The City of Kamloops is working on a new policy to regulate who can and cannot perform on the streets.
Under the proposed rules, a homeless person playing guitar for change could be moved along by bylaw officers, while pre-vetted, permit-holding performers would be given an audience.
The street performer policy is being examined in the wake of last year’s inaugural International Buskers Festival, which will return to Kamloops this July.
The festival features performers, including acrobats, magicians and musicians, in the downtown core.
City events supervisor Sean Smith said the Kamloops Arts Council wants street performers differentiated from panhandlers.
“The idea is to have the arts council vet the applications from performers,” Smith said, noting the proposal has performers paying a Kamloops Arts Council membership fee of $30, in addition to a $10 street-performing fee.
Vetted performers would then be given identification proving they have met the requirements of Kamloops Arts Council.
“Then, when they are out on the street performing and not just panhandling, bylaws officers will be able to distinguish those who are acceptable or not and it just keeps policing and enforcement of it a little more streamlined,” Smith said. “It also encourages high quality of street performers to take up the trade on our streets, giving some ambience and atmosphere on downtown streets.”
The city’s business licence and regulation bylaw allows sidewalk artists — any person producing and selling paintings and drawings on the sidewalk — but makes no mention of street performers or buskers.
In fact, the city has no policy or bylaw to promote, regulate or enforce street performing.
The proposed new rules, which are in the draft stage, would require permits by “everyone performing on city streets.”
Under the proposed news rules, permits would need to be displayed at all times and would be valid from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, limited to one hour at any one location.
Park performances would be allowed during hours parks are open to the public.
Under the proposed new rules, one performer per street block would be permitted and performers and audiences would not be able to impede pedestrians, doorways or display windows. Performers could perform longer than one hour if they moved at least one block from their previous location.
Battery-powered amplification would be considered on a case-by-case basis. If neighbouring businesses or residents complain about the noise, the volume would have to be turned down. Two noise complaints could result in bylaws revoking a permit.
City staff say other municipalities are adopting similar policies, noting the adjudication process gives legitimacy to those who travel from across the country to showcase their talents and make some cash.
Coun. Mike O’Reilly, however, questioned what will happen to homeless people performing without a permit. He said he respects the sentiment of the new policy specific to the Buskers Festival, but not for the rest of the year.
This year’s International Buskers Festival will run from July 25 to July 28.
“I don’t mind somebody juggling to try and make a little bit of money instead of going and breaking into a car,” O’Reilly said.
“It seems like a $30 fee doesn’t seem like a lot, but $30 is a lot to a homeless person. If you look at the enforcement area, of asking the bylaw and RCMP officers to be dealing with this, as well, I would suggest they might be better off dealing with more serious crimes than the guy juggling balls.”
That situation is considered panhandling, which is contrary to city bylaws.
City community and protective services director Byron McCorkell said with social services available in the community, “there is no reason to be panhandling for the sake of panhandling.” He said the city regularly hears concerns from the public about being approached while walking down the street.
“The idea here is to encourage and support art and buskers in a professional way, such that you’re providing a service to the community, whereas you’re still suggesting panhandling is not the way you want people to be greeted in the downtown core,” McCorkell said.
“It’s a fine line, I agree, but really that’s the principle of it.”
The policy will go to council at a later date.
Proposed Street Performing Policy:
• Everyone performing on city streets must have a valid street performer permit and permits must be displayed at all times during performances.
• Permits can be issued to artists ages 16 and older, with those ages 13 to 15 capable of performing if accompanied by a parent. Entertainment groups are limited to three members.
• Permits are valid between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., seven days a week, to a maximum of one hour per location. After one hour, performers can move to a new location at least one block away.
• Only battery-powered amplification is allowed and must be included in the permit. Voice amplification is not allowed, except on a case-by-case basis. The sound level must be reasonable and intended for an audience within 10 metres. If residents or businesses complain, performers must lower the volume. Two noise complaints can lead to loss of permit.
• The use of sharp or dangerous objects is prohibited, for example juggling knives, chainsaws or flaming objects.