Busker Rights and 21st Century Payments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Protecting NYC Buskers’ Rights, and giving them cashless payments

Digital payments and an end to the wrongful arrest of New York City buskers.

PRESS RELEASE HERE .
PRESS KIT HERE

New York, NY, 30th March 2015: The Busking Project, a global advocacy movement, has launched a digital toolkit that will transform the way in which buskers (street performers) get paid. New York Buskers are now using special edition “BuskNY” signs that enable them to accept cashless payments in the street.

New Yorkers carry less cash every year, putting traditional busking at risk. With an increasing number of audience members having to ask ‘do you take cards?’, buskers are beginning to modernize. Using The Busking Project’s digital platform, busk.co, they can print and display signs directing passersby to their profiles. There, people can donate to the busker via PayPal, become a ‘fan’ and stay in touch.

However, this is not just about money. Nick Broad, The Busking Project’s founder, has greater goals:

“We’ve released these signs to help stop busking from dying out in a cashless society,” he says, “destroying the livelihoods of thousands of artists in New York.

“But this isn’t just a tech solution. We want a complete paradigm shift. At best, buskers are seen as failed artists. At worst they’re seen as criminals, or ‘beggars with a gimmick’ – and often treated that way too.”

For example, despite being a city with a star-studded lineage of street performers (including the late Robin Williams), buskers here continue to get fined and arrested on a daily basis. Recent buskers who have decided to fight the NYPD in court over wrongful arrest include Erik Meier, Andrew Kalleen, James Woodard and James Gallagher. Even worse – this year is the 30th anniversary of the legalisation of busking on NYC’s subways and streets, and can otherwise be viewed as the 30th year in which buskers are being unlawfully ticketed and arrested for busking.

From the complaint filed by Kalleen, Woodard and Gallagher’s attorney, Paul Hale:

“Despite the law being clear for over three decades, New York City police officers continue to harass, evict, assault and arrest New Yorkers for playing music underground in perfectly legal circumstances…. The NYPD has specifically ordered the illegal conduct of its officers by directive. This is evidenced by numerous statements made to the arrestee plaintiffs by their arresting officers. Statements such as, ‘There is a memo that told us to clear you guys out’; ‘Our bosses are making us do this’ and ‘If I don’t write you a ticket my boss will think I’m not doing anything.’”

Broad continues:

“I’d heard that the cops themselves didn’t know the law, so, I called my local precinct in Manhattan and pretended I was an out-of-town busker who wanted to know where I could play. The cops told me ‘anywhere, you just gotta get a permit from the mayor’s office’. So I called 311, and they rightly told that no-such permit exists. That famously farcical video showing Andrew Kalleen’s wrongful arrest just isn’t surprising to any busker in New York City. They’ve all been there.”

In December 2014, The Busking Project moved back to New York to partner with BuskNY, who came up with the slogan on the signs: “Celebrating 30 years of legal freelance performance in the New York City subway.” The signs have been designed to appear more “legit”, in an attempt to remind police officers that busking is a legitimate exercise, and therefore lower the fine and arrest rate of buskers in the city.

Matthew Christian, the founder of BuskNY, says:

“As the 30th anniversary of legal subway performance arrives, it is tragic that New York City continues to eject, ticket, and arrest the artists who entertain over four million daily riders. BuskNY’s mission is to ensure that these performances take place without unlawful harassment.”

Broad says:

“It’s amazing to see what BuskNY is doing, and we’re honoured to be helping them, but it’s a shame that organisations like theirs even have to exist. Busking is being increasingly criminalised around the world by misguided local authorities who believe they are acting in the public’s interest. In fact, they are silencing an art form that has significant, demonstrable social and economic benefits.

“We know from our research on busking that the digital revolution is a real threat to buskers’ livelihoods, and that people are willing to pay buskers with their cards. But our main aim is to get local authorities to start encouraging artists to revitalise our increasingly sterile and homogenous town centres, instead of treating them like criminals.”

Paul Hale, the attorney representing these buskers, is actively seeking other buskers/plaintiffs to join the lawsuit.  He can be contacted at 718-554-7344

ENDS

 

 

CONTACT SHEET:

 

Nick Broad, Founder, The Busking Project
347-622-8780
nick@busk.co
busk.co

Matthew Christian, Founder, BuskNY
matthew@buskny.com
802-753-6306
buskny.com

Andrew Kalleen, busker suing NYPD
mailto:andrew.kalleen@gmail.com

James Gallagher, busker suing NYPD
ghstsnguitars@hotmail.com

Paul Hale, attorney representing buskers
paul@halelegalgroup.com
718-554-7344

Coyote and Crow, buskers in NYC
coyoteandcrowmusic@hotmail.com
315-408-2442

 

Additional Busker Event Notice (not a busk.co event):

When: Thursday, April 2nd, 7 p.m.
Where: City Lore Gallery  56 East First Street, New York, NY 10003
Admission: $5 suggested donation at the door.
What: Busking at 30: Sounds and Stories from the Underground
Who: Roger Manning, the guitarist whose historic 1985 legal challenge opened the subway to artistic performance. Lloyd Carew-Reid, whose challenges completed the legalization. With performances also from Morgan O’Kane (headline act) and Theo Eastwind, producer of Busker Ball. And Susie Tanenbaum, who works at the Queens Borough President’s Office and previously wrote the book “Underground Harmonies: Music and Politics in the Subways of New York.
Why: “With the recent rise in street performer arrests and harassment, “Busking at 30″ aims to highlight the importance of this underground culture and what it brings to the diverse and vibrant fabric of New York City.”

Further Reading:

Kalleen, Woodard and Gallagher VS the City of New York (ongoing). PLEASE NOTE: Paul Hale, the attorney representing these buskers, is actively seeking other buskers/plaintiffs to join the lawsuit.  He can be contacted at 718-554-7344

Know your Rights”, by Susie Tanenbaum and City Lore, is an online guide detailing the rights and responsibilities of New York Subway artists.

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Busk.co Launch in London

Full Press Kit Here

Press Release Here

Photos and media for Press Kit here

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Busking modernised for a 21st century audience

Cashless payments, better social status and a paradigm shift

London, UK 10th March 2015: Today, The Busking Project, an advocacy movement for buskers worldwide, has launched a digital toolkit for buskers that will transform the way in which they make an income. London Buskers will be able to download special edition signs that enable them to accept cashless payments in the street, and turn passersby into long-term online fans.

The average amount of cash people are carrying in the UK has dropped under £20. This change in behaviour is putting the traditional art of busking at risk. With an increasing number of audience members having to ask, “do you take cards?” it is time for buskers to modernise.

busk.co (The Busking Project’s digital platform) enables buskers to embrace digital payments. They can print and display signs with a unique URL, e.g. busk.co/1234. Audiences can go to their online profiles, donate to them via PayPal, become a “fan” and hire them for gigs.

However, this is not just about money. Nick Broad, The Busking Project’s founder, has greater goals:

“We’ve released these signs today to help stop busking from dying out in a cashless society, destroying the livelihoods of thousands of artists around the UK.

“But this isn’t just a tech solution. We want a complete paradigm shift. At best, buskers are seen as failed artists. At worst they’re seen as criminals, or ‘beggars with a gimmick’ – and treated that way too. It doesn’t matter how good you are. Even Boris’ “best buskers”, the Kings Parade, were arrested last year in Leicester Square. The MET said busking is “a driver of crime”. Our FOI request, submitted along with Lord Clement Jones, proved that the MET’s statement was based on gangs and gamblers, not busking at all.

“We are hoping that using our service, buskers across London and the UK will become networked and involved with each other, so that next time a busker gets arrested a lot of people will find out about it very quickly. Hopefully if the cops are considering arresting someone, and they see one of our signs, they’ll think twice about it.”

In the last year there has been a succession of local authorities arresting and criminalising buskers, not least in London, prompting Lord Clement Jones to bring it up in the House of Lords. He says:

We need a change of mindset by some local authorities. Busking should be seen as life enhancing and an essential part of our culture in Britain. We must ensure that legislation designed to deter antisocial behaviour is not used to prevent appropriate busking.

In Camden, buskers now need a council-appointed panel to deem them okay to perform, or face a £1,000 fine and having their equipment confiscated. In Bath, they’re looking to use the controversial Antisocial Behaviour Act 2014 to make busking a criminal matter. Canterbury will potentially confiscate and destroy buskers’ instruments. Dublin, York, Liverpool, Chester, Glasgow…all have recently considered changes in policy.

The Busking Project has recently been awarded funding from Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading Tech for Good funder, to develop a mobile app that will further support buskers to become financially empowered. The app will enable buskers to accept cashless payments on the street, sell their music direct to people via their phones, hire out their services for gigs and build lasting relationships with their audiences.

It will also record data that will help researchers link busking to the social and economic benefits it provides to society, enabling advocates to fight for buskers’ rights when they next get arrested or licensed out of existence.

Dan Sutch, Head of Development Research at Nominet Trust says:
‘As the world moves online, it is vital that our most excluded groups don’t get left behind. We need to find new ways to ensure that people, who are often financially and digitally, as well as socially excluded, are able to benefit from the sorts of frictionless micropayments that larger enterprises now rely on. This is a wonderfully humane project from a team that is clearly so dedicated to its target audience. To have had a hand in the development of ‘the Airbnb for busking’ would be something we’d be enormously proud of!’

Please find attached quotes, contact details for London buskers you can interview and media.

 

ENDS

 

Contact details below

 

Nick Broad, Founder
+44 7736 925 000
nick@busk.co
skype: omnigut
busk.co

Nick is currently in New York City for TBP’s New York launch (another city where buskers are continually being arrested).

Press Kit Here

 

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Busk for the Spitalfields Crypt Trust, 14th June

Spitalfields Crypt TrustOn Sunday 14th of June, the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT) are putting on the “Shakespeare’s Shoreditch Garden Party”.

This is a summer fete to celebrate the launch of the new Shakespeare’s garden at St Leonard’s Church.

They are paying travel expenses (for local buskers) and lunch. Here’s why you should get involved:

In aid of SCT, a local charity that has been working with the homeless and people in recovery from drink and drug addictions since 1965. This year we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary and this is one of our celebratory events.

And a quote they just got in:

“i got a nice woman now nice home everything i could ask for not in doorway. If something is bothering me now i talk it out with someone, not drink it out because the problem still there next day and day after so i can say this. SCT showed me how to live again. i spent more time in the cells i could of got job there. SCT turned my life around.”

When: 2-5pm on Sunday 14 June
Where: St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch High Street, E1
Submit by: Friday 13 March
Who you are: a busker doing a Shakespeare-related act (if possible), but pretty-much any act is invited.
Payment: Travel expenses (if you’re local) and lunch
Contact: Sonia Rai communications@sct.org.uk

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Criminals of Culture?

Those who were once considered the cultural ambassadors of our art forms, the sacred keepers of our rich heritage, are now treated like criminals and beggars.

Who are they, and Where are they?

Kathputli Colony, in New Delhi, India, is the world’s largest settlement of street performers, inhabited by over 3,500 families of artists. This in situ slum houses performers from all over the country, with over 60 trades, ranging from puppeteers, magicians, musicians and dancers, to traditional healers, acrobats, stilt walkers, painters, and so on.

Some of these performers are World Record holders, others are artists who have spread the splendid vivaciousness of their art internationally, as representatives of India. The magic and charm of this colony has reverberated all over the world.

Kathputli Colony, the world’s largest settlement of street performers

Image from India TV News

What’s the pressing issue for Kathputli Colony?

Many of the current issues that the buskers of the Kathputli Colony are facing are due to a political and societal conspiracy.

They have been deemed as beggars and criminalized by the government under The Bombay Prevention Of Begging Act, 1959. Moreover, in the attempt of making New Delhi a slum free city the land of this settlement has been sold to private developers who are envisioning a concrete jungle in place of this reservoir of culture. They’ve made provision for matchbox size apartments for the street artists.

The street performers of Kathpitli Colony are also battling with the reality of their art forms being on the verge of extinction, in large part due to the dwindling support and respect they get from the government and society at large. Instead of being treated like the ambassadors of this country’s cultural heritage, their existence is belittled, with no acknowledgement, and no provision of space to showcase their art form.

Kathputli Colony, the world’s largest settlement of street performers
Image from the Independent

Do they want matchbox apartments?

No. The artists are not looking for high-rise buildings to live in. They are happy with their present settlement, but want initiatives to better their day-to-day lives, such as sanitation, water and cleanliness of the colony. They fear that their rehabilitation in modern day apartments would curb their freedom to practice their art. Moreover, the essence of spontaneity in their creativity (enhanced by their current communal and participatory interaction) would be taken away.

They are not asking the government for money or jobs. They just want a free space, like Santa Monica or Venice Blvd in LA or Covent Garden in London, where they could freely perform and earn through tips in their hats. This will not only give them a sense of stability but would also re-popularize these old art forms, especially among new generations.

What’s the aim of ‘Criminals Of Culture?’

Our aim is to reinstate respect for these artists by making performing arts a more active part of the education system.

Street performance creates a triune impact on society. First, the learning curve and performance of children will rapidly grow, as they will imbibe education through more creative paths. Through a single art form like puppetry they can learn multiple skills, like painting, dress designing, music composition, and so on, besides the art of puppetry itself.

Second, the artists will have a more stable base, and will receive a sustainable mode of living. And third, society will be able to preserve the country’s heritage.

Kathputli Colony, the world’s largest settlement of street performers
Image from Framed Magazine

Why do we need to engage globally to save them?

Street performing is an important example of creativity and individuality – an inherent part of any urban landscape. They make our streets lively, dynamic and exciting, providing a sense of belonging and trust in the community.

But, as this sense of personal connect is eroding, many forms of performing arts are under threat today all over the world. As cultural practices become standardized, many traditional practices are abandoned. Even in cases where they become more popular, only certain expressions may benefit while others suffer.
If we can’t do anything to save the World’s largest settlement of street performers, then the future of many others is also at risk. Just sparing a thought is no longer enough. They deserve to be fought over for are they really ‘Criminals Of Culture?’

Wait for the next post to see a new set of artists and skills being unfolded in trailers for ‘Criminals of Culture?’.

Director & Producer: Pallavi Jain
Cinematographer: Akhil
Edited By: Kabeer
Sound Engineer: Rahul

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Man Busks After Daughter Is Hit by Car. Gets in Trouble

Busking in Phuket Town

begging-and-busking-ksr-1

begging-and-busking-ksr-2

Foreign-Man-His-Family-Begging-On-KSR

 

 

 

 

 

I found out on “Stick Boy Bangkok” that photos were circulating in a Reddit forum, showing a European man (“a farang”) with two young children busking in Patong, Thailand.

His signs said he was trying to raise cash to cover insurance costs for his daughter’s operation.

Immigration Police Step In

Almost immediately, Lukas Matena, the farang, was told that foreigners collecting donations is illegal, and that he had to go to the embassy to seek help. Lukas explained:

“We arrived in Phuket on January 4 We were inside Chalong temple. I was parking the motorbike and did not know Rebeka had decided to cross the road by herself. A car coming from the inside the temple hit her and caused three fractures in her jaw.

We were to have left Phuket last Thursday, but because of the accident we have to wait until our daughter gets better.”

Rebeka had to have two operations. The driver’s insurance covered the 800,000 baht hospital bill (around £16,000 / $24,000), but the family needed extra for their extended stay in Thailand.

The Result

Lukas had busked for one night only, “in case of excess medical bills not covered by the insurance”, but stopped when he discovered that the insurance would pay for everything.

However, forums began to buzz about what he should have done:

Why didn’t he have travel insurance to cover his family? Why did he busk “in case of” insurance excesses, and not wait until afterwards? Why should it be illegal for a father to look after his kids by busking in this way? Surely he should be commended!

…and yet, then people began to explain that they’d seen him busking before the accident, back in December, and he was using his kids to hat the crowd. This is definitely against the law. He’s a freelance UX designer and globetrotter.

So, he broke the law, he brought his young kids to Thailand, without travel insurance, and got them to help him busk, and was breaking the law. Buuuuuuuut, they were entertaining people, and probably having a great time.

Irresponsible parent, or awesome holiday maker?

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The Surface NYC

Some fantastic videos from The Surface NYC

Shane Conerty

My name is Shane Conerty, I grew up in Pittsburgh, I moved out here when I was 18 and lived all over, Vancouver, Hawaii, Australia and north Carolina etc., been back in new york for two years now. I have a project called Color Collage, you can find this project in colorcollage.net, just recently signed to a label here in Brooklyn called paper garden records, got a single coming out in February the record is coming out later this year, why the subways of NYC? I mean I’ve been doing this everywhere I lived since I was 18, all over the world, in a lot of different cities, its something I really like to do its payed practice and every time is different…
– #ShaneConerty

SONG TITLED :: “That’s All She Wrote”

Contact ::

Website // ColorCollage.Net

Email // Thecolorcollage@gmail.com
Fb // facebook.com/ColorCollage
Insta // @color__collage
Twitter // @Color_Collage
soundcloud.com/colorcollage

 

Verbal Ase

“Subway trains and stations pretty much becomes my stage, even on days that I don’t perform and I walk on the trains, I would just stand there and say to myself “Yes my stage” even though I’m not doing anything”.

“Some people look at me and they don’t know what I’m going to do, so I actually get intimidated a lot, once I see somebody smile towards me, It takes a little bit of that tension off of my shoulders from the stage freight, People can feel my energy, I think its why people like me so much in the subways, trains, and stations”.

“one of my experiences overtime is when hurricane sandy came to New York and I was actually very reluctant to perform because I didn’t want to annoy people, so I went out and it actually turned out to be one of my best days ever, I had so many people coming up to me thanking me personally for cheering them up from having a bad day of no power or flooded streets, for me thats actually better than money, people coming up to me and they thank you and they smile, thats more valuable than money to me”.
-VerbalAse

Contact ::

Booking // 212-224-0003

Email // info@verbalase.com

Website // verbalase.com

Instagram // @VerbalAse

 

Alejandro Salvia

TS NYC :: ”As I walked to scout the next The Surface NYC talent, I heard the echo of a powerful, melodic tune in the long hallway of Grand central station, I met Alejandro, such an amazing talent, dancer Katrina Moise was just a walking by stander who decided to videobomb the filming by dancing to his music, which ended up being a beautiful and powerful performance by both Alejandro and Kat, their chemistry was amazing, it was not planned or rehearsed in any way, just true natural talent, the art of bringing individuals together through music”

Alejandro Salvia ::

“Yo soy cantante de ópera, el estilo lírico es lo que he hecho toda mi vida. Desde que era un niño imitaba a Plácido Domingo y estudié y soy graduado de la Universidad de las Artes de Cuba, en canto lírico, pero soy versátil, no me gusta encasillarme, hago todo tipo de repertorio”.

“El subway de Nueva York ha sido una plataforma increíble. Cuando yo lllegué a esta ciudad estaba preocupado por dónde iba a estudiar, dónde iba a cantar, y sabes, estaba como estancado, de repente un día con mis amigos pasé por el Subway, y bromeando con ellos me puse aa cantar a ver si alguien me daba un dólar, sabes, bromando con ellos y de repente me di cuenta de que a las personas yo les gustaba, entonces me dije: Ah no, espérate, ya tengo un lugar donde ensayar! Empecé a venir acá a cantar, y visualizaba en mi mente, este es mi lugar para practicar todo los días y de repente de convirtió en un lugar para hacer un concierto diariamente, porque la gente te hace sentir que estás en un concierto, cuando te graban con un celular yo me imagino que me están grabando en la televisión, no sé es un reto maravilloso, a mi me encanta”.

TRANSLATION:

“I am an opera singer, lyrical style is what I have done all my life. Since I was a child always imitating Placido Domingo, I studied, I am a graduate of the University Arts of Cuba, opera singing, but I’m versatile, I do not like to pigeonhole myself, I make all kinds of repertoire”.

The New York City subway has been an incredible platform. When I arrived to this city, I was worried about where I would go to school and where I was going to sing, and you know, I was stagnant, suddenly one day with my friends we went into the Subway, and jokingly I got up to sing to see if anyone would give me a dollar, you know, joking with them and suddenly I realized that people liked my work, so I said: Oh, wait!, now I have a place where I can rehearse! So, I started coming here to sing, and visualized in my mind, this is my place of practice where suddenly has become my every day concert, because people in the subway make you feel like you’re at a concert, when the people record me with their cell phones I imagine myself being recorded for TV, it’s a wonderful challenge, I love it”.

-#AlejandroSalvia

Contact ::

Alejandro Salvia
Facebook // Alejandro Salvia
Website // AlejandroSalvia.Com

[Dancer] Katrina Moise
Facebook // Katrina Moise
Instagram // @Trinamo7

 

THZ

“I was free styling in union square, and he was singing and also dancing in union square, we found out we lived in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn and shared the same musical taste, so we decided to perform together”

THZ Contact:
Email: Hackavelii7@gmail.com
Instagram: Zion_Mohammed

 

Najah Lewis

“The subway doubles as a practice spot, and booking agency. I love the amazing acoustics! It also affords me the opportunity to hone my craft, while making additional funds to supplement my income as an artist. I’ve booked some of my biggest gigs from being seen/heard underground. Also, the stations I play, have people from all walks of life. I meet so many wonderful people, who also support me outside the stations…by coming to my shows. My priority and obligation IS music. It’s my career, and where I put all my focus. It’s also where I get my greatest enjoyment. I perform at various venues in NYC, Recently, I performed at Waldorf Astoria & Rockefeller Center (Did I mention I absolutely LOVE performing)!!!”

-Najah Lewis

Bedford Ave. L Train // [Wrecking ball cover]

Instagram // najahmusic

Facebook // facebook.com/najahmusic

Email // najmonique@yahoo.com

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Busker punches man in face, then gets strangled

Meet David Mulder. He busks to raise money for his church. Let’s just remember that, when we look at what he’s famous for.

First up, when he punched a guy in the face for giving him a “wet willy”. The video of the ordeal was caught on camera, and for a long, long time it did the rounds under the title “Busker punches man in face”.

Editor’s note: not a recommended way of dealing with hecklers.

After that, he seems to have become a bit of a target for assholes. Like this guy, who put him in a headlock, choking him for long enough to get scary.

So now what?

Well, David Mulder’s next act includes a helmet and a cricket bat. He says:

“Most Aussies love cricket, especially after our Ashes win, so I’m hoping it’ll help promote a bit of love during my act instead of aggression.”

We wish him the best.

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Quasi-public space: the death of busking!

quasi-public space in harlow

Very few things make me angry; as a busker, a passive mentality is essential. Some of the things that have been said to me whilst performing have been far from complementary, but luckily this is rare. Recently though, I have been sticking it to the man and busking in an area in my home town of Harlow, which is quasi-public space.

Quasi-public space? What is that I hear you ask. From this Guardian article:

“Quasi-public space” is land that is open to all comers but which is under private ownership – classically, the public areas of shopping centres. As the law stands, owners of quasi-public space have absolute discretion over who can enter their property and what they can do there. Anyone remaining on their property without consent is liable for trespass.

What this means in practice that a busker can be harassed within 20 minutes of setting up, threatened with permanent exclusion from the entirety of the area…and the police basically treating you as a criminal.

Legally speaking, if you are not in this area as a consumer and/or have no commercial intensions, the property owner (and therefore their security staff) have the right revoke you invitation to be there. I can be banned from walking in MY town, for the act of busking.

This is where I rant!

Why do I have to be consumer constantly when walking in my town? Since when has walking in my town been by invitation? And since when was busking an illegal activity?

Why has this liberty been taken away from us?! Because the companies behind the building of these new areas in our towns and cities want to be able to control what goes on at the cost of our own civil liberties. Our rights have been taken away from us without our consent.

It means security staff on the authority of the landowners have the right to “act worse than ISIS”, as one bystander said while they were reprimanding me.

I understand that I am only looking at this form the perspective of busking, but the creation of a quasi-public space has an effect on peaceful protest and demonstration.

It will be the death of our towns let alone the death of busking!

Stefan Mullard

*Editor’s Note: If you want to read a brilliantly-written and very accessible criticism of the topic of how BIDs are limiting our rights in public spaces, click here.

The Busking Project feels that if businesses want to control public spaces, they should be allowed to under certain conditions. BIDs should be allowed to help the Local Authority clean the pavements in the area, and to do various infrastructure projects. But they should not be allowed to take away basic freedoms, like busking, or protest, or anything else that is our legal (or constitutional) right.

Whether ANY public spaces should be “sold off” to BIDs is another issue. But, if we could convince BIDs that buskers were good for the local economy, they could potentially be bigger advocates than Local Authorities, as complaints about busking would come up against the same indifference as complaints about advertising and signage – good for business is good for towns, so like it or leave it.

As we are increasingly finding, government-controlled public spaces are not necessarily freer than quasi public ones.

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New Laws Make it Tough (and impossible for some) to Busk in Dublin

Tonight, councillors in Dublin will vote on new busking bylaws in Dublin.

“Buskers could be faced with a complete ban on amplifying their music as Dublin City Council (DCC) gets ready to pass the capital’s first ever by-laws for street performers.”

That’s the headline that came into my inbox about a week or two ago. Damn.

The announcement was last November, and since then the Dublin City Council received 88 submissions from businesses asking for new rules around busking to be considered. 72% identified noise as a big issue, 31% wanted an outright ban on amplification. 17% wanted a ban on drums, 17% just wanted amps to be turned down.

The council took a look, and decided that there should be some kind of fee for artists who want to busk in Dublin – around €30, or €60 for using amplifiers. It’s not clear what this has to do with noise.

New regulations proposed would stop the use of knives, saws, fire toys and other dangerous items, unless the performer had liability insurance. No busking before 11 a.m. or after 11 p.m., except on Grafton Street, where buskers could perform until 1 a.m. on Fri/Sat nights. Buskers could only spend only two hours performing in any one location, and their amps would be limited to 80db.

Breaking the rules wouldn’t result in a criminal record, but there could be on-the-spot fines of €75, rising to €1,500 if convicted in court, and you could have your permit revoked – although the revocation process would have two different appeal mechanisms.

And busking was banned in two locations in Temple Bar, thanks to testimony from local residents.

Go here for a great video, with the reactions of local buskers.

Go here for some quotes about how awful buskers are.

Regulations were passed in mid-January. From this article:

The council instead proposed to designate a “public domain officer” to patrol the city measuring noise levels created by buskers. Those found to be consistently exceeding 80 decibels would have their permit revoked, and could be removed from the street by gardaí.

The “enforcement officer” will be able to check the decibel level of performers, their distance from businesses’ entrances, as well as enforcing the two-hour time limit rule that will be put on performers and where they locate themselves. Hopefully the officer will be hired from the artistic community, and be friendly to the artists, instead of a cop.

The new bylaws will be up for review 6 months after implementation.

The Journal did a poll of its readers on their tipping habits. The breakdown was a unanimous win for buskers;

9% said they couldn’t stand buskers, and they should all be banned.
12% tipped buskers frequently
25% said they don’t tip, but “live and let live”
51% said “only when they’re really good”

The Dublin City Council released this statement on the byelaws. If you want a copy of the report sent to DCC, or you want a copy of the DRAFT byelaws, you can do so by emailing cra@dublincity.ie

Then, according to this report in the Independent, “Audio tests reveal Dublin buskers are louder than drills and sirens”.

Noise levels from some buskers on Dublin’s Grafton Street are louder than jackhammers and ambulance sirens, and more than 10 decibels above the proposed limit set by Dublin City Council

A sample of noise-level readings conducted by the Sunday Independent with Hidden Hearing audiologist Keith Ross found that even innocuous-sounding musicians, plying their trade on the capital’s biggest pedestrian corridor on Friday afternoon, exceeded 90 decibels – the same noise level as a DC-9 jet engine coming in for landing at 6,080 feet; a motorcycle; or train-whistle at a distance of 500 feet.

On Grafton Street, two buskers playing in front of Brown Thomas using an amplified electric guitar and keyboards registered at 92.4 decibels – which is just shy of the 95 decibels that would be emitted by a subway train at 200 feet.

Metres away, a talented young female singer belting out Adele’s Make you Feel my Love on a microphone, accompanied by a young man playing an amplified acoustic guitar, measured at 95.5 decibels – a level at which hearing loss can result during sustained exposure.

And finally, this editorial by the Independent, which takes a more busker-friendly view:

The fine chaps at Lonely Planet have even dubbed Grafton Street the “buskers’ Carnegie Hall”. High praise indeed.

In fact, many of our biggest rock stars have cut their teeth strumming guitars on the cobbled streets. The Frames frontman Glen Hansard famously began busking after dropping out of school.

Curly wee Paddy Casey, dynamic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, Mundy and the Hothouse Flowers – then known as the Incomparable Benzini Brothers – all played to disinterested window shoppers.

Every Christmas there’s still a great deal of excitement to see if Bono will venture out of his plush Killiney abode to rattle out a few tunes where the street has a name.

But the city’s buskers aren’t all wannabe U2s. Performance art, too, is a big part of the scene. Thom McGinty, aka The Diceman, dressed up as the Mona Lisa, an An Post postcard, a condom and an Edwardian news vendor during the 80s – and helped transform the meaning of street performance in Dublin.

Comedian Dave McSavage was a Temple Bar regular, and the bold 007 himself, Pierce Brosnan, worked as a part-time fire-breather while he was at college.

Today, the streets of Dublin are crowded with giant bubble blowers, puppeteers and that solitary sand sculptor who laboriously carves the same fat Labrador out of wet sand grains, day after day. And that’s not to mention mime artists. I’m serious – don’t mention them.

But it’s the music that’s causing problems with residents and shop owners who have grown weary of hearing ropey and repetitive renditions of One. The appeals to ban amplifiers may have fallen on deaf ears but Dublin City Council – like Galway before it – is still looking to regulate busking with a new set of by-laws, which, if ratified, will take effect in March.

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Busker’s Bunkhouse needs your help to avoid being lost

Dear Buskers,

Just take the time to read the following paragraph. Then think about what you made the last time you went busking. And see if you could donate. The Busker’s Bunkhouse is one of those crazy-heartwarming institutions that makes the world seem like a better place, just because it exists.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Pearl and her husband transformed their garden into a tent city to house the homeless. Now, it has reformed into “Busker’s Bunkhouse”, a much needed haven for artists priced out by the constantly rising price of home ownership and rents in the Bywater. It is a free home for artists and musicians in New Orleans.

They are now at risk of losing their property (their home!) over a couple of thousand dollars.

Here’s a quote from one of the residents at the Bunkhouse:

Please help. This is serious.

Right now I am posting from the Busker’s Bunkhouse. We’ve spent today getting ready for the blast of cold air headed this way. We have people here, including me, who would have no other place to go out of the cold, and more will show up, I am sure.

For over ten years, Pearl Heart has given her house over to housing artists, musicians, travellers, drop-ins, and others. Right now, though, she is facing losing her property. If that happens, a vital resource will be lost, and everyone loses.

Please, if you believe in art, in music, or just believe that someone who has devoted so much of herself for decades to make the world a better place deserves a helping hand, help us in this time of need.

Please give. Please keep us going. Large or small, It all combines.

Please share, that is giving, too. Share far and wide!

If you would like to contribute:

Donate to the Busker’s Bunkhouse Online via GoFundMe
Busker’s Bunkhouse House Tax Crisis

Donate In Person or By Mail:
712 Alvar St.
New Orleans
LA 70117
payable to L P Scott
504-943-9149
Open House 10 am to 10 pm

Ms. Pearl of Busker's Bunkhouse

Not convinced? Here’s an interview with Ms. Pearl, answering some questions about the Bunkhouse. It’s a real tale of doing what you can with what you have!

Nick Broad: How many artists do you house at any one time?

Pearl Heart: The original bunkhouse holds five, and has its own bathroom, and a small area with a microwave and refrigerator. We’ve turned the two front rooms of the house into a small (and more private), efficiency apartment. It has a private bathroom and a kitchen sink. The shower in that one needs repair, and there are a couple of sagging floor joists. There is an upstairs efficiency that has a bathroom and sink, and is fully functional. We’ve put insulation up, but we now need wood for the walls.

We built a 17’X44′ building in the back in response to the squat fire. Four of the kids lived here and I knew all eight of them. The building we built in the back has no lights or water, but it does have a loft. At this time, we use the downstairs part for a band room, and the loft as a safe haven on the coldest nights.

NB: Sounds like a lot of work. What motivates you?

PH: Because Bywater is in the 20% that didn’t flood, the rents have more than tripled. This area has a long history of housing artists, but they are being priced out now, at an alarming rate, and more and more people are sleeping in abandoned buildings.

NB: How many have you housed in total?

PH: In reality, it would be impossible to say how many people we have housed in total. Hundreds. The award-winning documentary Kamp Katrina (iTunes link) depicts how we kept people after the storm. But actually, I was keeping people before the storm, when the documentary Mardi Gras Made in China was filmed. I was making a place for artists then, but the need was not as strong as it is now. Since the storm, the need for housing is rapidly growing larger.

NB: What is life like in the bunkhouse?

PH: Life at Busker’s Bunkhouse varies greatly depending upon who is staying here. It is a mildly dysfunctional family with constantly-changing members, with the exception of a few people, like Charles (who is the subject of the documentary Invisible Girlfriend), myself, and a few others who stay here seasonally. We make it a point to host a lot of foreign visitors. You can see them on my Facebook page Busker’s Bunkhouse Journal.

NB: What would you do with any extra money raised?

PH: Extra funds would be used for repairing the house and finishing the band room, providing musical instruments and instruction, affordable and safe housing for artists and buskers only, costumes, and bicycles.

Bicycles are extremely important in this area. Bywater has more bicycle-riders than anywhere else in America, and bicycles make the commute from the French Quarter to the bunkhouse much safer. We have had some buskers robbed or mugged, but so far, not one of them was riding a bicycle. We have bicycles in the yard now that are in need of repair, and we make that a top priority.

NB: Could you say a little about your advocacy work?

PH: Busker’s Bunkhouse has figured prominently in fighting for and securing buskers’ rights, holding meetings, and hosting the very first buskers’ rights meeting at the Iron Rail. We have also addressed City Hall on three occasions in support of artists and buskers rights. We’ve held several second-line parades in support of local artists and local music venues.

A journal of life in the bunkhouse: fb.com/Orleansbuskersbehindthescenes
Busker’s Bunkhouse, INC. Project World Connect: fb.com/BuskersBunkhouseInc
Free jazz funerals provided by Busker’s Bunkhouse to the community

Busker’s Bunkhouse Playlist. The full story of the Bunkhouse is there.

The Busker’s Bunkhouse became a non-profit, but they haven’t engaged in much fundraising yet, because of the accident and because of concerns about credibility after having seen gross misuse of non-profits in this area. We chose GoFundMe because it is open to the public.

We greatly appreciate any help you can offer. Thank you so much for your questions and concern.

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