A ROW has broken out over the growing ‘battle of the buskers’ which critics say is ruining a city centre.
Fed-up observers say more and more buskers are competing for space in Durham Market Place, leading to angry turf wars and ever-louder amplification - as rival musicians turn up the volume to be heard over neighbouring acts.
Drowned-out acoustic buskers have been forced out and an X Factor-style quality test has been considered for would-be performers, who are currently free to set up and play without regulation.
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Giles Radford, who directs tourists with the Durham Pointers, said his colleagues are struggling to make themselves heard.
“Music is great. It adds variety and atmosphere to the city. But the amplification is annoying.
“It affects people passing through, working in the shops and the Town Hall. You can’t hear yourself speak or think.”
Colin Wilkes, managing director of Durham Markets, added: “It’s getting to the stage where it will have to be regulated.
“There’s an ideal opportunity for some organisation to take it by the scruff of the neck and regulate both the quality and the volume.
“In the summer months a bit of music in the Market Place is marvellous. It adds to the atmosphere and everybody enjoys it but the problem is when you get buskers competing against each other – it becomes a battle of the amplifiers and the true spirit of busking is lost.”
Councillor David Freeman said the issue should be investigated and he would raise it with the council’s environmental health and licensing teams.
“Ideally there would be no more than one busker, otherwise it descends into noise rather than enjoyment.
“It can add to the atmosphere but too many buskers will take away from the atmosphere, because it mingles into one. Perhaps the number of people in one place should be regulated.
“Anything that happens in the Market Place should add to people’s enjoyment of the city, not take away from it. It’s important to get the balance right.”
Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection at Durham County Council, said: “Street entertainment is an important part of the vibrant culture and atmosphere which exists in Durham City.
“Buskers and performers help to enrich the experience of visitors to the city, although we would of course encourage acts to ensure noise is kept at an appropriate level.
“We would look at any complaints about noise from buskers on an individual basis.”