Two days ago, Councillors in Galway passed new bye laws which place limits on busking in the city centre. This means that amplified performance cannot take place until after 6pm. So called ‘circle acts’ (performances which draw a crowd) are not allowed to take place before 6pm. And buskers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
There are a lot of international readers on LGR, so just to clarify: busking means performing music or other kinds of entertainment on the street, with the additional aim of collecting donations. Busking is common in Ireland, but compared to other counties in Ireland it’s a much more intrinsic part of day-to-day life in Galway. Busking is part of what makes Galway unique.
In Spring 2017 The Galway Buskers Community published a Code of Conduct, which was agreed upon and circulated as a response to the then existing bye-laws for street performance, set out by the Galway City Council Street Performance (Prohibited Periods) Bye-Law 2011.
The Galway Buskers Community made a commitment to crowd and noise management, to limiting performances to a certain time frame, to the appropriate sharing of performance spaces in the town, and a commitment to limiting any performance on a certain area to a maximum of 2 hours.
“A Street Performer shall not perform in a public place either before 10:00am or after 11:00pm during the months of APRIL to OCTOBER, and not perform in a public place either before 10:00am or after 10:00pm during the months of NOVEMBER to MARCH.”
However, the 2017 City Council proposals did not adopt the specific commitment made by the Galway Busking Community in relation to amplification.
6. Regarding audio acts (i.e. music and vocals, whether acoustic or amplified, or acts with backing tracks), sound shall be kept at a level that shall not extend further than 35m away, with consideration given to the specific location and time (i.e. be quieter on smaller and/or less populated streets, and quiet times of day) – The Galway Buskers Community, Code of Conduct.
In contrast, this is what was drafted by the Council in 2017.
“Amplification on the Protected Street Scape up to 18:00 hours shall only be permitted by way of Battery Powered Portable Amplification as defined herein.
The use of Drum Kits is expressly prohibited on theProtected Street Scape.” – Draft
Galway City Council (Street Performance and busking) Bye-Laws 2017
The noise levels of buskers was a particular sore spot for some Councillors, and the new bye-laws will place time restrictions on amplified street performances in the city centre. Buskers whose performances do not require amplification will, probably, not be affected by these new regulations.
An article published by RTE News on this issue two days ago spoke about the recommendations made by The Galway Busking Community in 2017.
“But proposals regarding amplification were vague, stipulating only that volumes would be kept at a level that could not be heard 35 metres away from the point of performance.” – RTE News.
This reporting by RTE is does not accurately reflect the reality of the situation. In 2015 a report was commissioned by the Environmental Section of Galway City Council and was prepared by Diarmuid Keaney of ICAN Acoustics, entitled ‘Acoustic Study and Good Practice Guidance Document on Street Performance Noise for Galway City 2015’. The proposal regarding a 35 metre distance is based on recommendations from this report.
This report maps the noise levels in the main pedestrianised areas of Galway City, where buskers perform and where people shop. It provides a heat map of these areas, illustrating natural ambient noise levels where busking is absent, and where busking is present. Among many of its recommendations regarding noise containment is the 35 metre observation.
The new bye-laws have been met with a large amount of criticism from people living in Galway, and especially the buskers of our city. The new regulations are due to come into effect this Autumn, 2018. However, The Galway Buskers Community has publicly stated, “we will continue our fight. It’s not over. Please take heart, and stay tuned”.