Galway’s Busking Bye-laws

Over the weekend the Galway Buskers’ Community held a peaceful “March To The Arch – A Positive Protest Against The Busking Bye-laws”.

At the heart of their protest is the valuable contribution busking brings to the life of the city. Tourists delight in the spontaneity and with Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture around the corner it seems a shame to limit busking.

Last year Galway City Council (GCC) voted for the adoption of busking bye-laws on the 14th May 2018. 403 submissions were received and long and divisive debate resulted in 9 councillors voting for and 9 against their adoption. The deciding vote in favour of adoption was cast by the mayor.

Eight months later, on the 14th January 2019 the Director of Services informed Councillors that the bye-laws were invalid. This was due to a legal technicality namely that no commencement date was inserted into the bye-laws. Three days later the bye-laws went back out for public consultation. Thus on the 17th January GCC published the draft document entitled:“Galway City Council (Street Performance and Busking) Bye-Laws 2019”

The full text is available online here. The new submission phase ended on 8th March 2019, and the next step will be for the council to vote on the re-implementation. It is not yet known when this vote will take place. Support For And Against

Though Galway Buskers’ Community is against the adoption of the bye-laws, there remains incentive for their implementation amongst business groups. Galway Daily reports Councillor Mike Crowe as saying that the current state of busking in the city is having a major impact on rate paying businesses who contribute half the council’s budget.

The Way Forward

A positive solution to the impasse, maybe the establishment of joint initiative between the GBC, the GCC, and the businesses concerned. This initiative could focus on providing opportunities to successful buskers rather than lose energy fighting over the fine print of restrictions.

In stark contrast to the divisiveness of regulation, there is unanimous support for such approach as evidenced by another vote in that same council meeting on 14th May 2018 the Galway City Council. The council voted unanimously in favour on a motion:

“That Galway City Council provide designated multi use artistic space for circle acts at Eyre Square and Fish Market Square”.

Views For And Against

The Galway Buskers’ Community are opposed to the bye-laws implementation primarily on the basis that amplification is banned prior to 6pm in central pedestrianised areas and that this will limit what is achievable musically. They point to amplification as a method to manipulate and balance sound output, whereas the regulations seem to view amplification merely as a way to make the sound louder.

Enforcement is another concern of the GBC, together with limitation upon their right to freedom of expression, and they feel the structure of the regulations will unfairly discriminate between various groups of performers depending on age, and instrumentation.

They are also against the blanket ban on the use of drum-kits. There is no drum-kit ban in Dublin. The drafters on the other hand appear to be cognisant of the free natured spirit of Galway. UnlikeDublin County Council they do not intend to introduce a requirement for buskers to obtain permits.

Nor do they require permits for the use of amplification at all, neither for its use after 6pm in central areas, nor at any time in others. Additionally, the drafters have included the possibility for derogation from the rules during times of festivities.

Where both cities’ bye-laws are exactly the same is on the requirement of performers to cease immediately if their performance draws such big crowds as to block the movement of pedestrians. Though this seems to directly limit the best performances, and to place safety in the hands of performers, it would seem no one yet has provided a viable alternative solution to protect the safety of all.

With Galway 2020 looming, performances that draw big crowds must be the goal of everyone in this city, and a collaborative approach is needed to find a solution that will work for everyone.

Mark Elliott, Legal Executive at J.O.S Solicitors