Council to clamp down on beggars but, people say, leave the music men alone

Buskers sing and play musical instruments, usually to provide for themselves but sometimes for charity.

Sunday March 27 2016

A beggar lies on the ground asking for some money. PHOTO | AFP

A beggar lies on the ground asking for some money. PHOTO | AFP 

By GERRY LOUGHRAN
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Beggars, buskers and chuggers ... you can’t miss them in most British cities and one, Newcastle upon Tyne, has decided to enforce a crackdown. Not everyone agrees.

Blanket-wrapped beggars, mostly young men, can be seen on busy shopping streets with a cap or a Styrofoam cup for coins at their feet and often a dog for a pet.

Buskers sing and play musical instruments, usually to provide for themselves but sometimes for charity. A middle-aged Scot who performs most days in a Metro station, has a notice on his music stand saying he has already disbursed £10,000 (Sh1.4 million) to hospital charities. He plays the accordion and sings Irish and Scottish songs and I have to say he is terrible. It’s a case of wince as you pay.

The word chugger comes from “charity mugger.” The chugger is an official collector for a leading charity. Instead of standing in a shop doorway quietly rattling a tin, he is armed with pen and clipboard and pursues passers-by, pressing them to commit to direct debits and other long-term support for his charity.

Tough measures were decided by Newcastle city council after a public consultation found huge support for restrictions on certain public behaviour. Almost 72 per cent of people polled wanted a ban on alcohol on the street and 71.9 per cent pressed for action against aggressive begging – some citizens said they had been sworn at.

The Council prepared a Public Space Protection Order to enable the authorities to take enforcement action against anyone who causes “harassment, alarm or distress” to the wider public. Offenders will be hit with a £100 (Sh14,450) fixed penalty, which could increase to £1,000 (Sh144,500) if not paid.

ORDER WAS REMOVED

Busking was originally part of the Order but was removed when 61 per cent of people said it was not a problem. This was backed up by a column, Tweets & Posts, in the local newspaper, where the majority of 14 contributions were positive on busking.

Sam, “Busking is not all about money, it’s about culture and sharing art;” Nicola, “Buskers are fab;” Jess: “Not bothered about buskers;” Pete: “I love buskers, some are brilliant musicians.”

It is clearly chugging which most angers the public, with one resident complaining, “Chuggers are awful. Take one walk up the main street and you can be stopped at least six times.” Another said, “Charity collectors are annoying and quite often offensive.” A third: “Chuggers give me a reason not to give to a charity when normally I would be happy to.”

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Talking of beggars, the following comes into that column headed: “Conversations I never expected to have.” There is a beggar at the same spot on the pavement every time I walk into town and I usually give him something. Last week, as I dropped my coin into his hat, he asked, “Do you have any grandchildren?”

“No,” I said, “why?”

“Well,” he said, “somebody gave me these Easter eggs” – he held up a big blue box – “but I’m glucose-intolerant and I cannot eat chocolate.” One thing I never expected to hear from a beggar: “I’m glucose intolerant, don’t give me chocolate.”

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The practice of sexting among young people is skyrocketing and politicians cannot agree what to do about it. Sexting is sending sexually explicit texts and/or photos from one mobile phone to another. In 2013, police investigated 51 such cases involving under-16s. By last year, this figure had risen to 665. The figures have ballooned since the emergence of smartphone apps such as WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Sexting is mostly between young people in a relationship. But the practice can be used malignantly. Several cases have emerged of a boy or girl sending naked photos of their former partner when their relationship broke down.

The opposition Labour party is pressing for sex-education, which would cover the dangers of sexting, to be made statutory. At present it is compulsory from age 11 in state-funded schools but this does not apply to academies (schools outside of local council control) and the government has stated that all schools must become academies by 2022.

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Headline in the Daily Mail: “Swiss billionaire Margareta Louis-Dreyfus gives birth to twins aged 53.”

And more on the war of the sexes: A couple go for dinner at a fine restaurant. Says the husband, “This food looks delicious, let’s eat.” Wife: “But darling, at home you always pray before you eat.” Husband: “That’s OK, the chef knows how to cook.”

Employee: “You are a lion at work. What are you like at home?” Boss: “I’m a lion at home, too, but there I have a lion tamer.”

Married man’s prayer: “God, you gave me childhood, then took it away. You gave me youth and took it away. I have now had a wife for many years. Just reminding you.”

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