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Busking in Hebden

From Mike Barrett

Thursday, 12 August 2010

First let me declare my interest: I live in Hebden and play in a rather loud and anarchic acoustic brass band - The Peace Artistes.

On 7th August we decided to play in the Hebden Bridge so we dressed up and arrived in St Geoge's Square at about 1pm where we discovered a busker already in residence. He was singing songs accompanied by his guitar through an amplified PA system. He said he had already had a dispute with a resident in one of the flats in the square who asked him to leave and had called the police. Two community police duly arrived and said they had received two complaints about the volume and persistence of his performance and asked him politely to move on. He argued with them for about ten minutes and eventually left.

We decided to move to the marina where we performed to a man and his dog who were later joined by a few other folk. About an hour later we returned to the top end of the Square where we performed (to a small enthusiastic audience, I must say) for about 20 minutes, then moved on to outside the Hole in t'Wall.

I'm sure many people are aware of the increasing number of buskers performing in our town and I'm sure they have oppinions about this.

My own feelings are: Hebden Bridge now has a wonderful pedestrian area which attracts tourists, people sitting out for a cup of tea and a chat and ... buskers. I love to hear a harp, fiddle, accordion or guitar which enhances the summer ambiance. But I don't want to hear karaoke, drum-kits or amplified music of any kind. And I don't want to hear any of it continuously for 4 hours.

From Emma S

Friday, 13 August 2010

I guess it's largely a matter of personal taste... Some folks might enjoy an amplified guitar or drums performance... Let's face it, some folk even like those amplified pan-pipe performers..... and some folk would find the jigs and reels of a fiddle player irksome, or even a bunch of people playing trombones and saxaphones might annoy some! ;o)
Long live variety!

From Graham Barker

Friday, 13 August 2010

Mike - I only caught the last few minutes of your gig outside the Hole in t'Wall but thought your music was great, as is the band name. Let's have a lot more of it, please.

Regarding buskers, I've only heard two in Hebden Bridge that were/are any good, by the yardstick of playing well and lifting the spirits. You're right in your inference that too many are just a noise nuisance with an overblown sense of entitlement.

I've no idea what the law is on street performance, but it's probaby difficult to discriminate between those who do or don't use electric amplification. Apart from complaints to the police, it would be useful to know of any humane means of discouraging the ones who aren't remotely providing a public service.

Anne H

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Interesting stuff on Wikipedia about busking. Generally, it's protected as 'artistic free speech'. Some towns choose to allow busking only by permit (eg. City of London). If you go down the permit route then you can insist on certain volume levels for buskers with amplified sound. I suppose technically Hebdenroyd could decide to allow busking by permit only but that would be regulating something that most of us wouldn't want regulating (I would guess). Some people on here - including me - might think that the karaoke man is inappropriate or too loud, but he will keep coming if people keep giving him money - and clearly some people like him enough to pay.

It's a choice between regulation and letting the people of Hebden Bridge vote with their pennies.

From Joan Hobday

Saturday, 14 August 2010

My own view is that busking adds to the general atmosphere 'if' it is of a good standard and Hebden Bridge has always encouraged diversity.

We have a great town with much to offer and busking can, when delivered with panache and the right pitch, enhance and enrich the streets. As with all things though a little moderation and consideration should be applied.

Amplified music and amplified singing however inflicts itself on those who might wish to walk away and ponder, wander and muse quietly in this lovely town of ours and these noise levels are intrusive and unecessary. I wonder if local shopkeepers want to hear it all day too?

Keep good buskers, encourage artistic endeavours but ban amplification at all costs.

I guess this begs the question, "What defines a good busker, not to mention who would be on the deciding panel?"

From Kath Westall-Ives

Saturday, 14 August 2010

I often hear buskers when walking through the town and I can take them or leave them. I do though, feel sympathy for those people working in the shops who have no choice to but take them, whatever the standard.

From Jack Hughes

Sunday, 15 August 2010

If you object to local buskers using amplification, have you tried shouting 'Judas!' at them?

From Luby Brown

Monday, 16 August 2010

I met my boyfriend (for the second time around) whilst he was busking in a subway.

Music is my medicine.

From Jason Elliott

Monday, 16 August 2010

I too must declare an interest, as for the first few years afters school, busking was my livelihood, mainly in the London Underground and then throughout Spain and France and how I met many really interesting people.

(I still give to every busker I meet, not because they are all good musicians, but more as an offering to the God of Busking, should I ever need to do it again!)

Busking in Hebden Bridge is one the aspects of the town that really culturally enriches the place, as well as providing the means for some of the members of society living near its edges to earn a crust or the price of a pint.

Personally, I think that providing licences wouldn't work because a) some of the best, and most welcome, musicians are those who are only here for a few days, maybe visiting mates, and they would be excluded, and b) who would be able to sit in judgement and award the permits?

On this last point; there is a whole load of really popular music on the radio that I really don't like, yet other people do, and they vote with their money by buying the recordings. Who is right and who is wrong? Of course, both sides are right!

Music, like all forms of art, is subjective, and we know who and what we like as individuals. We all get to say whether we like the karaoke crooner or not by whether we give them money.

Ultimately, the ones we like will come back as they will get the loot, whereas the ones we don't like and don't pay will seek their money elsewhere.

From Amy S

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

I agree, amplified busking is too much.

At least if you dont like the fidle or the trombone or the dreary music some choose to play you can hear yourself think above most of it.

Recently I met some collegues, to discuss work, at a cafe in the square and could hardly hear them because of this Karaoke style singer, who i feel could not really sing anyway. Thankfully the police moved him on after complaints from somewhere. He was very mad indeed and started stomping around looking for the complainant, which was fun.

I love busking on the whole even if it is not my kind of music, but it should add to the ambiance not take it over!!

From Janice S

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Re: Graham Barker: "any humane means of discouraging the ones who aren't remotely providing a public service"

I'm sometimes tempted to ask the not-very-talented buskers if they can play 'Over the hills and far away' but I'm not sure they'd get it.

From Luby Brown

Friday, 27 August 2010

I am immensely dismayed at some of the comments being voiced. Okay some buskers are not as orchestral as you would like and of course you are not obliged to give. It takes a lot of tenacity and prowess to undertake the public space/ gaze.

From Nigel L

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Perhaps we should have an Hebden Bridge X-Factor to weedle out the poor efforts who call themselves 'musicians and singers'. I work near the square and sometimes I'm sure my ears bleed. Perhaps it explains all the migraines I get. Even better, if they are bad enough we should be able to take money from their collecting recepticles.

From Rev Tony Buglass

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The problem, Luby, is that there are buskers and buskers. The degree of talent isn't really an issue - someone happily strumming and singing who clearly doesn't know more than half-a-dozen chords can be very acceptable. If you don't like him, you can readily move out of earshot. The busker who plugs in a portable PA and dominates the whole square or the whole street is more of an antisocial nuisance, even if he is very skilled.

It is also a problem when a public event is taking place - there have been a number of open-air events around the bridge in connection with Hebden 500, the local churches have done a few things in the White Swan or on Bridgegate; if an amplified busker is competing with that, it can be a real problem for a lot of people.

I like buskers. Their music is one of the things that adds to the character of the town. But there is a need for sensitivity and acceptance on their part as well as ours.

From Jack Hughes

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

To quote Mr Barrett's original post;

'I love to hear a harp, fiddle, accordion or guitar which enhances the summer ambiance [sic]. But I don't want to hear karaoke, drum-kits or amplified music of any kind.'

A decade ago, the HB Arts Festival's street entertainment included an extremely loud folk-rock band going by the delightful name of Lenin-McCarthy, who would play outside the newsagent's shop in the square, and who could easily be heard in Heptonstall and Old Town whilst doing so. If you object to amplification so much, maybe you should count yourself lucky that Arts Festival policy now seems to favour the acoustic over the electric! (And I can assure you, given my personal predilection for murder-in-the-farmyard-styled freeform jazz, that amplification and volume are two separate issues - in their heyday, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble could whip up a fine old racket, without an amplifier in sight).

From Alan Cooper

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

I visited Hebden for the first time this weekend and I loved it. There was a young man playing the accordian in the town square. I hought he played very well and he set the tone for a enjoyable day, with a walk to the nearby crags .I just wish id discoverd the town sooner.

Thanks to the friendly people of Hebden and I'll be back soon.

From Danny Sharp

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

I am a busker who cycles around Europe and uses a solar powered amplifier. I play for just over an hour in any given spot, my amp is only 1.5W and produces less volume than a violin or saxophone. Normally I am very well received both by the public and shop keepers. If I am asked to move I do so without complaint because I do what I do for many reasons but the most important one is to make people happy.

I've encountered every kind of regulation going and feel that the most fair kind is that which limits the time and volume of the performance. Some places have a blanket ban on amplifiers regardless of noise levels (usually imposed after a visit from the Peruvians,) but will allow a beggar to pump tunelessly on an accordion for hours.

I have a friend who is moving to your town soon and it is possible that I will visit him and perform in your town and hope that I will receive a warm reception.

From Robert Eustace

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Perhaps it would be a good thing to establish a pecking order with regard to the type of music played, and that the better music should be made way for by the lesser musician.