Scheme for street performers set to be improved

Mr Amirul Jamil and Ms Jonquil Woon busking in Tampines last year. There are now about 300 endorsed buskers under a scheme for the community of such performers in Singapore, more than double the number in 2008. Half of them are below the age of 35.
Mr Amirul Jamil and Ms Jonquil Woon busking in Tampines last year. There are now about 300 endorsed buskers under a scheme for the community of such performers in Singapore, more than double the number in 2008. Half of them are below the age of 35.ST FILE PHOTO

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 yesterday.

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 as well as 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.

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 in Suntec City, Tanjong Pagar and Downtown East - up from only three when the scheme first started in 1997.

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 Baey said that the NAC is also in talks with venue owners like Singapore River One, venue manager for the 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.

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.

Mr Ng said: "Buskers light up our lives and they make Singapore a more vibrant place to live in. Unfortunately, some still view buskers as beggars... It is time to change this perception and recognise buskers as artists and performers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2019, with the headline 'Scheme for street performers set to be improved'. Print Edition | Subscribe