Winnipeg musician wants city to drum up clear rules on busking

Winnipeg’s lack of guidelines around busking means too many talented people are hidden away from the public, says a local musician.

Lee Raito says buskers are often treated as panhandlers by police and, as a result, viewed as such by the public. Because of that, many people just don’t bother to perform in public, which robs the city of more culture and entertainment.

The problem is that no one is clear on where and when busking is allowed, which makes it seem taboo, said Raito.

He has written an open letter to Mayor Brian Bowman, urging him to create guidelines that clearly define the rules around public street performances so more people would be inclined to do it.

“We all want a vibrant city and are constantly looking to improve downtown. Musicians and performing artists, like in thousands of cities worldwide, can add a positive, fun, cultured atmosphere,” Raito wrote in his letter.

There are many talented people around but the only places they can go to play are The Forks or in locations approved by the Downtown Biz. And in both cases, performers must apply and be approved well in advance.

There’s nowhere to go to just pick up and play, Raito said.

“I’d just like to see more of a good thing in public spaces in Winnipeg,” he said. “I think it’s just high time that we get into the 21st century and be artist friendly and I’m going  to try to be part of making that happen.”

To that end, Raito will pitch his idea to a city committee on Monday.

He wants to direct their attention to Edmonton, which he calls “absolutely the best.” That city has guidelines posted on its website for performing in public spaces.

Kenora has also done it right, Raito said, noting as examples a limit on amplification (noise can’t be heard more than 75 meters away) and obstruction (buskers and the crowds they draw cannot block sidewalks).

“I would propose Winnipeg city council copy either of their progressive approaches to providing direction to street performers in their city,” Raito stated in his letter to the mayor.

CBC | Manitoba News