Amplification, regulation and the 'Bath busking community'
Is it fair and democratic that a few unruly kids close the school down?
Amplification is yet again on the agenda with B&NES Council ‘consulting’ the public with a questionnaire about banning buskers’ amps in three areas: Abbey Churchyard, Kingston Parade (‘the Square’) and Abbey Green.
What hasn’t been brought into the debate is how amplification is actually the lifeblood of today’s street performance – not only is it necessary for a busker to be heard above street noise (Abbey Churchyard is already very noisy with tourists!) but backing tracks and loop machines are part of the culture. Indeed the street can be the place for groundbreaking acts - think of K T Tunstall with her “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” song.
Regarding the other targeted locations, Abbey Green is not a designated buskers’ pitch(!) – see the map of council endorsed pitches on The Bath Buskers Guide and arguably Kingston Parade with its large open space and sound echoing off the Abbey needs better control of amplifiers as some people like to "switch off" from the bustle of the city centre and busking is a mixed blessing.
It is surely noise levels (that can be electronically monitored) not just amplification? An opera singer of trumpeter playing 24/7 can be an equal noise disturbance.
This website (under my watch) has endeavoured to publish important information offered by officials and Bath Abbey, respecting their services, an example is the “Traffic Light system” itemised below, but because the ‘Bath Busking Community’ is whoever happens to be on the streets on any particular day it is completely laissez-faire.
In the summer of 2014 matters came to a head when the rector of Bath Abbey had to cancel a Sunday service because of a noisy busker. On behalf of responsible buskers and the person asked to look after this website I issued a public apology. Somebody had to!
Since then the media reported that the ‘Bath busking community’ had amicably agreed a way forward to resolve the amplification issues – and yet they still persist and are caused mainly by a few 24/7 buskers with repeat repertoires. Who is the Bath busking community that has a right to represent the views any more than I do?!!! Is it fair that a handful of excessively loud buskers can ruin it for all buskers?
This website, as its founder declares in her welcome message (above), is an initiative by a few Bath buskers, it can hardly be official by definition as busking is by nature a transient activity. Our best shot is a handed down code of practice. We already have that in the updated form of The Bath Buskers Guide (signed off by city officials)- all the issues are covered. The two systems of getting a pitch are fair to any busker arriving in Bath at any time. Consider wanting to visit Bath for shopping in the afternoon and all the car parking spaces are booked early in the morning!
New buskers wanting to come to Bath often contact the website asking what the protocol is, only to find a different set of rules on the street (that on another busking website has referred to as ‘primitive protectionism’).
A case for licensing?
If self-regulation is not working and amplifiers cannot be voluntarily controlled and the council is constantly threatening a sledge hammer approach, would another option be a carefully thought out permit system that attempt to tick all the boxes whilst maintaining the creative freedom that makes Bath busking vibrant!
Please take a look at my draft proposal in the item below.
The questionnaire that is being put forward by B&NES Council (deadline 29 March) can be found at: