Council erects conduct signs for Glasgow buskers

Glasgow busker Laurie Talbot-Heigh
Laurie Talbot-Heigh has been busking in the city centre for the last year in between gigs [BBC]

Glasgow City Council has erected signs with rules for buskers around the city centre.

The code of conduct warns performers to control their volume, watch where they perform and ensure they vary their songs.

The council says the guidelines are not new, but the signs were put up to remind people following a review of street performers last summer.

It found that people were more likely to complain when buskers were too loud or poor quality, blocked public access or repeatedly performed the same songs.

Laurie Talbot-Heigh, 24, has been busking in Glasgow for the last year, but performed on the streets of Inverness when he was younger.

He told BBC Scotland he supported the guidelines for buskers, saying: "It's respectful to other buskers and it means you don't annoy everyone.

"It means we get to play music on the street without having to get a licence."

code of conduct sign
The new signs remind buskers to be considerate to businesses and the public [BBC]

A consultation on buskers last year found they were generally well received, but a minority were inconsiderate to businesses and the public.

The new signs explain the guidelines and the potential consequences of being a nuisance.

"I've had people ask me to move on before and you just move on, it's not a problem," said Laurie.

"I just try to keep away from any problems if I can, but I've heard of other people getting asked to move on in more aggressive ways.

"But generally I think it's quite respectful between buskers and businesses."

However, he said busking had become more "chaotic" in recent months.

"There's been a lot more people coming up to me asking for things and asking if they can do a song," he said.

"I have to keep saying no because it's my job and I also had my case stolen down in the Merchant City, so it's become a bit more stressful in some regards and you have to keep your eyes open.

"But Glasgow's a great place to perform, there's good and bad points."

Carolyn Sleith runs the social media page Buskers of Glasgow, which shows the variety of performers around the city.

She said buskers were "one of the strengths" of the city's Buchanan Street and attractive to those who worked in or visited the city centre.

Ms Sleith told BBC Scotland's Lunchtime Live programme that the consultation came as a result of some businesses complaining about buskers being "disruptive".

"The results were that 90% of people don't complain about busking, so it is a small number of shopkeepers who have got a problem with a small number of buskers," she added.

She said the guidelines were "very sensible" and all buskers had signed up to them.

"There are a lot of visitors who come to Glasgow who don't know what the guidelines are or even people who genuinely don't care if there are guidelines and they're not going to pay attention anyway.

"When the city council workers come out to speak to the buskers, they generally know what the rules are.

"But it can be unbelievable sometimes - when they play Despacito over and over again, or run the same show every ten minutes all day long - that's got to drive you crazy."

She said council workers and police officers have the same powers as they did before.

"They can ask you to turn it down or ask you to move away, but if you're still being a nuisance they can confiscate your equipment," she said.

"I've never heard of anyone being fined in the six years I've been doing this."

buchanan street
Buchanan Street is a popular spot for buskers in the city centre [BBC]

Caroline Sewell, from the Musicians' Union in Scotland, said she supported the guidelines as a similar code exists in most towns and cities across the country.

She added: "As for police involvement, this would be an extremely rare but for us, the concern is about how these codes and policies are policed and implemented.

"We would not expect a heavy handed or punitive approach and we have received assurances from the council that they take a light touch approach and are keen to foster good relations with the busking community in the city."

A council spokesman said the consultation received more than 2,700 responses and found that the "vast majority" of respondents welcomed buskers in the city centre, but it identified a number of issues.

He said the new signage was in place to remind buskers and street performers to adhere to the guidelines and respect those around them.