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New rules on noisy buskers could make Aberdeen look ‘anti-culture’

Any new rules on busking in Aberdeen must not make the city appear “anti-culture”, a community leader has argued.

The council first raised the idea of a policy governing street musicians in 2019, but the plans have been put on the back-burner during the pandemic.

At that time, it was suggested the council should consider introducing a by-law requiring buskers to turn down their speakers after a certain time.

The issue resurfaced this week during a meeting of Aberdeen City Centre Community Council.

Community council chairman Dustin Macdonald says the council must be careful not to send out the wrong message. Picture by Kath Flannery.

Those in favour of a policy argue that some street musicians can make life miserable for residents in the centre by playing amplified tunes at unsociable hours.

But at a time when the council has ambitions to create a “cafe culture”, officers have been urged to exercise caution in forming any set of rules.

‘We want to promote talent’

Chairman of the community group, Dustin MacDonald, said: “I am all for people expressing their talents.

“Most buskers are very good, and enjoy performing.

“But if the noise is deemed to be unreasonable, then it can become a police matter, and we have to be very careful going forward.

“We want to be seen as a city that promotes talent and invites people in, and is all about culture.”

The Press and Journal reported on the potential ‘bukser ban’ in 2019

Concerns about ‘ropey music’

George Street and Harbour councillor Sandra Macdonald agreed the authority needs to strike a balance between “buskers who bring vibrancy” and the needs of residents.

She said some people who live in the city centre “sometimes have to put up with pretty ropey music”.

The Aberdeen Labour member later told us: “Buskers and other street artists can really add to the vibrancy of the city centre and we should encourage those performers who bring that feel good factor.

“However, for many people living or working in the city centre, the noise can often be overwhelming and intrusive.

“Up to now we have found shared solutions on an ad hoc basis but perhaps it is time to look at ‘do’s and don’ts’ or a code of conduct.

“With information on what responsible busking involves, we can continue to welcome street performances to liven up our shared spaces in the heart of Aberdeen.“

Mr Macdonald added: “I choose to live in the city centre and and accept that comes with some noise.

“Any policy needs to be very light touch, it can’t be seen as anti-culture.

“We have got some talented people out there and they help to create an atmosphere.”

Loud AC/DC songs could be an ‘issue’

George Street and Harbour ward councillor Ryan Houghton offered an example of how some loud music could annoy city centre residents.

Mr Houghton said: “We want to encourage artists to the city centre because we know the value it can add to the city centre experience.

“However, people live in the centre too, and having an AC/DC cover blasted via an amp under your flat probably isn’t ideal if you’re sleeping off a night shift.

“Any new policy would have to be thoroughly consulted on, taking a light touch approach. This is about being fair.”

A council spokesman said any rules would be for elected members to decide.

In 2018, Dundee City Council banned buskers from using amplifiers when performing on the street, saying the move was designed to prevent the act from “becoming intrusive and an annoyance”. 

German busker trying to collect cash to return home

Chris Leibmann never expected to be celebrating his 50th birthday on the streets of Aberdeen.

The German national, who has lived in Italy for about 20 years, busks for a living and travels around Europe trying to keep people entertained in some of the most scenic cities on the planet.

An ill-fated romance brought him to Scotland, and lockdown rules have left him here for longer than he hoped.

The nomadic flute player this week drove his van to Aberdeen, with pet dog Ginger, and has been serenading Union Street passersby with pieces by Bach and Mozart.

Busker Chris Leibmann on Union Street. Picture by Kath Flannery

When asked about potential sanctions in Aberdeen, he said his fellow street musicians should take it upon themselves to behave responsibly.

Mr Leibmann said: “I have been doing this for 30 years, and I believe every city should have a space for musicians and performers.

“Any rules should allow for buskers to use amps, without that it feels like you can’t be heard and people stampede past.

“But buskers need to make sure they do not annoy people by playing for 10 hours in the same spot, 1o days in a row.”

Click here for our full report on the issue when it first arose in 2019.