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12th and Cambie: Mayor's office targets bagpipe ban in Vancouver

Bagpipes and bongos. Sadly, that's not the name of a new bylaw enforcement duo out of city hall.

Bagpipes and bongos.

Sadly, that's not the name of a new bylaw enforcement duo out of city hall.

It is, in fact, two of the instruments identified by bureaucrats working in city hall's engineering department as causing a racket when played by their owners on city streets.

Apparently, people complained about the skirling of the pipes and the bashing of the bongos when out for their latte or taking their pooch for his morning constitutional.

The ban on these instruments-even tambourines were included!-was done quietly, unbeknownst to the city's musician-friendly mayor, Gregor Robertson.

Not only is Robertson Scottish and proudly wore a kilt to both of his inaugurations-and was piped in to the ceremonies-the guy is a bit of a musician, too.

He's been seen and filmed around town playing his tuba and drums. And don't forget his DJ performance at the Biltmore.

So when the story broke a few days ago about the overseers of the city's street performance permits program refusing applications from pipers and others, the mayor_well_he went all ancestral and starting quoting lines from the movie Braveheart.

"Are you ready for a war?" he said, waving his tuba in the council chambers, narrowly taking out the large photo of the Queen on the wall.

Actually, he didn't.

Instead, he and his staff went to war through Twitter, sending out tweet after tweet on Tuesday, explaining that pipers can continue playing Danny Boy on the streets for money.

The mayor, via Hootsuite: There will be no ban on bagpipes or drums busking in #Vancouver-not on my watch!

The mayor's office, via Hootsuite: To be clear-@MayorGregor absolutely does not support a bagpipe buskers ban in Vancouver.

If that wasn't clear enough, a link was provided to the mayor's website for a detailed explanation. Here it is:

"Recent media reports have focused on a City of Vancouver restriction on street entertainment permits for bagpipes and other percussive instruments such as drums and bongos.

When the mayor was made aware of the staff regulation change that recently implemented the restriction, he immediately asked senior staff to review the matter.

When first asked by media last week, the mayor responded with the following statement to inquiring members of the press:

'Buskers play a very important role in making Vancouver's streets lively and dynamic, particularly in our vibrant downtown. We do however have to monitor noise complaints and ensure that music from our streets isn't excessively disruptive to neighbouring residences or workplaces. I've asked city staff to review this issue. Council won't support an outright ban on specific instruments. My first reaction is that a complete ban on bagpipes and percussion instruments across the city is ridiculous and culturally insensitive. The clans won't stand for it!'

Clearly, the mayor meant for the last phrase to be a bit more tongue-in-cheek, but as he indicates, he certainly takes the issue very seriously.

The restriction on bagpipes has now been lifted.

Staff will continue to gather noise level readings, monitor complaints and work with musicians and performers to see how these instruments can be permitted in a way that is acceptable to the public.

As the mayor has made clear though, council will not support an outright ban on specific instruments, and certainly not bagpipes."

Got it.

But how about mimes?

Twitter: @Howellings