It’s a waiting game for buskers

It was a bittersweet day for buskers last Thursday when Byron Shire Council rejected a motion to reinstate amplified busking on the streets of Byron Bay.

Instead, council will review its Busking Policy with ‘a view to a trial occurring over the coming summer period’.

Until then, buskers wanting to go electric will remain unwelcome and out of work, as they have been since amplified busking was banned by council in March.

“Amplified music is not dead, but is on life support,” Cr Simon Richardson, who moved the motion to reinstate amplified busking said.

“Unless some councillors decide on exactly how important culture, diversity and a tradition for street-based vibrancy is to them and act to protect our culture, it will die.”

Cr Basil Cameron, who put forward the alternative motion to have the Busking Policy reviewed and a trial conducted over summer, said a consultative process was needed to achieve a good outcome for everyone.

“I don’t have any objection to amplified music as such, but this alternative motion will try to accommodate all the interests,” he said.

The purpose of the review, as stated in council’s resolution, is to identify appropriate sites and to develop guidelines to allow for amplified music to ensure equity of access and no adverse impacts on residents, particularly in relation to noise levels. “Buskers are an important part of our cultural heritage, but I do understand that everyone needs to be happy with it,” Cr Cameron said.

It might be too little too late for some, however, like Juan Salvador, who has been busking in Byron Bay for 18 years.

“If I can’t play on the street with my electric guitar I might have to leave the town and go somewhere else, like Darwin, they love buskers there and that could be a good option,” he said.

Mr Salvador, who uses his amplifier as part of his Santana-style act, said it was not the smaller local acts like his that had caused the noise and other problems in the first place.

“Many of the cars that go past me on the street are noisier than my amp,” he said.

Yet it was the smaller acts, who’d been bringing entertainment to the streets for years, that were being punished and pushed out of work because of a few noisy uni bands who had done the wrong thing.”

Bluesfest director Peter Noble said busking needed to be encouraged.

“There have been lots of top musicians who got started by busking in the streets of Byron Bay,” Mr Noble said.

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