Galway Buskers’ Community

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The Galway Buskers’ Community have been kind enough to share their story with us. It is a familiar story of self-regulation versus Draconian restriction.

I can think of no city in the world where busking and spontaneous music-making are more integral to the cultural landscape, and where the spinoff can have more impact in driving tourism and the local economy. And yet, as that very culture is being officially recognised in 2020 with City of Culture status, the Council is moving to destroy the very fabric that status is built upon. Over to Nicoel Blue to tell us more:

“The Galway Buskers Community is an organisation of buskers living and working in Galway, Ireland. We came together in 2017, in response to the Galway City Council’s plan to bring in highly restrictive anti-busking by-laws, which would have a devastating effect on our community, and negative impact on Galway’s reputation as an arts and cultural hub of Ireland.

As a community, we began promoting positive and responsible busking in Galway City to improve the relationships between buskers, businesses, residents, tourists, local authority and the public. 

To this end, we drafted and distributed a self-regulating ‘Buskers Guide to Galway and Code of Conduct’ written and implemented by buskers, inviting the engagement of local businesses and community. This Code and Guide is the first of its kind on Ireland. The Code takes into consideration the main concerns of local businesses, residents and the City Council, in relation to busking, such as noise levels, length and time of busking in specific spots, and obstruction by crowds. It also addresses a number of additional points, and the Buskers’ Guide includes ‘Tips for friendly busking’ and a map of all the pitches in the city centre.

We are also continuously communicating with shops and residents through our Community Engagement Initiative, which we call our ‘Friendly Busking campaign. This initiative entails informing shops about our Code of Conduct, listening to and addressing their concerns, and letting them know that that the majority of buskers are willing to find a middle ground. 

Our initiative also includes our ‘Friendly Busking’ logo as a window sticker, and laminated copies of our Code of Conduct. Supportive shops and residents can display a copy of the Code and sticker in their window for all to see. Buskers will also display the sticker on their equipment, thus indicating both parties are approachable, and amenable to reaching accommodation on issues such as volume levels, etc. Some supportive shops have also agreed to have copies of our Buskers’ Guide freely available for buskers. We have a phone number and email providing a point of contact so that shops and residents can directly contact the Buskers’ Community with any issues, which we address in a peer-led manner.

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The Galway Buskers’ Community continue to build upon the good relationship we have with local businesses, residents, police, tourists and Councillors as we pro-actively engage in this majority accepted and codified self-regulation. This is the first initiative of its kind in Ireland, and one of only a few like it in the world, and it has been, in the first few months of its introduction, highly successful, with nearly 100% adherence.

The most important effect of the implementation of our Code and distribution of our Buskers Guide has been that a dialogue has been created between all parties in the community, were there had previously been little to none.

We firmly believe that encouraging and supporting self-regulation of the busking community by the Busking Community will highlight and promote Galway’s reputation as an innovative, international arts and culture hub; one that encourages and celebrates its artistic residents as well as warmly welcoming visiting artists from all over the world. We feel this is particularly important given the designation of Galway as the European City of Culture in 2020.

However, despite our best efforts, and our continued request for engagement from the Galway City Council, and despite a majority of public submissions being against the proposed bye-laws (conservatively over 95% against), the Galway City Council voted them in (in a tied vote, broken by the then-mayor’s deciding vote against us) in May of 2018–only to have them revoked in 2019 due to a technical error on their part.

Instead of taking the opportunity to review the controversial and very restrictive bye-laws, the Galway City Council simply re-submitted exactly the same draft for public submission, to be voted upon again in the coming months.

In response, the Galway Buskers’ Community have been actively campaigning against the bye-laws, with actions including monthly ‘Big Busks’ – in which the entire buskers community come together for a huge busking jam, and quarterly ‘Busk-a-thons’ (12 hour busk showcasing the diversity and talent of members of our community with 1/2 hour performance slots), as well as a silent protest, and, most recently, a rally and march though the streets. We’re doing all of this together, while continuing to promote our Buskers Code of Conduct and/or Friendly Busking Campaign. 

Galway is a city with a reputation of being an artistic and cultural hub. The very visible presence of Galway’s Busking Community—quite often the first thing visitors see and hear when they arrive in our wonderful city—has in no small way contributed to Galway’s outstanding creative reputation.

The Galway Buskers’ Community encourages everyone who wishes to support busking and arts in Galway to contact the Galway City Council to express their opinions on the restrictive busking bye-laws, which the Galway City Council are again set to vote upon in the coming months.”

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Thank you.

~The Galway Buskers’ Community.

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