Busking’s bright future as action increases

At half past midnight on a crisp Melbourne morning, two smiling buskers watched as a shiny iron box was brought to the city centre.

A repurposed newspaper stand turned into a vault for valuable props, amplifiers and costumes.

While the storage concept was simple, it was the first of its kind in a street performer-friendly city, and the development they both felt pointed to a bright future for Australian street performers.

“We have a space for street performers to feel part of us,” Street Performance Australia’s secretary, who goes by the stage name Ruth Wolf, told AAP.

“It’s about ‘how Melbourne stands, supports and dedicates itself to our street performers’.”

The first storage unit is being used as a test case before similar facilities are rolled out in other parts of the city and is considered one of the best places in the world for street performers with the backing of the council.

Some performers, like Wolfe, make their living from street performances, traveling around the world in search of summer weather and crowds.

A tight network of street performers are usually happy to provide couches and homes to people around the world during the Australian holiday period.

“It’s going to be a very exciting summer with international acts returning,” said Wolff.

“We have people coming back to Melbourne from the US, New Zealand and Europe.”

Around 2,500 people have been issued street performance permits in 2022 in Melbourne.

“The sound of our city is defined by the street performers,” Melbourne Mayor Sally Capt told AAP.

Performers often travel around Australia in search of different audiences, and some cities may be more welcoming than others.

Circus performer Hemlock Mejarne says he knows many Australian street performers who migrated to Melbourne from Sydney and Brisbane.

Performers can get permits for specific high-traffic areas of the East Coast capital, but they thought it would be easier to perform in popular public spaces in the cities of the South.

The Darwin and Hobart markets are considered major attractions, along with the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

In Western Australia, performers are often found in Fremantle, where musician John Butler started his career.

Majoran, President of Street Performance Australia, said: “Busking is part of our unwritten right to freely express ourselves on the streets.

“The way a society feels free to use its streets is often a great barometer of how free that society really is.”

Busking is not permitted in privately owned public spaces such as Federation Square, The Crown, and certain laneways in Melbourne.

To put more pressure on cities to one day host international street performance events, performers want change.

“I think it’s a beautiful way to bring people together in a community. It builds social capital in our spaces and makes people feel safer in public spaces,” said Wolff.


Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.