Restrictions for crowd pulling street acts under new busking bye-laws

‘Circle Acts’, street acts that draw large crowds that restrict movement and cause pedestrian bottlenecks will be prohibited from performing before 6pm under proposed new busking bye-laws, but there are concerns the laws will not adequately protect children.

The Galway City Council’s Environment SPC met recently to discuss the Draft Bye-laws on busking. The Draft Bye-laws include a restriction on the popular, so-called, Circle Acts - often involving acrobatics, magic tricks, but sometimes music groups - where large crowds gather in a circle around the performer. Such acts are to be prohibited from performing before 6pm from the protected streetscape - basically Willamsgate Street, Whitehall, and Shop Street - but can perform in Eyre Square and the Spanish Arch, which the SPC considers more suitable for such acts.

At the meeting councillor Colette Connolly proposed a requirement that buskers to apply to City Hall for a permit to perform be removed from the Draft document. This was agreed unanimously by the other SPC members.

“The proposed permit application was too bureaucratic and totally unnecessary,” said Cllr Connolly. “Both the business community and the buskers were totally opposed to the introduction of permits. While some regulation is needed this is achieved through the proposed bye-laws without the additional permit requirement.”

However, she said the draft bye-laws inclusion of a permit application system for under-16s “may not be the best way to protect the welfare of children” and may be “too restrictive”. She said there was “very definitely a problem with children being used to perform” with the “sole intention of gathering money for an adult lurking in the background”. She is instead calling for a requirement for all children who wish to perform to be accompanied by a legal guardian at all times.

Cllr Connolly said she would also have preferred the draft bye-laws exclude amplification from the protected streetscape as “most complaints derive from the level of noise consequent on excessive amplification”. She said: “The overriding concern should be for the health and safety of staff and management, who are subjected to intolerable noise throughout their working day.”

Cllr Connolly believes monitoring the levels of amplification will “prove unworkable” as buskers would still be able to use amplification in all areas other than the protected streetscape as defined in the bye-laws. She said councillors should be given a presentation from an expert in noise pollution which may offer some clarity on the issue.

The bye-laws are expected to be included in the May Galway City Council Agenda.


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