Pedlars, laws and citizens

The UK Government is considering changes to the law over pedlars – nowadays I think this often means street traders, but originally and also means itinerant traders – so that they will no longer need a license. See this BBC report and the Pedlars.info website for more details. It’s clearly a complicated issue, and what strikes me is how this contemporary debate enacts age-old questions about who has the right or permission to occupy or travel through a landscape, and how often the answers to these questions are determined by occupation or activity – whether you’re allowed here depends on what you’re doing here. I must say that, as I walk through city centres I almost never buy from street traders, and find they can be slightly annoying (though not as annoying as chuggers). But I’m not sure I would want either national or local government to pander to my consumerist ego by removing this annoyance. There’s something medieval about street traders, buskers, acrobats and performers being the kind of harmless gauntlet a citizen has to run, and something healthy, it seems to me, about the city as this busy and unprivate place. 

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3 comments
  1. Angela France said:

    I agree – I always feel buskers, pedlers etc add to the quality of life – and the alive-ness – of a town centre.

  2. Chuggers are an interesting lot. As I walk across New Street in Birmingham, they all have their own distinct ways of attempting to engage and snare their prey into their clutches: The women are Lolita-like and coquettish to the point of distraction; “Where have you been all my life? Waiting for me?” they coo. The men, handsome and matey, appear like into your line of view, dancing and preening like Dick van Dyke’s Bert, a Sammy Davis Jnr character or The Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. An arm round your shoulder, a song on their lips, arms wide open as they walk backwards as you make your way down the street. Chuggers I feel, can definately be added to the list of ‘acrobats and performers’ of which you speak!

    • They’re a bit like C21 quacks, aren’t they, selling you something they don’t care about themselves. And yes, the subtext is definitely, ‘I’m young and perky and I might have sex with you/be your friend.’

      On the other hand, I’m now old enough that people handing out flyers for club nights ignore me completely. I’ve now got a short window before they start offering to help me cross the road…

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