Dublin is famous for it’s busking tradition. Tourists love it, locals appreciate it .
Busking provides a free platform for bands and artists carving their craft of performance.
The list of famous buskers on Grafton Street includes names like Bono, Kodaline, Passenger, Sinead O’ Connor, Paddy Casey, Damien Rice, Rodrigo y Gabriela, The Riptide Movement, Keywest and Mundy. Aside from just singers, Dublin city streets and open spaces are populated by dancers, jugglers, acrobats, poets and comedians. From St. Stephen’s Green through Temple Bar to Henry Street, numerous artists and groups perform daily enhancing the artistic ambience of the city.
However, there is a dark cloud looming over the expression of art within the city. The dark cloud consists of protest from residents of Temple Bar who don’t want anyone playing after 11pm, (even at the weekends) anywhere near their homes. Apparently business owners have complained about buskers being too loud outside their shops, which to be fair might be the case if it’s one guy with a crappy accordion squeezing out the same dirges all day. And several councillors who seem to think that busking is still back in the 60’s with one guitar, one voice and a golden plec.
As streetscapes become more populated, busier and noisier so the humble busker has had to compete by using amplifiers. Amps however are the devils hearing aid, according to the mysterious minority protesters. The anti-amp brigade wanted a complete ban on amps throughout the city. Especially residents of Temple Bar who don’t want them within three metres of their homes. It’s ok by the way for the sirens, traffic, disco bars and general city centre noise, but not for two guys singing Wonderwall at 1am on a Saturday night.
Keywest are a Dublin based band who have built a massive fan base, due to years of successful busking on Dublin’s streets. They have mounted their own campaign to draw attention to the ridiculous nature of the new by-laws. Here’s the letter they submitted to Dublin City Council.
My name is Andy Kavanagh & I’m a member of Keywest. Lets talk about Street Performing. It is no longer just busking. No longer just a Banjo and a rebel song. It’s a varied and vibrant artistic community.
Before I start I want to be clear as I think we’ve begun on the wrong foot. I believe in control on street performance. On more than one occasion I’ve met with assistant city manager Brendan Kenny and the Lord mayor Christy Burke and discussed my position. I even had a part to play in bringing these regulations to the table. Now it’s time to make them reasonable and workable.
Seems rational right? Well according to Councillor Mannix Flynn, “the amplifier in street performance and busking is like a virus. It kills creativity and wards off other artistic individuals.”
WOW It’s this attitude in people that had Galileo in fear of his life.
If I’m interpreting this correctly, banging an acoustic guitar loudly and wailing Oasis songs out at the top of ones voice is real talent and therefore preferable to an acoustic guitar plucked expertly in the stylings of the incredibly talented and now world famous Dublin buskers Rodrigo y Gabriela! Surely not.
A old banjo player wailing rebel songs is more desirable to the public majority over the soft sweet voices and plucked guitars of buskers turned superstars Ed Sheeran and Passenger.You’d have bagpipe over a Violin that is beautifully enhanced by backing music. No longer can the people of Dublin or the Tourists that visit us enjoy a magician that performs a captivating show, a circus act that delights with its mastery of acrobatics or a Dance act demonstrating perfect synchronicity and skill.
And the expert Street Performers that travel the world every year can no longer consider Ireland a place to show off their skills.
All of the above mentioned acts require amps. Amps allow talented people to reach out to audiences. You may have a problem with Keywest but what did all of those talented people do. You have insinuated we don’t respect business’s. That’s simply not true.
We leave business cards in every store so they can text if they feel our volume control or crowd control is not up to scratch. We pop in after the first set to check if everything is ok.
We have never ignored a request to lower the volume or move on. Never!
We ask our crowds to stand at the halfway point on the street and we finish sets after 4 songs to disperse the crowd. We do 4- 5 sets lasting two hours in total. We don’t repeat songs even once in a day and we don’t play in the same place more than twice a week or ever at night. What more do you want ? We have written statements from managers in over 30 stores on Grafton Street supporting Keywest in particular.
No Mannix the real enemy here is a lack of talent and lack of respect, not amplifiers.
You’ve referenced going back to the days of Bono and Glen Hansard busking without amps. That is a day gone by I’m afraid just like Morse code and telegrams. The reality is very different. With no amps you will have a swarm of oasis songs, accordions, brass instruments, bongos and bagpipes.
There was a time people travelled in horse and carts until the birth of the car and upon it’s groundbreaking arrival it presented a whole new set of problems but in the interest of human progress we adapt and create new systems to integrate the newer more modern ideas. We don’t just abandon what we don’t yet understand and go backwards.
You may not like Keywest but many Irish people do.
We are now 52,000 people strong on Facebook because of busking. Ireland’s new arrivals on Aer Lingus and Arab Emirates flights are pointed in our direction through a landing tourist information video. Youtube views of Keywest performing on Grafton street amount to over 10 million views. Most importantly the voting Dublin public decided we were “Dublins Best Street Performers 2014” with 60% of the vote.
Like many buskers we’ve done our fair share to promote Irish tourism.
I’ve performed all over the world. The rules vary but by and large they are aiming at the same thing. Dublin is Ireland’s capital city and I believe we should be trying to come in line and break new ground on the international standard. I’m addressing you as a very proud Dubliner. I live on Ormond Quay opposite Temple Bar and I enjoy all the city has to offer. I am not at all hesitant when I say, to me, Dublin is the perfect blend of everything and one of the greatest cities in the world to call home.
I am organising this campaign to bring light onto a topic that has been shrouded in darkness when it comes to the Irish public. Keywest are no longer a regular sight on Dublin streets but as busking has now given me a voice I intend to use it to save the free spirit that makes Dublin so great. This campaign is not in the interest of self preservation it is on principle.
I believe in respecting everyone. I believe we can implement controls that improve the quality of buskers and the quality of life for business and residents. I believe in compromise. A ban on amps is not a compromise. A decibel level of 80 decibels is exceeded by just talking on Grafton St so I don’t believe that is fair either.
I’d rather not expend my efforts in a campaign against councillors but on a campaign with councillors that enhances living in or visiting this fair city.
Proud Dubliner and Street Performer
In spite of Andy’s spirited and impressive campaign against the impending bye laws, earlier this week Dublin City Council voted to ban all busking after 11pm. A complete ban on busking outside the GPO and in O’Connell Street (wonder if that counts for choirs raising money for charities at Christmas?), no busking on Temple Bar Square, a limit of 80 decibels (street noise level) and a lower level of 75 decibels in Temple Bar. Buskers have to pay for a permit of €30 to busk or €90 extra if you have an amp. The Keywest campaigners haven’t given up yet. They’re determined to #SaveIrishBusking:
Glen Hansard, legendary Dublin busker and Oscar winner said: “As a busker, one thing that does not work is self-consciousness. A busker needs to be working. A busker needs to shed all ego and get down to work. Play your songs, play them well, earn your money, and don’t get in people’s way.”
Surely we as a community cannot let the interests of a few over sensitive ears in a prime city centre location undermine the very fabric of our artistic society. Watch, post, retweet and contribute to #saveirishbusking.