Tuesday, February 12, 2019

No place for buskers in the City of Bluster

Irish Current Affairs Blog of the Year 2018

Buskers claim the proposed byelaws will drive them out of Galway

In the City of Bluster, one of our esteemed public representatives donned an immaculate suit and hired a cameraman to make a video about the city’s thriving street culture.

He strolled the streets and persuaded business people to stand at their doorways and express support for his wonderful new byelaws.

The video was about buskers but, funnily enough, he did not actually get around to interviewing any of the buskers.

You know, the people who give the city such a vibrant street life throughout the year.

These are the people who say that they will be forced out of town by the byelaws which are being introduced by the well-dressed councillor.

Councillors voted in favour of his new city laws last year, even though an estimated 95% of submissions were against them. I have been told that people as far away as New York and San Francisco wrote to the local authority to oppose them.

After all, their treasured memories of a trip to Galway are more likely to include furious fiddlers at the top of High Street than photos of British-owned chain stores.

The laws were only rejected on a technicality late last year and the street performers are now alarmed that they are set to be reintroduced by the local authority.

Without any consultations or changes.

“We stand united in opposition to the proposed Galway City Council Busking Bye-Laws, as they were not done in consultation with us, as we were ignored throughout the process, and as we already have our own Buskers’ Guide to Galway and voluntary Code of Conduct,” said a spokesperson who, strangely enough, was not invited to take part in the councillor’s slick (self-promotional) video.

Cartoonist Richard Chapman gives his take on the bye-laws
You can find Richard's work at GalwayCartoons.eu

Now the street entertainers believe they will leave the blustery city on the Atlantic coast with no music or street entertainment, just in time for us to become the European Capital of Culture in 2020.

In the city of bluster, jolly business people and politicians took to the streets to celebrate that historic designation.

What a wonderful accolade that is for the city and isn’t it going to bring in all those tourists and get the tills buzzing?

But now the local politicians who danced on Mainguard Street are angry, blaming the dreaded media for raising concerns about the lead-up to a project which has caused so much disquiet in the city’s arts community.

Funny how the concerns of the artists, the people who light up our streets and attract so many visitors, seem to be the last to be taken into account when they have so much apprehension about their livelihoods, sponsorship, and programming.

Sure, who wants to listen to penniless artists when there is so much money to be made in the Capital of Culture?

Buskers give Galway a vibrant street life throughout the year

In the city of bluster, the man whose job it is to tackle the homelessness problem likes to take part in an annual photo opportunity for the local papers.

He’s braver than me, sleeping out for a night to support a local homelessness charity.

Yes, his hands are tied by the national Government and perhaps he is trying his best. But does he never experience a modicum of shame as he smiles for the paper alongside the auctioneer who is brilliant at pushing up house prices or the businessman who gives his employees no job security?

Zero hour contracts and mass dismissals are forgotten when there's a photo opportunity for the local papers.

In the city of bluster, plans are in place for a new urban highway.

Never matter that it will cut through one of the most beautiful green areas in the city or ruin the peace and tranquillity around a historic castle.

It’s progress, you see. It’s a state-of-the-art ring road to encourage citizens of the city of bluster to keep driving to work or school on the other side of the city.

No matter that childhood obesity is now an alarming problem. Or that our natural environment is crying out for people to leave their cars at home and cycle to work or use public transport.

Or that the city fathers ruled out any prospect of a tram system to take those cars off the roads a decade ago.

So the cars will continue to clog up the narrow streets around all the schools while the children pile on the pounds in the city of bluster.

The car is king in the City of Bluster

In the city of bluster, outraged listeners contact the morning radio show after hearing a report about members of an ethnic minority who live on a rat-infested site on the edge of the city.

Outraged from Oranmore doesn’t care that these people live right next door to a rubbish dump on a site which was supposed to be “temporary” over a decade ago.

And the texts pour in, with racist abuse and messages about how these people are living off the taxpayers.

With zero compassion or care for how appalling it must be to bring up children right next door to a landfill site.

Their comments were hardly shocking, given that some members of the local authority have been pandering to those kind of prejudices for decades.

They came just a few weeks after members of this minority were effectively accused of ‘’gaming the system’ when it comes to getting social housing in the city of bluster.

It’s far easier to blame minorities than to face the fact that the people who represent us have let us down badly when it comes to tackling a chronic homelessness problem.

Don't we get what we deserve when we elect people who blame minorities for society's problems, see a Capital of Culture designation as nothing more than a chance to make money, or draft busking byelaws without any consultation from the buskers themselves?

There are local elections taking place in May of this year.           

Perhaps it’s time we looked at changing some of our representation on the European Capital of Bluster.

A day long busk-a-thon to oppose the Galway City Council’s proposed Busking Bye-Laws will take place at the top of William Street on Saturday. People have until March 8 to make submissions to the Council.

* Ciaran Tierney won the Irish Current Affairs and Politics Blog of the Year award at the Tramline, Dublin, in October 2018. Find him on Facebook  or Twitter here. Visit his website here - CiaranTierney.com. A former newspaper journalist, he is seeking new opportuniities in a digital world. 

To hire a professional journalist to write your business BLOG, contact ciaran@ciarantierney.com

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