SINGAPORE - The National Arts Council (NAC) will work with buskers and venue owners to improve a scheme for the growing community of such performers here, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng on Monday (Aug 5).
He cited how the council is currently in discussion with venue owners to explore different models, including a suggestion to allocate larger areas to buskers instead of limiting them to specific spots.
Mr Baey was responding to Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who in an adjournment motion relayed the challenges faced by local buskers and their suggestions, including creating a busking app and a ballot system for popular busking spots.
He said his ministry agrees with Mr Ng that busking adds vibrancy to streets and public spaces, and showcases the creative energy and talent of performers to the public.
"NAC is committed to working with its partners to improve the Busking Scheme, and ensuring that it grows in a manner that benefits performers, venue owners and audiences alike," Mr Baey said.
Since it started in the 1990s, the Busking Scheme has undergone several enhancements after taking in feedback from members of the public, venue owners, buskers and government agencies.
Mr Baey said there are now about 300 endorsed buskers under the scheme, more than double the number in 2008. Half of them are below the age of 35.
In addition, there are now 81 busking locations, including Suntec City, Tanjong Pagar, Lot One and Downtown East. There were only three when the scheme started.
But Mr Baey also acknowledged that the utilisation of busking locations can be uneven, with intense competition at times for locations deemed to have higher footfall and visibility.
The NAC thus welcomes the suggestions from Mr Ng and the busking community, he said.
He added that the NAC will work with Mr Ng to trial allocation mechanisms such as balloting for busking spots in Nee Soon GRC.
Mr Ng has identified two new locations for busking in Yishun, and invited interested parties like Timbre Plus - a food centre in Ayer Rajah Crescent - to pilot new busking models.
Mr Baey said the NAC is also in talks with venue owners like Singapore River One, the venue manager for Singapore River, to enhance the busking experience along Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay
The council is also working with the newly-registered Busking Association to co-develop a code of practice for the community.
NAC will also take up the suggestion of using technology such as apps to share information on the local busking scene, Mr Baey said.
Mr Ng had dedicated his speech to local musician and heartland busker Tong Yek Suan, also known as Yu Xuan, who died on March 10 at the age of 48.
He recalled: "I had just met her two days earlier at an event and was mesmerised by her beautiful voice and her big heart.
"She had concerns about and suggestions on how we can improve the busking scene. I told her that I will look into it and catch up with her another time to discuss this further."
He never got the chance to meet her again, but said he spent the past few months meeting other local buskers and NAC.
Mr Ng added: "Buskers light up our lives and they make Singapore a more vibrant place to live in. Unfortunately, some still view buskers as beggars and, for some, busking is still frowned upon.
"It is time to change this perception and recognise buskers as artistes and performers."