New Yellowknife busking rules leave little to chance

The City of Yellowknife says buskers must ‘dress appropriately’ and ‘demonstrate a reasonable degree of proficiency in their performances’ if they want to perform on city property. One musician says that’s going too far.

‘Buskers must demonstrate a reasonable degree of proficiency in their performances’

The Farmers' Market at Yellowknife's Somba K’e Civic Plaza. Some musicians are taking issue with the City of Yellowknife's new list of 26 guidelines for street performers and buskers who want to play in city parks. (Mark Heyck/Twitter)

Some musicians in Yellowknife are calling the city's new busking guidelines discriminatory and unfair.

A new list of 26 guidelines tell buskers how to apply for a permit, how to ask for money, where to park and even what to wear. “Buskers are asked to dress appropriately to face the public. A neat and clean appearance is most appealing.”

Under the new rules, no one under 12 is allowed to perform for money, and performers under 16 must have a “responsible” adult with them.

Indio Saravanja grew up in Yellowknife. At age 11, he played guitar and sang in front of the post office. Now a professional musician, he says he owes his career to that experience.

“Some kids don't have parents. I was on my own at fourteen. I was in Montreal paying my rent with small restaurant jobs and busking at a Montreal subway at fifteen. I wouldn't have been able to get a guardian to come with me or sign a paper. I think that's ridiculous.”

Saravanja also takes issue with rule number seven: “Buskers must demonstrate a reasonable degree of proficiency in their performances.”

“You've got these young people who only know a couple of songs,” he says. “Maybe they don't sing or play very well. It's a wonderful way of getting good very fast. Put yourself in front of a public, they'll let you know, with their money.”

Brian Kelln is with the City of Yellowknife. He says that particular rule hasn’t been a problem yet.

“The ones that have done busking for us are so far are all people we are aware of in the community, or they've shared a demo with us. We haven't declined anybody.”

Kelln says the age restrictions are in place for a reason. “It's in case something happens, or they're being harassed. There's supervision for them, and protection for the children.”

But Kelln says the city is flexible and may have to rework some of the rules.

The new guidelines apply only to buskers performing in city parks.

The city is inviting street performers to apply to play at the weekly Farmers' Market from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Only one performance/group will be scheduled each week.