Make Edinburgh buskers audition for prime spots, says museum boss

An ex-museum boss has called for buskers to be auditioned if they want to play at prime spots in the Capital.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 10th February 2016, 6:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th February 2016, 6:39 pm
Should buskers be made to audition before being given prime spots?
Should buskers be made to audition before being given prime spots?

Julian Spalding, former director of Glasgow museums, insisted busking has become “a major nuisance” in Edinburgh and has submitted proposals to the council arguing for street musicians to be licensed.

He branded the controls currently in place “ineffective” and said licensing would not “control taste”, but rather “weed out chancers and introduce strict codes of practice which allow the police to act without waiting for complaints”.

And he suggested the Capital could even go one step further and audition buskers for a handful of “designated sites” – as currently happens in London’s tube system and the Paris Metro.

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The art crtic and former curator, who set up the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, warned he will move away from his home in the Grassmarket if a crackdown on street acts is not put in place.

In his council proposals, he said any codes of practice “need to ensure that licensed buskers can only play within set hours, at acceptable levels of volume, and in clearly marked locations that have been agreed with local occupants”.

Councillor Gavin Barrie, the city’s licensing convener, said officials will “look into Mr Spalding’s suggestions and discuss if they can be taken on board in due course”.

But music guru Bruce Findlay, former manager of Simple Minds, dismissed the idea and insisted buskers were a crucial part of any vibrant city.

He said good buskers enhanced the streets, while bad ones could be ignored – and wouldn’t make money anyway.

He added: “Buskers bring a bit of joy to our lives. Life would be so miserable without buskers.”

Mr Spalding points to Dublin and areas such as Camden in London, which have already introduced rules to license street musicians.

Speaking to the News, he said: “It’s got much worse over the years. It’s not just during the festival – we had buskers three nights ago at 11pm. It happens intermittently during the year but it gains momentum at Easter.

“They make a hell of a lot of noise. It’s not just a nuisance, it’s a serious problem.”

He argued prime city spots such as the top of the High Street and the Mound could be marked as designated areas where buskers must audition if they want to play.

Councillor Barrie said: “Edinburgh is world-renowned for being an artistic city, and the majority of buskers contribute positively to this reputation.

“Even though street performers aren’t legally required to be licensed by the Council, they are expected to stick to our guidelines, which include keeping noise levels to a reasonable level, not performing after 9pm, and moving pitches after an hour.”