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Vancouver musicians plan protest of city's busking ban with live music

'When times are hard, live music is one of the only safe ways people can feel connected,' says local musician
Busker stock
Vancouver performers and musicians plan to protest the city's ban against street entertainment during the COVID-19 pandemic Saturday. Photo: Thinkstock

A Swedish-born vocalist is taking to the steps of Vancouver’s Art Gallery on Friday, Oct. 2 to sing with other musicians in face of a busking ban currently in effect throughout the city.

Typically, nearby sidewalks on the 800-block of Robson Street would be free game for a musician like Henrik to make a profit from entertaining strangers on the street.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Henrik wouldn’t have had to purchase a permit for that location.

However, as of Sept. 8, the City of Vancouver indefinitely banned street entertainment and busking due to “public health and physical distancing requirements,” according to its website.

BoHenrikPhoto: Facebook/BoHenrik

This has squashed a vital stream of income for local musicians, Herik said – most who have already lost paying gigs due to pandemic – and some who plan to join him in protest on Oct. 2.

“I see busking as a safe and essential form of entertainment,” Henrik told Vancouver Is Awesome. "If it’s done outdoors, for a short period of time, and listeners socially distance.”

The live music demonstration will see Vancouver bands DACEY and Gnarfunkel perform alongside Henrik from 3 to 6 p.m.

"It will be a socially-distant set," said Henrik, who plans to hand out face masks.

The bands will play on behalf of artists they know who relied on busking hours a day to make ends meet.

"These aren't the people we should be banning right now," he said.

The 23-year-old musician said he's no stranger to the dangers of COVID-19.

"My mom had COVID-19 back in Sweden and I have had friends who died from the disease," Henrik mourned.

"I just know in situations like this when times are hard, live music is one of the only safe ways people can feel connected."

The bands are protesting peacefully to push the city to include arts, music, and culture in its COVID-19 recovery plan.

Vancouver Is Awesome has reached out to the City of Vancouver for comment.