British Columbia

Vancouver bagpipe ban blown away

The City of Vancouver has lifted its ban on buskers using bagpipes after the regulation garnered international attention and the wrath of the local mayor.

'Not on my watch,' says Vancouver mayor of bagpipe busker ban

The City of Vancouver has lifted a regulation banning buskers from playing the bagpipes on local streets.

The ban on bagpipes and other percussive instruments was outlined on the city's website until the city's top Scotsman got involved.

Mayor Gregor Robertson, who is known on occasion to wear a kilt, says the regulation is no longer in force.

Meant to address excessive-noise complaints, the regulation drew national and international media attention, sparked a social-media storm, and resulted in an official comment from a representative of the government of Scotland.

"There will be no ban on bagpipes or drums busking in Vancouver — not on my watch!," said Robertson in a Twitter post.

According to a message on Robertson's official website, the mayor asked staff to review the issue after he became aware of the change to the city's noise-regulations.

"The fact is that Mayor Robertson never supported an outright ban on bagpipes and never will," Braeden Caley, the mayor's executive assistant, said in a Wednesday email to The Canadian Press.

"The mayor took to Twitter himself yesterday to ensure that position is clear to all those who tweeted or shared their concern."

Both fans and foes of the bagpipes were quick to respond to the announcement.

Common sense advised

Vancouver piper Joe McDonald also called the regulation draconian, but asked buskers to use common sense and not stand in one place, playing for hours.

"I can see both sides of it where if someone's in a shop and they've got to listen to six hours of bagpipes, that's like drinking too much scotch," said McDonald who has played for 30 years.

"Scotch is great but you don't want to drink a whole bottle in one sitting."

Also pleased by the announcement — but for different reasons — was one Scottish journalist named Mark Woods.

Woods, apparently not a bagpipe fan, tweeted: "Let's ship every piper here over there on a one-way ticket."

Fiona Hyslop, Scotland's cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs, said in a posting on her government's website that common sense had prevailed.

"Mayor Robertson and I both recognize that bagpipes are part of the cultural heritage shared by Scotland and Vancouver," said Hyslop, who was in the city for a cultural event.

Hyslop also made reference to the five million Canadians who claim Scottish roots and noted in particular the suburban Burnaby-based world renowned Simon Fraser University Pipe Band.

"Hallelujah," said Terry Lee, pipe-major for the SFU band.

"I think everyone should have the right for freedom of expression, especially in the cultural arts, and bagpipes in the right hands are a beautiful instrument.