Alternative street artists and buskers gathered in Montreal Thursday evening to voice concerns about what they claim is negative treatment from the city.
Montreal is considering proposals to amend the laws relating to street performers. The proposals include restricting buskers to certain areas, creating a "busker police" and more than doubling the price of work permits.
Currently, a general permit costs about $120, with a permit for performing in high-profile areas more expensive, up to around $300. The proposals suggest increasing the fee for general permits to about $400 and those for major tourist areas to about $800.
Montreal street artists object to the proposed changes, saying the government doesn't recognize the importance of alternative culture with funding as it does some forms of culture.
"Culture is not only about artists who play in [established Montreal entertainment venue] The Spectrum, it's also about people who play in the street," SÃ©bastien Croteau, one of the meeting's organizers, told CBC News.
Croteau wants to see independent artists unite so they have a stronger voice.
"Money is going to the people who are well organized, the big events, the big venues," Croteau said. "It should be redistributed so it really resembles the reality in Montreal; that every actor in the cultural scene is important."
Street performer Cyrille Esteve says he tried to get more than 100 buskers to attend the meeting Thursday evening, but only got 20 to show up.
"I'm disappointed," he admitted. "I would like all buskers and street performers to realize that if the city's trying to kill us, we have to defend ourselves against them."
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Esteve is best known as the Spoonman who played outside the upscale Ogilvy's department store. Late last year, a complaint from the store helped usher in a new bylaw banning spoon-playing on a downtown street.
Croteau said he was optimistic more will get involved and plans to draft a statement to the city expressing the demands of street artists. Several borough councillors have begun public consultations on the proposals.
Street performers â including clowns, mimes, acrobats, jugglers, musicians, puppet-masters and fire-eaters â have long been part of Quebec's cultural scene. The Cirque du Soleil, arguably the province's most famous export, began in 1982 with a group of stilt-walking jugglers and fire-eaters helmed by Cirque founders Guy LalibertÃ© and Gilles Ste-Croix.