Galway’s buskers have been having a “positive protest” today against the city council’s second attempt at passing busking bylaws with a day long gig.
The twelve hour busk-a-thon has been going since 10am on Saturday morning at the statue of Oscar Wilde on William Street, and will keep until 10pm.
Performers of every stripe have been playing rotation throughout the day, with volunteers manning an info desk with information about the bylaws for people who are interested.
They are also collecting signatures for a petition to present to the city council opposing their introduction.
Niceol Blue of the Galway Buskers Community said that these bylaws are “extremely restrictive” and will drive buskers out of Galway if they come into effect.
The biggest point of the bylaws is a complete ban on any use of an amp in a performance before 6pm in the evening.
Niceol said that for her and many other performers, having some form of amplification is the only way to be heard over the noise of the street.
“So that would leave me only four hours in the winter and five hours in the summer when I could use and amp, but then I’m competing with 30 other performers for a spot.”
Also of concern to buskers is a provision in the bylaws which states a performer “must immediately cease a performance in circumstance where a crowd have gathered thereby stopping the movement of pedestrians.”
According to Niceol this passage is too vague and doesn’t define what a crowd is or how long the performer must stop for.
“So basically if you’re any good at all, and draw an audience, sorry you can’t do that you have to stop.”
She also argues that a part of the bylaws saying a performer “shall not act, say, do or sing anything that is likely to cause alarm, distress or offence” falls afoul of Freedom of Expression in Article 40 of the constitution.
Rather than introducing bylaws, the busking community points to its voluntary Code of Conduct which has been in effect for roughly a year and a half.
“We have nearly one hundred percent compliance,” Niceol said, “and it’s a living document that we will review and renew every year and we will gladly take input on that from every member of this extended community.”
The city council had previously voted in busking bylaws last year, but due to a legal technicality had to start over.
The laws voted on in 2018 are being used as the draft text for this attempt.
These proposed bylaws are currently on display at city hall until March 1, and the public can make submissions to the council until March 8.
Despite the council’s decision last year, Niceol is hopeful that there’ll be a different outcome this time round.
“We only lost by one vote last time round. So we’re hopeful that we can convince the public and members of the council to get rid of this version of the bylaws,” she said.
“And then engage with us, we only want them to talk to us as a community. We will happily engage with them, we want to be a part of the process this time.”