AT one end of the scale there is the Hemi Porous and the Tahi Paengas of the local busking scene . . . . gifted vocalists and highly-proficient musicians. At the other you have, well, some of the others.
But how talented does a busker have to be to be allowed to gift — or inflict — their talents on people on the streets of Gisborne? And, of that, who gets to be the judge?
Heart of Gisborne manager Ken Huberts reckons someone should and he believes that those judged to be without sufficient “talent, proficiency and presentation” should not be allowed to busk on city streets.
Huberts this week said he would approach Gisborne District Council staff about updating current policy to ensure that all buskers were permitted before they held out their hats.
And he said that, as part of that, it should be requested that buskers have the aforementioned “reasonable standard of talent, proficiency and presentation”.
“Heart of Gisborne is very supportive of any type of activity that adds vibrancy (to the city) but we are concerned that not all buskers are doing this,” he said.
“The council’s job is to help us facilitate the vibrancy of the city centre and good quality busking enhances that. My idea of good busking is something that you really enjoy and that you are prepared to pay a coin or two for and I don’t think that some of what we are currently seeing in the city qualifies as entertainment.”
Having nothing to offer meant talent-free buskers were effectively begging, Huberts added, but when asked who could define the ever-subjective “talent”, said he did not have the answer to that.
“But I will say that every week I hear com- plaints about some of the buskers around town and if people are complaining that indicates that, though they may think they have a talent, perhaps they actually don’t.”
To offer a precedent Ken Huberts points to Porirua City Council’s busking policy that does include a request for “talent, proficiency and presentation”, but The Guide could find no such reference in other city or district policies.
In fact, buskers in the Tasman district kicked up quite a stink at the proposed introduction of a permitting system in Nelson, with some saying they would boycott the process.
Gisborne District Council’s current rules state that busking in the city centre is generally allowed “provided no nuisance is created and no complaints are received”.
“Busking can add vibrancy to the CBD but in some isolated cases can also present some problems,” said regulatory services manager Sarwan Kumar, who is responsible for overseeing the activities of street performers, “and staff are looking at possible ways to address those in a practical manner.”
Members of his team had met with Ken Huberts and also welcomed input from other interested parties from retailers to members of the busking community, Kumar added: “If a change of policy is required, this will be reported to Council in due course.”
Block by the Clock retailer Heidi Parkes was clear on what she thought about “censoring” buskers . . . “quite frankly, I find the idea offensive”.
As manager of the Salvation Army opportunity shop, she often saw — and heard — buskers who may be considered, well, talent compromised.
“We get hundreds of customers through our store every day and though a few might comment that some buskers can’t sing, they are always impressed by their bravery,” she said. “I would see moving them on as being an infringement of their human rights. If someone is already marginalised, why make it worse?”
Acknowledging that she worked for an organisation strong on social justice, she checked in with neighbouring retailers to see if they felt the same.
“They were absolutely supportive of our buskers . . . in fact one told me that they offered a lesson in confidence for all of us,” she said. “I think many of us would be concerned if this proposal was put forward specifically to exclude particular people.”
Meanwhile, Ken Huberts said he was committed to following through with seeing rules around busking tightened up.
“The council’s approach tends to be reactive rather than proactive . . .
there are guidelines available but having a permit system would clarify the rules, letting buskers know what they can do, where and for how long,” he said.
“We believe that busking is an integral part of life in the CBD and is something that we actively encourage. The challenge we have is trying to get busking of some quality and we’re interested in hearing feedback from anybody who has an opinion on this issue.”