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The Right to Be Heard: Why 'Public Space Protection Orders' Should Really be 'Rethunk'

25/06/2015 11:57 BST | Updated 25/06/2016 10:59 BST

If you haven't experienced it for yourself yet, please believe the hype. The UK's second city is currently a major cultural hub for creativity and innovation - with a thriving scene of diverse artists, thinkers and collaborators. A place where culture and consumerism meet and make love.

Whether you're into Calvin Klein or Calvin Harris, Michael Kors or Michael Jackson; a wander through the city centre seduces you with pavements of entertainment. The underlay of talented street performers, hymn singers and drummers naturally dillutes and mixes with the concentration of consumerism; reigniting a much needed sense of culture, humanism and natural leisure.

But due to Birmingham City council's recent announcement of a proposal to ban amplifiers through the enforcement of a Public Space Protection Order - these cultural jewels now face a very real threat of extinction.

Unfortunately, the proposed ban is said to be a response to a number of complaints made by the public regarding the noise. (Religious preachers in particular.)

According to change.org, "Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police received only 63 complaints about street speakers and buskers in 2013, and 153 in 2014. This is in a city of a million people."

So the question is: Are we attempting to solve small problems by potentially creating bigger ones?

The announcement of the proposal sparks other questions too. Simple questions that need to be asked when making major decisions which effect the general public - particularly in regards to orders such as these which can have a huge impact on a myriad of factors.

One such question is: Can we even classify this as logical, adult thinking?

I learnt at a young age that the art of adequate decision making lay in the simple yet crucial skill of being able to figure out whether the positives of a decision would outweigh the negatives.

But unfortunately those in power really don't seem to 'get it'.

So now we have decision makers hastily prioritsing a little bit of noise reduction over, well, everything else.

Which takes us to the next question...

Are we overlooking any potential major consequences? (Freedom of speech, maybe?)

Amidst the excitement at the prospect of being able to silence the odd religious preacher relentlessly reminding us of our sins, it seems we've forgotten that we'd also be putting a silencer on things that actually matter.

Aside from a quieter city centre, the ban would also mean that protesters would face the prospect of arrest and up to a £1000 fine for taking to the streets!

(While I'd be more likely to choose a group meditation flash mob over an emotional protest, I do believe the option should be there for those who want to choose the latter.)

A touch of forward thinking prompts another question: Could the decision cause an uncontrollable snowball?

I can't help but wonder if an amplification ban in the second city would serve as a cordial invite for other cities in the UK to join in. It only takes one act to give others permission to do the same.

Robert Brenchley from Birmingham says:

"I'm absolutely spitting about the proposed ban. The background noise in the city centre is such that you can't make yourself heard without amplification, and even with it, you won't hear anything more than about fifty yards away. It's only used in a few places, so where's the nuisance? It'll put a damper on busking and all kinds of public speaking, which many people enjoy, and where's the public interest in that?"

Which leads to the final question...

Do we actually understand the consequences and all those it will effect?

Aside from the above, I wonder how many of those in favour of the ban will have taken a moment to reflect on how this might affect the talented artists that contribute to the city's cultural scene?

Although for some people it's a bit of fun, for some people it's their livelihood.

Birmingham native and wandering wordsmith, Elektric shares her initial reaction:

"I didn't even know anything about the ban, until a lady from the BBC came up to me and told me the news, I have only just started busking and it has proven to be a nice income as I don't work at the minute. So to hear that they might be banning them, I was disappointed and disheartened because I rely on my amp to be heard. I have a message to deliver and I want people to hear my stories."

Talented local musician Ed Geater says:

"I feel quite strongly about the matter not just for other musicians' sake and because of the culture in the city, but also because I plan to start busking and amplification is key to what I do - essential in fact. I use a loop station and incorporate guitar playing, singing and beatboxing. I really want to be able to bring my set to the streets of Birmingham and if I weren't allowed to use amplification it just would not be the same."

Do we not all have a right to be heard? A right to earn alternatively? A right to share our stories and spread love through doing what we love?

For those who would like the busking scene to survive, if you're quick, you can head over to Birmingham be Heard and let them know your thoughts through their consultation.

Alternatively you can head to change.org and sign this petition.

But regardless of the outcome, beyond this individual issue, we need to get to grips with the importance of creating a society that nurtures the growth of critical thinkers, so that these types of poorly considered decisions are safely kept at bay!