THE DEBATE over the 2013 festival busking rules in Peel St continues – with plenty of advice and criticism but no unanimous solution offered.
The issue of more controlled busking times, locations and selected artists and aspirants has fuelled plenty of noise – but according to critics, only in the debate, and not enough of it is is being heard as music in the street.
Plenty of people argue there are too many dead spots now and too few busking acts along the street.
One Peel St busker who has parked himself on the Boulevard of Dreams for more than a decade says the introduction of new busking protocols this year has left him ready to pack up and go home.
Dennis Cuthel, an original member of Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, believes changes to busking have killed the festival spirit, that crowds are low and the bulk of the problems stem from over regulating “the good, the bad and the ugly” of the busking scene.
“Love it or hate it, it’s the part of festival people enjoy,” he said.
Mr Cuthel has been busking in the same spot on Peel St – out the front of the Cash Exchange, near the Central Hotel – for the past 12 years.
He says like many other, regular buskers, he developed a rapport and agreement with the owners of the store decades ago that if he returned each year that’s where he could perform.
He shares his time in front of the Cash Exchange store with some of his musical mates, in an arrangement they organised on their own.
“That traditional system, based on a gentleman’s handshake, worked for everyone, because buskers knew where they were going, fans knew where their favourites were and the stores knew what to expect,” he said.
Mr Cuthel said the biggest issues facing buskers this year were “everyone being on top of one another, sound regulations not being adhered to, and new rules changing the way buskers operated”.
He said after a run-in with busking officials on the weekend he was “about ready to go home” and still might.
“What council don’t seem to realise is that for many buskers this is their annual holiday, they spend good money to come here, showcase their talents and make some money,” he said.
“It’s not uncommon in a normal festival to make about $3000 over the 10 days.
“This year I doubt that will happen for anyone, there aren’t as many people in Peel St and there aren’t as many buskers.”
The reason, he says, is moving buskers in an attempt to give everyone a fair go.
“Part of why people love coming back each year is so they can find the buskers they love, look at some of the new ones and then enjoy the things they know,” he said.
“Real festival-goers come back for their favourites and if one is missing they know.”
Mr Cuthel, who is also a regular at the Elvis Festival in Parkes, said his last straw was about to break.
“I was asked to perform in front of another store over the weekend for a couple of hours,” he said.
“I set up at 5pm and a busking organiser came up while I was performing and told me I wasn’t to be there and if I didn’t leave immediately my permit would be revoked.
“By 6pm I had to move on. I can honestly say I have never been treated like that and I perform at a lot of festivals.”
Fellow Boulevard of Dreams stalwart, Charlie Saliba, agreed.
He’s been performing outside Mathers for the past 30 years and says the store manager has been happy to have him there.
It’s understood this year under the new rules the spot has to be shared.
“(The store) told them if I wasn’t going to be here they wouldn’t have anyone,” Mr Saliba said.
“I think most retailers like to know what and who they are getting and I don’t think council should be able to come in – especially after we have had a 30-year arrangement – and just say no, that’s null and void, the shop doesn’t get a choice.”
Both men said they didn’t enjoy the festival as much anymore.
“Because of the regulations,” Mr Cuthel said.
Mr Saliba agreed.
“Because of these new rules you can’t play a CD in your break, we still have to compete to get heard, it’s the same issues and nothing really gets done to fix them.”
The Leader approached Tamworth Regional Council for comment on the issue yesterday to determine if any progress had been made following complaints earlier in the week.
It declined the opportunity.