Galway Street Club have warned that the newly introduced busking bylaws could drive them out of Galway if they want to continue playing.
Several aspects of the busking bylaws voted in by Galway City Council this month, to come into force next year, will make it impossible for Galway Street Club to legally play in the city they said.
“We are sorry to inform you that as of January 2nd, 2020 we will no longer be able to legally perform on the beautiful streets of Galway,” the band said in a statement online.
“Shop Street is where we all met and it’s where so many of us have learned and crafted our art. Just like so many other residents, blow ins, traveling artists and performers who visit the city every year, we have grown on this street because of the open artistic community that thrives here.”
The busking bylaws have been described by Galway Street Club as “restrictive, almost suffocating” regulations which will “take opportunity away from all future musicians, magicians, dancers and chancers”.
Three main restrictions laid down by the bylaws were of particular concern to the band: That a performers shall not “say, do, or sing anything that is likely to cause alarm, distress, or offence” to any member of the public, business or others.
This, the street band insists, is censorship that could open them up to a €1,500 if someone is having a bad day and feels like making a complaint.
Another section of the bylaws also restricts any performance in the protected streetscape which attracts a crowd. This, it is alleged, is punishing artists for being popular and trying to make a living.
The final complaint, and the central element of the busking bylaws, is banning any amplification on the city centre streets except between 6pm and 10pm, and a blanket ban on the use of snare drums.
The band argued that they need amplification when performing as “because of the general noise level of the streets, in combination with the amount of people we have, we can not sing loud enough to not use an amplifier while we busk.”
In addition they said that the drum kit is the “cornerstone to modern music” and that a ban on drums is essentially a ban on contemporary bands.
The bylaws caused heated discussion at the city council before their passage, with opponents saying that they would send a message that Galway is against busking.
While their supporters have argued that they are necessary to protect rate paying businesses in the city centre which are being impacted by excessive noise and crowds blocking foot traffic.
Busking as a career starter
Without being able to busk on the streets of Galway, forming the city’s most eclectic band in the process, Galway Street Club would never have been able to make their way from playing at Wheelans and the Roisín Dubh up to featuring at festivals like Electric Picnic and GIAF.
The incredibly popular street band said that the introduction of these bylaws “changes the future of music that graces this city”.
The band said that with them in force other musicians would never be able to come together the way they did on the streets of Galway.
“Even the council has seen this and have used our image and reputation as advertising in their bid for Galway 2020-European Capital of Culture. Frankly, we find the two faced nature of this despicable and hurtful.”
“We believe that it is disgraceful that the Galway City Council would not only restrict something so beautiful but that they would knowingly cut so many people off from their ability to make a living in this city.”
“So because of this: we will have to break the law, severely change our sound, or leave the city in order to continue practicing our craft.”
The band encouraged people to speak out against the bylaws, warning that busking as a tradition is becoming more and more criminalised and restricted.
They said that they are not opposed to regulation, but claim that this process occurred with a complete disregard for the majority of public opinion or any meaningful consultation with buskers.
“This started right here in the heart of Galway. Because of these laws, the chance of others to do the same has been severely damaged.”
“We’re not the only crew of musicians who have used these streets as a stepping stone to carve our niche and we really hope we will not be the last.”