It’s been a tad sunny in Edinburgh, and warm too! Summer concerts at Murrayfield are back, Harry Styles was playing the other evening, feather boas everywhere! I hadn’t been paying attention, so first thought was, oh my god, so many hen parties in one day?! The bands playing on Waverley Bridge had a fine day of it providing pre-show entertainment.
Naturally, The Kennedy’s Project were there taking turns with other buskers, they always pull a good crowd anyway, but the sunshine and Styles fans really busied things up! I had things to do, so couldn’t hang around but as I went past I thought the band were louder than usual, did they feel the crowd’s enthusiasm and cranked up the volume? It is a fairly noisy area with all the traffic and people, a few steps further on and you’d hardly be aware of any live music – unless it’s bagpipes.
There’s plenty of areas in the city centre where buskers set up and play, and since the dark days of lockdowns there have been plenty of buskers around to add a little sparkle to the day. Why, I might not have become aware of the awesomeness of Ol’Times if I hadn’t happened upon them busking. They packed out Whistlebinkies and no doubt other venues across the UK, by busking locally to promote themselves and help finance the tour.
Are you going somewhere with this, Brucie? I can hear you wondering – yes I am. See I recently became aware that the council have launched a consultation regarding busking and to help “determine if we need additional powers to manage amplification of sound in public places”, ummm. CEC (City of Edinburgh Council) are consulting the people? Not possibly with their minds already made up? – I say this, as I’ve completed their questionnaire and really felt it was trying to lead me to being down on busking (from Facebook I know I’m not the only one with this impression). My worry is that the council will go seriously OTT on this, they’re not known for being level-headed and rational.
There are already signs up in some areas to remind buskers of local guidelines of no amplification after 9pm, fair enough, though a busker without any amplification would be unlikely to be heard over the noise in the Grassmarket on Friday and Saturday nights! Buskers are asked to keep to a “considerate volume” and regularly move pitches, I reckon most do. Sure there are some bad eggs, there always will be in all things, and they’ll continue on their merry way no matter what regulations come in, they won’t give a damn. In Scotland the police already have powers to move on performers if necessary, so what additional powers are CEC wanting?
I find it quite sad that some humans seem to have lost the ability to just talk calmly, listen to each other calmly, pause to give thought out responses, accept that other points of view can be valid even if disagreeable; and whatever happened to magnanimity and grace in defeat? I get that some businesses may find it difficult to tell a busker just outside their door to turn it down, but maybe they’re just not thinking and are unaware how annoying they’re being? Maybe they are d**kheads, but maybe they’ll apologise, even be embarrassed by their lack of awareness (of course, embarrassment can also lead to an altercation if they try to defend the undefendable).
I think the problem will be with what the council consider as overamplification and their reactions. Sure there is just too loud, then there’s too loud in one place that couldn’t be heard in another. Times and places, people! Blanket rulings would be overly harsh, while overcomplicated rules will deter shy, new buskers (who should be nurtured and encouraged as possible greats of the future) and the bolshy ones won’t care. And what about bagpipers? Where will they fit in with their noise levels?
This issue has had me remembering back to the mid-nineties and one of my favourite Fringe bands Bean. They came over from Australia for three Fringes, mainly busking on the Mound, but they also managed to get a few very late night gigs in the original Gilded Balloon on the Cowgate. This was the Mound before the Half Price Hut took up residence, so a lot busier and packed with folk.
Bean only had an amp for the acoustic guitar, (the trombone and drum didn’t need anything), but no mics for voices – can you imagine that these days?! They were really quite fine without, but then the ever nearby panpipers added amps!! Really, no! Those panpipes were in-bloody-cessant at the time (I swear some tourists must have left Edinburgh thinking that panpipes were a Scottish thing!) No-one else got a look-in when they piped up, yes, problems with overamplification are not anything new!!
I’ll leave you with a great comment I saw on Facebook on the subject of how the council will deal with buskers, “You’ll no doubt find a way to charge them by the decibel, and then the louder the better!!!”