Buskers Triggered After They Were Told That They Cannot Perform on Orchard Road During Peak Hours

In Singapore, Orchard Road is considered to be one of the most lively places. Not just because of rich people shopping for branded bags, but also the lively music by talented buskers. 

Soon, it will not be as lively as before.

Buskers are not allowed to perform from 7 pm to 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays in December at eight locations on Orchard Road.

These eight locations are Ion Orchard, Wisma Atria, Ngee Ann City, The Heeren, 313@Somerset, Knightsbridge and Mandarin Gallery.

The eight days include Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, but not Christmas Day itself.

So, if you are lonely this Christmas and want something to do, head down to Orchard Road and you may see some buskers in action. 

The reason for such restrictions is due to “considerations for public safety and advisories from the relevant agencies”, according to email notices sent to the buskers.

Buskers Triggered After They Were Told That They Cannot Perform on Orchard Road During Peak Hours

On 17 November 2022, the Buskers’ Association (Singapore) told National Arts Council (NAC) to reconsider this decision.

To them, it was “a shock to hear from NAC that buskers could potentially pose a threat to public safety”.

A spokesperson said that buskers always worked with the security management of the malls in the area to ensure safe distancing between themselves and their audiences.

The spokesperson also added that buskers “have played an integral role in elevating the atmosphere of Orchard Road, especially during the Christmas period.”

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Families and tourists would gather to catch the lively Christmas-themed performances by these buskers.

In addition, the Buskers’ Association raised the fact that the December festive period is a peak season for the buskers’ earnings.

Full-time buskers rely heavily on their earnings from December to tide them through quieter periods like the first three months of 2023.

“NAC is in fact taking away both the enjoyment of the public as well as the livelihood of such buskers by banning busking activities,” the spokesperson added. 

New Booking System for Buskers

An online booking system was made just before the pandemic started and was widely used after the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

Before the invention of this online portal, buskers would be given a list of five sites they can busk at. Sometimes, they even have to discuss with other buskers to give them space, but there were no official busking spots.

With this e-system, the busking sites are listed online and they need to book before heading down to perform.

Response from NAC 

NAC said in response to media queries that they are anticipating larger crowds of locals and visitors during this festive period, especially after the travel restrictions are lifted.

Ms Elaine Ng, senior director of engagement and participation at NAC, said, “Singapore Police Force prioritises public safety and advised the suspension of activities at eight busking locations, out of a total of 12 along Orchard Road.”

Buskers are still allowed to busk on Orchard Road from Sundays to Thursdays from 10 am to 10 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 7 pm. They are also allowed to busk at other busking locations islandwide.

These locations include Paya Lebar Square, Hougang Central Court, Clarke Quay Central and Taman Jurong Shopping Centre.

Other Sites Have their Restrictions Too 

While they are allowed to perform at other sites, buskers said that they would get complaints from nearby residents about their noise levels.

When such incidents happen, they used to work things out with the residents or shops in the area rather than stop busking completely.

The Buskers’ Association said that even though they are assured that the new booking system would make their lives better, NAC imposed the “bans” without letting them know.

“We have now observed how the booking system has become a tool for NAC to control busking locations and timings at its whim. This has undermined any goodwill that NAC had sought from the buskers,” said the spokesperson.

Ms Ng said that further enhancements are in the works, including a feature that allows buskers to share their booking slot with another busker.

She also said that everyone has to work together to bring vibrancy to the streets in a safe manner.

Do try and show your support to them, even if it is not at your favourite Orchard Road. 

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Featured Image: Simon Poon / Shutterstock.com