I have been living in the UK for roughly four years and I, like every other ex-pat, noticed the subtle differences between here and home (home being Dublin – which I know may be a lot less different to your home – comparatively speaking).
As much as I hate trains as previously mentioned, I am completely guilty of forgetting how good public transport is here in London unlike in Dublin. The differences between the cities don’t stop at public transport however, the list goes on. Pubs, by far are better in Ireland, healthcare – the UK takes gold on this one, milk and sausages, again are superior in Ireland, escalators – UK. There are even things that have no frame of comparison because you just cannot get them anywhere else. Ask any Irish person living abroad about chicken fillet rolls and they will inevitably become uncontrollably upset at the fact that this incredible piece of human endeavour for the perfect design, is just out of reach – it’s a beautiful tragedy.
Of all the subtle differences, I have noticed between London and Dublin, one has stood out to me -that is street performing, or busking.
Busking has always been a huge cultural aspect of Dublin’s society. Most known Irish artists began playing on the streets broad and narrow and many internationally recognised faces can still be seen partaking from time to time.
If you have had the chance to wander the cobbled streets of Dublin’s inner city, you will more than likely have noticed the clear abundance of buskers of all styles, from full stand-up pianos, free style footballers to the rarely seen and of course, representatives from Dublin’s many cultures. It is a beautiful example of how a society’s culture can break through into the public domain in a completely organic way.
Of course, the difference between Dublin and London is not that we have buskers in Dublin and not in London, or Dublin’s buskers are better, it is in fact around regulation. London is a far bigger city than Dublin, with a population at an intimidating 8.7m people, London has over 6 times the population to Dublin’s 1.3m people. It stands to reason that a city the size of London will have more regulation within its culture than a city of Dublin’s size. London’s buskers are encouraged to follow the buskers code, a list of guidelines put together by performers, the Mayor of London, councils, business owners and the metropolitan police.
Dublin City Council in the past attempted to introduce busking licences but have struggled to enforce their use. Whether this is due to the volume of buskers, the lack of cooperation from the Gardaí (police), a mixture of both or completely unrelated variables, it is yet to be known, but this has lead Dublin City council to now introduce a code of their own.
These regulations however do not appear designed to limit the number of buskers, but to control the volume of performance, ensure the artist meets a certain skill level and has a long enough repertoire to avoid repetition. The new regulations which now prohibit the use of backing tracks, also mean buskers need to have a set of at least 20 songs (or a 30 minute set) and amplifiers have been banned from the famous Temple Bar area.
What does this mean for busking in Dublin? Some are suggesting these new regulations could increase the overall standard of busking in the capital, while others have resorted to starting petitions to try and prevent some of the changes.
Only time will tell how this will affect Dublin’s street performing culture. It is clear however, just as the evolution of technology influenced the direction of busking, these new regulations will too. The question is, how will people capitalise on the opportunities created by these changes?