Transport for London (TfL) has been urged to reverse its decision to suspend busking on the London Underground during the period of national mourning for the Queen.
TfL has shut its nearly 40 pitches, which span 25 stations in the capital, until the end of Monday September 19, the day of the Queen’s funeral.
In an open letter to the local government body, the Musicians’ Union (MU) called for the pitches to be reopened immediately, citing the financial impact on licensed performers, who it said were able to reach up to 3.5 million Tube passengers every day.
The MU said its members had raised “serious concerns” about the move in recent days.
“The MU is saddened by the news of the death of the Queen and joins the country in paying its respects,” it said.
“However, we would encourage TfL to reverse this decision immediately, not least due to the impact it will have on the livelihood of its licensed buskers.
“The reason given for the suspension is that stations will be busier than usual.
“However, the suspension of the whole scheme would include pitches that are not at risk of overcrowding, and it would therefore make sense to only suspend pitches that are at risk of overcrowding, as we understand has happened in the past.
“Furthermore, we are advised that busking was permitted during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend celebrations and was carried out without any incident or problem whatsoever.”
The MU has written an open letter to Transport for London about their decision to close busking pitches during the 10 day period of public mourning 🧵👇
— Musicians' Union (@WeAreTheMU) September 14, 2022
The MU noted that the national lockdowns had a “devastating impact” on musicians and said those it had heard from were worried about losing further income during the cost-of-living crisis.
It said: “We ask that you do not prevent musicians from earning a living at this time but instead give them the opportunity to play their instruments and provide TfL commuters with music that will comfort them and lift their spirits during this period of mourning.”
Jamie Pullman, the MU’s London regional organiser, said: “The MU has been in contact with many musicians who have been denied an opportunity to earn a living and wholeheartedly support their view that they should be allowed to continue to busk on the Underground.
“Given that music plays such a central role in national events – royal weddings and now the funeral of the Queen – it is absurd to suggest that it is a disrespectful activity.
“Busking went ahead safely during the recent Jubilee celebrations, so we believe that concerns about overcrowding are overstated.”
A TfL spokesperson said: “During the period of national mourning we have taken the decision to pause the busking scheme across our network in order to maximise space for a very large expected number of passengers on the network.
“The ability to have busking in our stations is based on the assessment of conditions from the teams that operate the Tube.
“Given the expected large numbers of people travelling to London during the mourning period, and the demand this puts on the transport network, it has been decided that the scheme should be closed during this time.
“This approach is essential so that our staff can focus on keeping everyone safe and secure, and to maximise available space in stations.
“The decision was not taken lightly and was done so as part of broader considerations about how we look after the very high numbers of customers in the coming days.”
The BBC’s Last Night Of The Proms and Radio 2’s Live In Leeds festival are among the music events that were cancelled following the Queen’s death last Thursday while the Mercury Prize ceremony in London was postponed at the last minute.