Bad busking has been affecting the mental health of staff at York’s Mansion House – the home of the city’s Lord Mayors.
And the problem has not gone unnoticed by recent Lord Mayors themselves, a council meeting heard.
A busking campaign group says performers who are not respectful to their surroundings and do not follow York’s busking guidelines are not helpful for the reputation of the city’s community of live musicians.
Isaac Broadbent, from the Mansion House, told a council meeting that a busker in St Helen’s Square outside the venue had played from Thursday to Sunday, sometimes for more than five hours a day.
He said: “We have attempted to work with him, but to him the council’s busking guidelines are just that – guidelines. He feels no obligation to follow them.
Over this last year I have seen repeated exposure to the same few buskers negatively affect my employees’ mental health.
I understand that there are wonderful buskers and that they worked with the council to create the current guidelines.
But staff in shops and attractions are the hidden victims of the few, but increasingly poor, buskers who flout these guidelines.”
Mr Broadbent said there is almost no area of the Mansion House the noise does not reach, adding: “I am sure that the Lord Mayor and former Lord Mayors can attest to this.”
He asked if the council would consider a return to busking licences – which saw performers audition for the right to play in the city streets.
Lord Mayor councillor Janet Looker said: “I think probably Lord Mayors do recognise some of the force of your comments.”
Busking campaigner Chester Bingley said the performer in question may not be following the council’s guidelines. Mr Bingley is director of Keep Streets Live, a campaign group that worked with the council to create York’s busking guidelines.
He said performers should be considerate and if they break the rules, the council can take action.
“I think the guidance in York is very good, it’s a similar approach to the one we are taking in a number of other places and tries to solve problems informally first,” he said. “But if necessary it can be escalated to formal warnings if the noise is becoming detrimental to people’s health.”
“It sounds like a one-off. If someone has been in the same place for four days, playing at high volume all day, it is not in the spirit of what we are trying to achieve and is not supporting the busking community.”
He said more musicians, who are unable to perform indoors during the pandemic, may have taken up busking and be unaware of the guidelines.
“There is virtually no live music taking place in any kind of venue at the moment, so busking is the only option people have to make a living,” he said.
“A lot of performers have received very little, or no financial support whatsoever, from government schemes.
“There does seem to be a greater appreciation for live music on the streets – because it is the only chance people have to hear live music at the moment and it keeps the city vibrant.”
The Lord Mayor said she would make sure concerns about buskers are passed on to council officers.