Rules for street entertainers could soon be re-tuned.
Nanaimo city council has called for a review of a bylaw that lays out rules buskers have to play to, such as where they can croon and for how long.
Catherine Davis, a street entertainer who called for a review, takes issue with singers not being allowed to use a vocal mike. She believes the bylaw was created because there were problem panhandlers, but buskers and street entertainers are not panhandlers, bag ladies or sleeping on the streets, she said.
“The people playing on your streets are professional entertainers and as such we need tools of our trade, in particular for singers we need a vocal microphone,” said Davis, who finds she can’t play at one particular location at Trollers Fish and Chips if there’s a bagpiper or another busker around the corner with an piano or non-acoustic musical instruments.
Marty Steele, a local musician and street entertainer, said at a recent council meeting that street entertainers are a very important and integral part of the music in town, and sometimes they present the first image that many out-of-towners have of the city.
He takes issue with a lack of spots on the harbour where street entertainers are allowed to play, lack of an auditioning process and lack of bylaw enforcement.
“There are some street entertainers … that far exceed the two-hour limit that they perform on the spots, there are also those who are performing in spots not duly marked or even perform without a licence,” he said. “It’s time for the bylaw officers to start doing their job and patrol the harbour. It’s one of the reasons I think we pay our licensing fee.”
Steele also suggested a higher licensing fee to use the Trollers location where he said competition is fierce.
Rod Davidson, city manager of bylaw, regulation and security, said there are very few complaints about the bylaw from businesses or buskers and bylaw officers also patrol busking spots daily and try to respond to complaints, although he said there is going to be a lack of enforcement the hours they don’t work.
“As a whole, I think the bylaw works reasonably well,” he said, adding there aren’t shouting matches between buskers about who can be at a spot at any particular time and he said it controls the number of buskers so they aren’t all in a one-block radius, trying to overpower each other with their volume.
Mayor Bill McKay, who made the motion, would like see best practices. He said he doesn’t think you’ll make everyone happy, but believes the whole industry has seen good examples, not so good ones and has concerns, so he’d like to see a review, possibly pertaining to busking spots, audition process and enforcement. A timeline for a review is not yet known.