Opinion: Buskers bring streets to life as more support needed for our performers

Headshot of Kellie Balaam
Kellie BalaamAlbany Advertiser
John Butler in action at the University of Western Australia.
Camera IconJohn Butler in action at the University of Western Australia. Credit: Lee Griffith/WA News, Lee Griffith

There’s a lot to be said for the vibrancy and atmosphere buskers bring to city street corners, shopping centres and cafe strips.

Buskers draw crowds, they bring strangers together but most of all, they share their talents with passersby, spreading happiness even if it makes someone smile just for a moment.

Busking is a feature of cities all over the world.

You’ll find street performers from New York to Naples.

While it can brighten up the streets and generate income for budding musicians or performers, it can also be the perfect opportunity to gain confidence and practise in front of a live audience.

But what do you know about the buskers in our city or smaller towns across the Great Southern?

Some in our community think the City of Albany could be doing more to support buskers, with a petition calling on the City to “protect and work with us to ensure that buskers are welcome on the streets of Albany”.

The Support Buskers in the Great Southern petition claims buskers have been banned from several locations.

It seems buskers were banned from North Road Shopping Centre after noise complaints, but we have spoken to some local shoppers who liked having the buskers there.

If you could survey all of the people who use that shopping centre, I wonder what the results would look like?

There’s no doubt it can be awkward if a busker’s music is hard on the ears or their behaviour is inappropriate — that can become a problem for the general public and the businesses nearby.

But are there alternatives to a blanket ban?

Looking to the City of Perth — and keeping in mind that the Albany CBD is a very different place — Perth clearly values the diversity of entertainment buskers bring to the malls that could otherwise be seen as drab and dreary places.

To be a busker in Perth, you have to apply for a free busking permit valid for three or 12 months. The permit process requires a performance video.

There are locations, timeslots and a whole set of guidelines all covered in a 15-page document available on the City’s website.

Another city with a rich busking culture is the music and arts hub that is Fremantle.

With a history of street performance and an annual street arts festival, here a permit is only required if buskers are using dangerous goods.

On a recent trip to Freo with family, we had lunch at one of the many Italian restaurants in the heart of the city, accompanied by a free musical street act which enriched the experience.

According to the City of Albany, it supports busking as long as people comply with the law and do not cause a nuisance to businesses and residents.

Maybe the City could do more to support the region’s buskers.

The opportunity is there to work with them through the petition.

After all, who knows what the future could hold for our musical locals?

Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber and John Butler were all buskers before they were superstars.

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