AN OPERA singer who was interrupted mid-performance and told she could not sing in public is calling on the council to change its rules.

Nicola Mills was singing in Walthamstow High Street when she claims an officer from Waltham Forest Council stopped her and told her she would need to pay a fee to busk.

The 40-year-old said she was “annoyed” because shoppers and people living in the area had praised her performance.

Ms Mills of Coppermill Lane, Walthamstow said: “Why would you stop something that’s nice for people? I’m not doing any harm.

“It was frustrating because people were coming up asking me to carry on and they told the man to leave me alone.

“All I’m trying to do is bring some bit of light to the world and share my good energy with others.

“People living in the apartments above came down to ask me to keep singing. I said am I bothering you and they said no, not at all. If I was to hire the street to sing it would not cover my costs.”

Busking is legal in the UK but councils have the power implement their own byelaws when it comes to how street performers can work.

Ms Mills, who has been opera singing since she was 15, is originally from Lancashire.

After living abroad for eight years and performing at opera houses around the globe, she moved back to the UK last August after becoming “really homesick.”

Although she has entertained huge crowds at the Flemish Opera, the Dutch National Opera and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, her favourite audience is people on the street.

She said: “I love singing on the street for free because a lot of people can’t afford to go to an opera house. My motto is ‘opera for the people’.

“Music is uplifting and it can change somebody’s day. For me it’s about making a difference. One woman said she was depressed and listening to me sing cheered her up.

“I have performed for homeless people before and donated my earnings to them.

“A mother approached me and said her daughter was preparing for an audition and she couldn’t afford singing lessons so I offered to give them for free. Somebody did this for me when I was younger and I like to give back.”

Ms Mills regularly takes to the streets of the capital to offer her entertainment free of charge and without having to pay a fee.

But she says the people she would like to perform for most are those she has to pay to sing to.

She added: “What I love about Walthamstow is the sense of community. There’s a broad spectrum of people from different places here and there’s a harmony about it.

“I busk all over London except here. I’m not going to leave Walthamstow and it’s a shame I can’t sing where I live.”

Cllr Simon Miller, Waltham Forest Council portfolio lead member for regeneration and high streets, said people need only apply once to perform in public multiple times.
He said: “We welcome street performers who bring music to brighten our days.

“Anyone can apply via our website and all we ask is that performers have public liability insurance.

“We do receive a lot of requests from different individuals and groups who wish to perform - the booking system means we can ensure that everyone has a chance to showcase their talents without there being musical clashes, which may disturb shoppers and workers.”

For more information about Ms Mills click here.