The Galway Buskers & Street Performers group are planning to mount a legal challenge to busking bylaws passed by the city council this month.
A large crowd gathered down at the Spanish Arch on Sunday afternoon for a protest gig by local buskers when Niceol Blue of the Buskers and Street Performers group made the announcement that they intend to fight the city council in court over the busking bylaws it has introduced.
“The busking community is not against reasonable regulation but these regulations are not reasonable and we are going to fight them with every bone in our bodies.”
The money raised at the performance will go towards paying for a solicitor and any other related legal fees that come up, according to Niceol.
The most contentious part of the new bylaws is a ban on the use of amplification in a performance on designated streets before 6pm, along with Circle Acts, and a complete ban on the use of drums.
Niceol says many buskers need some amplification to lift their voices above the street noise and this will affect their livelihoods: “The first thing it will do, for many of us, it will drastically reduce our incomes. If we can’t use an amp until six pm, but they only allow busking in the winter until 10pm, that’s only four hours.
“So imagine splitting four hours in about ten spots between 30 or 40 buskers. Most of whom earn a part or their entire income from busking.”
She warns that a lot of buskers could be forced to leave Galway if they can’t earn a living here.
Galway City Council adopted bylaws to regulate busking on Shop Street and the surrounding drafted by councillor Peter Keane at its monthly meeting on May 14.
Councillor Ollie Crowe said that the bylaws were necessary because crowds created by buskers were blocking pedestrian traffic on the busy thoroughfare, “The rate payers of this city are entitled to be able to get people into their shops.”
However, other councillors feared that bringing in these bylaws will damage the image of Galway, which is closely linked to busking.
Councillor Padraig Conneelly said that buskers featured prominently in promotional videos for Galway 2020 and when judges for the Capital of Culture programme came to Galway, buskers were asked to be on the streets to impress them.
The council was split down the middle 9-9 on the vote, with Mayor of Galway Pearse Flannery casting the deciding vote.
According to Niceol, when the busking community first heard the city council was planning to introduce bylaws last year they introduced a voluntary code of conduct which, among other things, limits performances to a noise level of 85 decibels.
“We implemented it last summer around July and so far we have 90% compliance. And we’re still putting it out there, every new busker that comes to town we make sure that they get a code of conduct in their hands.”
They’re aware of the concerns of business about people blocking traffic, or blocking shop doors, Niceol insists. Buskers who abide by the code of conduct will regularly stop and ask crowds to move in, to keep the street clear and stay out of the doorways of businesses.
The bylaws are currently set to come into effect this September and a judicial review may be the only way to stop “ill-informed, discriminatory” regulations, says Niceol.