Busking: The unwritten code
The council brought in all these new laws. Time limits and noise levels and shit. Gotta have a permit, can’t work one spot for more than an hour. Gets me wild.
The thing about busking is you gotta know where to set up. Location is everything. Don’t bother wasting your time outside a bank, rich people are mean-as, won’t throw you a cent. Outside a chemist’s the spot. You’d be surprised how generous sick people can be. Nothing makes a person feel better than knowing there’s someone out there worse off than them. I look at them and smile and as soon as there’s eye contact, boom, hand goes straight to the purse.
And another thing. There’s an unwritten code when you’re busking. You don’t go and set up next to someone. There’s this woman, she plays the violin. Doesn’t matter if I’m here first, she’ll go and set herself right beside me, I mean like right there. Gets me wild. I say to her ‘lady, we’re not in a fuckin band, get your own spot.’ But she doesn’t listen. She’s got no manners. I’m not like that. If I come down and she’s there, I go somewhere else. I got manners.
Couple times I’ve been moved on. The council brought in all these new laws. Time limits and noise levels and shit. Gotta have a permit, can’t work one spot for more than an hour. Gets me wild. Took me months to get a permit last time and I then I didn’t get asked to show it once. Waste a bloody time.
There’s this place downtown, outside Noel Leemings. Yeah. The manager there hates me. Accuses me of playing the same song over and over again. I tell him, ‘bae, I’m not a fuckin’ juke box and I wasn’t put on this earth to entertain you.’
But if you wanna know the truth, I do it on purpose. Bob Marley especially gets him wild. I wait til I know he’s on the counter and then I start up. Say I remember…. when you used to sit…. in a government yard in Trenchtown…. Sure enough, nek minute, here he comes, wild as, telling me to get lost. Fark, cracks me up.
But I gotta get my laughs somehow. This ‘aint an easy gig out here. You have your good days and your bad days. A good day I might get a hundred bucks. Bad days I get nothing but a fuckin’ head cold. People look at me like they feel sorry for me sometimes, ‘specially in winter when it’s pouring with rain.
I know those looks. It’s a look of dollar signs.
Are you a busker?
All people in Aotearoa New Zealand have the right to freedom of movement – in other words, the right to go where you want to go and live where you want to live. The government has to have a good reason before it can restrict that right.
Different councils around the country make bylaws that affect your rights to do some things in public areas, like begging, busking and sleeping on the street. Councils are supposed to respect your right to freedom of movement and to be careful about restricting it.
To find out what the local laws are on any of these things, go to the council website or do a Google search for ‘begging in Westport’, ‘busking in Rotorua’ or whatever you’re interested in.
You can ask a librarian or use the internet at a public library to help you with this in most places, if you don’t have internet access of your own.