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Businesses want amps banned as 750 complaints made every year about noise level


Busking on Grafton Street

Busking on Grafton Street

Mick McLoughlin on Henry Street

Mick McLoughlin on Henry Street

Keywest band

Keywest band



Richard Guiney Dublin Town

Richard Guiney Dublin Town


Busking on Grafton Street

More than 750 complaints are made every year by businesses about the activities of buskers, the Herald can reveal.

As councillors consider how they will vote on proposed regulations for busking, business leaders have said the failure to ban the use of amps in the new rules is an "opportunity lost".

The bylaws being devised by Dublin City Council will regulate street performances in the capital for the first time.

They require buskers to buy annual permits and place limits on the amount of time performers can spend on one spot.


The draft bylaws - to be submitted for approval by the full city council next month - won't ban amps, but instead place a limit of 80 decibels on performances.

An on-street officer will measure the noise levels from inside nearby shops.

Following a public consultation process, 88 submissions were received from performers, residents, business owners and city workers. A staggering 72 (82pc) identified excessive noise as the main issue to be addressed.

Representatives from a number of high-profile retailers and businesses including Brown Thomas, the Westbury Hotel, Rocks Jewellers, River Island and An Post wrote to the council with their observations on the proposed bylaws.

The director of one business on Grafton Street in his submission said the problem of "having to, day in, day out listen to off-key, out of tune, repetitive, loud and basically talentless buskers is torture.

"Songs are murdered here every day," he wrote.

Another submission from the owner of a building on Grafton Street warned the proposals would see it become a "karaoke ghetto".

City centre workers also told of their anger - one said she had to listen to a performer play the same repertoire of songs over and over every day.

Richard Guiney, CEO of Dublin Town - which represents 2,500 businesses in Dublin city centre - said the body was disappointed that the amps weren't banned.

"We have a footfall in the city area of 330,000-a-day and we all need to share that space.

"What we are finding with the amplification is it can be very loud. I have been in shops where you literally have to stop the conversation because neither of you can hear what is being said.

"We are extremely supportive of street entertainment, but I think the amplification is a major issue. I think there's been an opportunity lost. We receive in the region of 750 complaints a year in respect of street performers. The vast majority would be about loud amplification," he said.

Dr Graham Fry, the medical director of the Tropical Medical Bureau which has a clinic on Grafton Street, said that as long as the decibel levels are monitored, and people stay within the boundaries, "then that's great".

"It is when it goes above and beyond that it becomes very difficult because it really can be very excessive.

"It's more than background noise. If they have the amplification on, it can be quite difficult to hear what someone is saying," he said.

'We can't sleep due to non-stop music', city residents claim

City dwellers have told of their  sleepless nights as a result of the din from street performers.

Residents of Wolfe Tone Close apartments, which overlook Jervis Street, voiced their "distress and annoyance as a result of the noise nuisance which we have to endure 365 days of the year".

They said that it was impossible to sleep or rest or listen to radios and TVs at a reasonable volume with the constant daily interruption from the busking on Mary Street.

Meanwhile, Temple Bar Residents - which was formed to provide a voice for the 2,200 people living there - said in a submission on the new bylaws that the proliferation of amplified acts was a major issue.

"We wish to acknowledge that Temple Bar has been a traditional area for busking going back many years, and we see no problem in this continuing - provided that it is confined to acoustic or mime performances.

"The problem our members have is with amplified busking and drumming," it said.

A proposed ban on busking in Temple Bar had been discounted last November by councillors.

However, following a number of submissions from Temple Bar residents, the draft bylaws will ban buskers from Temple Bar between the junction at Fownes Street and Temple Lane South and on East Essex Street between the junction at Temple Lane South and Eustace Street.

A submission from Trinity College asked the council to seriously consider the adverse affect that excessive noise from street performers on Grafton Street is currently having on the college's ability to perform normal business operations.

Street decibel levels can hit 78 ... even without music - buskers

The lead singer of Keywest has told of his frustration at the proposed new rules on busking.

The band have built up a huge following both here and internationally - and they honed their famous live performances while busking.

Andy Kavanagh (26), who lives in the city centre, told the Herald that what was needed was a system that was simple.

He believed that the reduction in decibel levels to a maximum of 80 in the new bylaws could be exceeded without even playing.

"I took a decibel level in Jervis Street Shopping Centre and it was 78 decibels with no music," said Andy.

He has engaged with the council on the various issues. "We tried to sit down with many councillors.

"We have expertise from busking around the world, we know all the different systems so we know the ones that work."

He said that he is not against regulation - but it must work. Permits have to be issued, and he has suggested that the council assign a liaison person and a code of conduct that buskers must follow.

However, what is happening now is not looking at the quality of the music, he believes.

He suggested that the liaison person would have the power to revoke a licence if a particular act was consistently not up to scratch, or was being too loud despite being told by the businesses.

Meanwhile, buskers on the streets of Dublin have been giving a mixed reaction to the new rules.

Mick McLoughlin (38), who is living in Drumcondra, has been playing his guitar and singing on Henry Street for three-and-a-half years, and said he was in favour of regulation.

"A lot of us do this for more reasons than money. It is about bringing the streets alive," he said.

However, musician Boris Gurgiev (58) was not in favour of the permits, planned to cost between €30 and €60, as he didn't believe it was fair.

The council received submissions from street performers, including a limbo dancer who uses fire in her show and wanted to be allowed continue.

A juggler also said that a ban on fire torches would have a negative impact on his business.

The proposal to ban the use of knives, swords, saws, axes and flames has now been dropped.