Let's all take a look at busking, folks 

There may be a renewed interest in animating the village but funding will be key


Busking: it'll shake up the village. It'll make it fun and festive, every day and all day... until a reasonable hour! Let's do it! Yeah?

It's a possibility. The need for more village animation is well understood throughout the municipality. Staff is currently composing its Village Animation plan for the 2011 budget year and Councillor Chris Quinlan says busking, the practice of performing in public, might be a part of that.

The question is how a busking program might be facilitated.

"If there's a way that we can get busking so that it's guaranteed to be quality and it operates within guidelines so guests don't feel that they're intimidated or pushed to have that, then that can be integrated with paid performances," Quinlan said. "I think that's really what you want to have. You need more of a hybrid then just one over the other."

Busking is illegal under a 1989 business regulation bylaw, barring the solicitation of business in public places. Council outlawed busking as a means to elevate the visitor experience. They figured that after paying for a flight, a hotel, food and whatever else they need during their stay, there was little point in asking visitors to shell out more cash for street entertainment.

But the Olympics have sparked a hunger within the community for more street entertainment. Those 10 days were the most animated the village has ever been - may ever be - and that raw energy was created by residents and visitors all mixing together in some radical human stew, lubricated with a steady dose of street entertainment.

Busking could be an effective way to bring more entertainment to the village with less cost to the municipality.

"As an idea, it seems to make a lot of sense. Why not just have buskers that are free?" said Mike Kirkegaard, manager of resort planning for the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW). "But there are definite concerns about that over how aggressive they can be and how you maintain some quality and control over that."

In New York, Toronto and Vancouver, where busking is regulated, there's a call for entry, an audition process, the performers are licensed and away they go. Doti Niedermayer, executive director of the Whistler Arts Council, says Whistler could follow Vancouver's example by limiting the number of buskers on a street and making sure they have their permits visible at all times while performing. Vancouver charges $39 (tax included) for a four-month permit and $115.73 for an annual permit. The program pays for itself through these permits.

Currently, the Whistler Arts Council has a $100,000 budget for programming - a pittance for hiring high quality entertainment on a consistent basis. Niedermayer said that a busking program would enable more village entertainment because it wouldn't be so dependent on a budget.

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