which hires real actors to tell not just history but the current function of canals today and their benefits for sustainability issues.

Eric Ellman on board the Molly Anna on the Grand Union Canal

“Honestly, I’ve been trying to establish a canal-based business for a year, offering the boat up to everybody I can run into who thinks they can use it as an outreach tool.

“When I heard about the busking ban I just started recruiting buskers from Facebook.”

The Union Tavern has provided beer for the performers and those who tip in an attempt to promote the activity.

The pub’s general manager, Timmy Creedy, said: “I think it’s great to support local music and encourage art and culture within the society.

David Fisher entertains a big crowd at the tavern

“The ban isn’t helping communities come together. We should be celebrating life not pushing people away, building communities and enjoying the environment we have.

“It’s something that creates a colourful environment and happy life. So supporting these artists is a really good thing for the community.”

The campaign group Keep Streets Live will host a three-day buskers’ “pow-wow” on the boat between August 27 and 29. There will be workshops and conferences during the day to discuss what alternatives could be suggested to the public space protection orders.

Director of Keep Streets Live, Chester Bingley, said: “We’ll have a look at the legislative format and confer with actual buskers. The idea is that we provide an alternative.

“We’re looking at self-regulation. We have a proven approach which has worked in cities across the UK.”

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