York buskers say police and Covid marshals are showing huge inconsistencies towards them – after one was fined £200 and others were allowed to play on.
As we reported on Saturday, pianist Alistair Lawrence was given the fine for playing in King’s Square.
Although busking itself is not illegal under the Covid rules, officers said they were penalising him for ‘creating a crowd’.
YorkMix has seen a video of Alistair performing before being approached by police and marshals, and there is no sign of a crowd gathering.
Alistair said the altercation made him feel powerless.
Talking to David Dunning on the Lockdown Late Show on YorkMix Radio, he said: “It happened so fast. It felt like they didn’t know what they were doing, but they were making it as they went along.”
He is considering appealing against the fine.
“I think I have to really. I understand that the police have a hard job, and we are in a pandemic, but they’re just making up the rules as they go along, fining people as they see fit.”
Alistair said he was only performing in York this weekend after speaking with other street performers who had told him that the Covid marshals had said they were OK to busk.
‘I felt like a criminal’
Street opera singer Jack Hunter told David Dunning that one week when he was performing he had been told to move on by Covid marshals, even though he had told them that he was doing nothing unlawful.
He came back a week later and “the Covid marshals – they were two young people – they stopped and said, ‘Look, we don’t mind you doing this, but don’t let crowds gather’.
“Which I thought was a better standpoint, instead of knocking it completely on the head.”
He even said the marshals gave him a round of applause when he finished singing.
Jack says he is concerned about the inconsistencies.
“I find it absolutely ludicrous. I find it awful that the police and Covid marshals are cracking down on someone not doing anyone harm.
“Maybe they should just tell the busker: ‘We don’t mind you busking if it’s your only source of income at the moment. But can you tell people not to crowd’.
“When I went out busking, I was on tenterhooks for the full thing. I couldn’t enjoy myself and sing because I felt like a criminal. I felt like a criminal, singing opera.”
Another piano player Karl Mullen said he was approached by the police on Saturday too. But these officers “allowed me to play. They went and stood in the corner and I played for five or ten minutes and then they came over and said ‘Right I think you’ve made the point now haven’t you?’
“And I said, well what’s gonna happen if I carry on busking? And I think they said that they would first fine me and then if I carried on I would be arrested – I was definitely threatened with arrest.”
He said that “the police have got these powers to make the rules as they go along. But clearly that is problematic as well.
“To be honest yesterday they weren’t incredibly unfriendly – but I think they were kind of confused about what they were doing.”