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'Vague and poorly written': Galway buskers are irate at council plans for new restrictions

Galway City Council has opened a public consultation for people to have their say on proposed new bye-laws.

shutterstock_635263265 Shutterstock / Jon Chica Shutterstock / Jon Chica / Jon Chica

GALWAY BUSKERS ARE furious at new city council plans that they say would severely limit their ability to earn a living.

They’ve started a campaign aiming to derail plans from the city council, with a new set of bye-laws applying to buskers now out to public consultation.

Some of the new laws would see:

  • A street performer would only be able to perform in any one space for a maximum of two hours.
  • A street performer “shall not act, say, do or sing anything that is likely to cause alarm, distress or offence to any member of the public”.
  • Drum kits are forbidden. Amps are allowed, but only battery-powered ones up to 6pm.
  • A street performer must “immediately cease a performance in circumstance where a crowd have gathered thereby stopping the movement of pedestrians”.

Fianna Fáil councillor for Galway City East, Michael J Crowe, told TheJournal.ie that the biggest problem is “amplification and the levels of it”.

“It’s affecting people that are working in the city centre, around Shop Street and William Street,” he said. “There can be a loud noise continuously for hours outside their door, and it’s affecting them in their work”.

Street performer Niceol Blue, who represents the busking community in Galway, however, told TheJournal.ie that the recommendations are “really vague, poorly written and open to interpretation”.

“Some of the suggestions don’t even make sense,” she said. “Outlawing a crowd would effectively ban street theatre.

The reason I do this is because I want a crowd to gather. If I have to stop every time I get a crowd I won’t be able to make much of a living.

“We’re working really hard,” she added. “We’ve tried to engage with the council to suggest our own proposals but to no avail.”

On the issue of performances drawing crowds, Crowe said that while they can be entertaining, having one gather can block the often narrow streets in the city centre.

“These perimeters can form 15, 20 yards away,” he said. “These kinds of things have been a problem for many years.”

As well as encouraging people to send in their own submissions to the council before the 20 December deadline (to environment@galwaycity.ie), Blue and the other buskers have planned a big event to draw attention to the situation.

“We’re throwing our biggest busk ever on 10 December,” she said. “We have around 30 local buskers who’ll all be participating, and we invite anyone else who wants to join in to come along.

We’re not against laws per se, but these laws proposed would be catastrophic for us. I love Galway. But this would force buskers out. Some of us participated in the Galway 2020 campaign (the successful campaign to be European capital of culture) and we could be forced out before that time even comes.

For Councillor Crowe, however, he thinks that things need to change with regard to buskers on Galway streets.

He said: “It’s certainly not working the way it is now. Change is needed.

Buskers will still have ample space and opportunity to carry out their act. There may be some restrictions… but we’re looking to have the minimum [negative] effect on a minimum amount of people with this. We have to look at the whole city.

Read: Fed up with karaoke artists masquerading as buskers? Dublin City Council vote on new restrictions tonight

Read: Buskers in Dublin have been banned from using backing tracks

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