Thursday, 9 July 2015, 6:00PM
Barnard's Inn Hall

The History of Street Performance: ‘Music by handle’ and the Silencing of Street Musicians in the Metropolis

Dr Paul Simpson

A discussion of the history of busking and street music in the City of London. Drawing on a range of historic sources – including selections from Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor and Charles Babbage's Passages in the Life of a Philosopher – particular focus will be given to the way in which various residents of the City responded to the ‘street music problem’ of Victorian London. This is by far the most heavily documented period in the history of busking and street music in the City. The street music ‘problem’ emerged in light of the growing middle and literary classes and the disruption the presence such street musicians caused to the quiet tenor of their home-working lives.

The debates that occurred here – which involved notable figures such as Charles Dickens, Charles Leech, and Charles Babbage – resulted in the development of the Street Music Act of 1864 and paved the way for much of the subsequent legislative control of street musicians in the City. The debates about street performances in London in this period shed light on the present-day situation of busking and street music in the City.

This lecture will be delivered as a part of the 2015 City of London Festival.

 

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Dr Paul Simpson is a Lecturer in Human Geography at Plymouth University. Over the past ten years he has carried out research on busking and street performance in various UK towns and cities, including actually performing in several of these locations. This research has been published in a range of academic journals and books. Dr Simpson is also currently a patron of the ‘Keep Streets Live Campaign’ and has worked with that organization in protecting and promoting the rights of street performers to make use of public spaces in carrying out the artistic activities.

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9 July 2015

The History of Street Performance: ‘Music by handle’ and the Silencing of Street Musicians in the Metropolis
Dr Paul Simpson

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