CBD busking shakeup proposed

The City of Melbourne is reassessing its position on proposed changes to the busking guideline that include a public audition and the expiry of some busking permits.

A recommendation to its September 19 Future Melbourne Committee meeting proposed the introduction of a new Busking Handbook including a public-audition-rewarded new premium busking permit for popular locations such as Bourke St Mall, Swanston St and Elizabeth St.

Under the proposed new guideline, 41 existing busking permits will not be reissued, including for vendors selling flowers, handmade jewelleries, calligraphy, portraits, photography, balloon sculptures and other merchandises and animal performances.

Temporary permits will be provided for visiting buskers.  An additional street entertainment permit for temporary activities will be available for performers who bring entertaining and engaging activities.

The proposed handbook also aims to address issues such as sound management.

A noise measurement app is proposed to reduce noise and meet agreed noise limits. Amplified speakers may not be approved at certain areas to control noise.

But councillors voted to have another look at the issue following harsh criticism from the buskers themselves.  The matter has been deferred for a month.

Melbourne busker Mike Wetzel, who has been busking on the streets for 28 years, told the meeting that he opposed the proposed public auditions.

“I think that’s wrong. It’s not a gong show. It’s obvious the council doesn’t want the auditions in council buildings … but I don’t think how many people applauded should determine whether or not somebody gets granted the permit,” he said.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a little bit degrading,” Mr Wetzel said.

The Lord Mayor hit back and asked Mr Wetzel whether he thought the concept of audience was irrelevant to busking.

“What we are trying to do is protect areas for good buskers. Are you saying, forget about that, just throw it open?” Cr Doyle asked Mr Wetzel.

Busker Chris Thrum and CBD News music columnist also told the council the public auditions were not necessary.

“They may have created a solution to a problem that wasn’t there … the feedback I’m getting is that people are discouraged by this extra step. For that, I disagree with this approach,” he said.

Cr Doyle said: “One thing I love in this plan is that the community can have their say on who gets the coveted premium busking permits via a new public auditions process which will raise the profile of our street performers while increasing the awareness of local talent.”

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