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BUSKING BAN: One Person’s Noise Is Another One’s Bagpipes
April 10, 2012
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The news that busking permits in Vancouver will no longer be issued to anyone who plays either the bagpipes or any "percussive instruments" has caused a fierce reaction, not only from piping enthusiasts but from the mayor himself, who warned that "the clans won't stand for it."

"My first reaction is that a complete ban on bagpipes and percussion instruments across the city is ridiculous and culturally insensitive," said Gregor Robertson - a mayor proud of his Scottish heritage, who has been known to wear a kilt on occasion - in a statement.

The ban, which was prompted by the number of noise complaints received by city managers, was quietly introduced through the city' website.

The barring of specific instruments would give Vancouver some of the most onerous busking restrictions in Canada: While Calgary has banned downtown buskers from using amplification, most other cities require only that performers be 18 years of age and apply successfully for a permit.

But this won't be the first time that bagpipes have been specifically targeted by authorities looking to keep the peace: In 2008, police in Dorset, England, arrested busker Shaun Cartwright and seized his bagpipes, claiming he was causing "distress" to shoppers and passersby. He was detained for a "breach of the peace."

Vancouver's ban on "percussive instruments" isn't without British precedent either: Bongo-player Graeme Conway was barred from busking in the city of Newcastle for "annoying residents and businesses with relentless rhythms."

What do you think? Are the stirring sounds of the bagpipe something that should be heard on Canadian streets? Or should cities consider the potential for noise pollution when issuing busking permits?

Fill out our poll below:

Busking rules

To help you with your decision, here is what has Vancouver's permit issuers have in mind - a bagpipe busker in the city's Stanley Park:

We'll leave you, though, with some perspective offered by Jack Lee, the pipe sergeant of the six-time world champion Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, who point out that items far noisier than the bagpipes are allowed within city limits:

"Bagpipes are not really that loud. When my next-door neighbour starts his lawnmower, it's far louder than I would be if I blew my bagpipes up."

Image via Bagpiper Vancouver

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