Dodie Goldney remembers the first time she performed music on the street.
The Kamloops musician was in a financial pinch at the time and chose to utilize her skills to make some cash. She didn’t have bus change, let alone $40 to purchase a Kamloops Arts Council membership and street performer licence being proposed by city staff.
“I didn’t even know if I’d make any money,” Goldney said. “But I wasn’t going to make any money if I didn’t try. I can tell you that first day I made $67. It blew my socks off.”
Goldney is one of many local artists upset with a proposed city policy that would require street performers to be licensed in Kamloops. The city has in the draft stage a policy that would make mandatory a Kamloops Arts Council membership, at $30, in addition to a $10 permit to perform on the street. It comes in the wake of the inaugural International Buskers Festival last year and the desire to differentiate between street performers and panhandlers.
“I understand what they’re trying to do, I guess,” Goldney said. “I don’t agree with it. They’re putting up a barrier to people who want to perform. People who are busking are often people who are needing money. That’s why they go busking. You’re putting this $40 barrier out to people who, if they have $40, they don’t need to go busking oftentimes.”
Also at issue is what constitutes art and who gets to decide that. The draft policy notes the city “encourages a wide variety of street entertainment and provides permits according to performance type and content on a case-by-case basis.”
“I don’t think that’s anyone’s right to say,” Goldney said. “I think they should have as much opportunity as any other artist to get out there and try their stuff. How else are you going to learn? Where else are you going to perform if you can’t do it on the street? That’s like the basic level of where am I going to perform, right?”
Former Kamloops Arts Council president Caroline Dick called the proposed policy a “terrible idea” and said she doesn’t know a single musician who is happy about it. She questioned whether, in fact, it goes against the Kamloops Arts Council’s mandate of making art accessible.
“It’s contrary to their bylaws and their mandate and they have to follow those bylaws and mandate,” she said. “That’s what they’re there for.”
Dick also pondered whether people who play a colourful piano placed outside downtown each summer by the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association would be required to have a permit.
“It’ll be interesting to see if they put it out this summer,” she said. “So, what, I’ve got to get a permit to play on the piano?”
Both Goldney and Dick called on the proposed policy to be scrapped or at least modified, a call many others have made online since KTW published a story on the policy earlier this week.
“I urge them to vote against it,” Goldney said, calling it an elitist attitude toward the arts. “It’s just wrong. It’s just putting barriers in place. It’s creating an elite arts sector, where you have to pay to work. That’s just to me the antithesis of what art is about. Art is supposed to be for everybody.”
Kamloops Coun. Kathy Sinclair also went online to say she is not in favour licensing performers.
“I’d love to see more animation on the streets of Kamloops,” she posted on Facebook. “More buskers, more performers and more musicians make our city more vibrant. Is licensing performers the way to encourage that? I don’t think it is and I’ll be stating as much if and when this proposal comes to council for discussion.”
The issue will go to council at a later date. Goldney said when she reached out to council, she was told to watch for it at city hall.
“I hope this doesn’t slip off people’s radars because it’s going to be down the road,” she said.
KTW reached out to Kamloops Arts Council, which said it would be issuing a press release on Friday.