Grassmarket residents back nuisance busker ban

Buskers have come under fire from former Glasgow Museums boss Julian Spalding. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Buskers have come under fire from former Glasgow Museums boss Julian Spalding. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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RESIDENTS in the Grassmarket have backed calls for a crackdown on nuisance buskers.

We previously told how Julian Spalding, former director of Glasgow Museums, has submitted proposals to the council calling on street musicians to be licensed.

The eminent art critic and former curator warned he would leave his Grassmarket home if controls were not put in place, and even suggested buskers be auditioned if they want to play at key city sites – as currently happens in London’s tube and the Paris Metro.

But the calls were rejected by music guru and former Simple Minds manager Bruce Findlay, who insisted street acts were a crucial part of any vibrant city.

Now the Grassmarket Residents’ Association has thrown its weight behind Mr Spalding’s views.

Long-standing member Elspeth Wills said: “He is not the only local resident to be contemplating moving away because of the disturbance which has grown significantly in the last couple of years.

There has to be a balance between keeping the tourists entertained and respecting the basic human rights of individuals living in the area.

Elspeth Wills

“Although we accept Bruce Findlay’s point that good buskers add to the vibrancy of a city, we have to ask him how bad buskers can be ‘ignored’ if they are playing directly under a living room or bedroom window.

“Around 700 people live and in some cases work in the Grassmarket. Why should they have to put up with this addition to the noise we already have to deal with from stags and hens to Tattoo fireworks?

“Residents who politely ask bad buskers with poor amplifiers to move on are often met with a torrent of abuse.

“There has to be a balance between keeping the tourists entertained and respecting the basic human rights of individuals living in the area.”

She added: “The message we are trying to get across to the council is people do live here. It’s a very different area from Princes Street Gardens or the Meadows, which are big open spaces.”

City chiefs said they were seeking “professional officers’ advice” on Mr Spalding’s proposals, but added there was currently “no provision” for the council to license buskers – or force them to audition.

Councillor Gavin Barrie, the city’s licensing convener, said the council “fully recognised” there was a problem and would act to deal with it where possible. He said enforcement officers would be sent out to 
problem hotspots at times when offending buskers were known to play, in order to remind them of their duties under the city’s code of conduct.

Street musicians are expected to keep noise to a reasonable level, not perform after 9pm and move from their pitch after an hour – with police retaining the power to move them on if these conditions are not met.

Councillor Barrie said: “We have a code of conduct that says buskers should move on within an hour, and if we need to do some enforcing around that we would look to do it.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com