National Arts Council (NAC) held two Buskers Connect engagement sessions with members from the busking community on 21 and 23 August 2023 at the National Library’s Drama Centre. The sessions provided a platform for buskers to share their experiences and feedback on how the busking scheme could be improved, as well as offered an opportunity to network and learn from one another. Through these sessions, buskers were also able to keep updated on the latest developments in the busking scene.
Each session began with a sharing on the Our SG Arts Plan (2023 – 2027) and how busking could contribute towards building a distinctive city for the arts. NAC also shared about the recent formation of a Busking Consultative Committee (BCC), to advise on changes to the busking scheme as the needs of our busking community evolve.
This was followed by facilitated discussions on the buskers’ journey looking specifically at their experiences with the audition process and views on busking spaces. During these discussions, though some buskers highlighted the need for busking auditions to maintain minimum standards and ascertain street readiness, others suggested differentiating auditions for experienced and aspiring buskers. Buskers’ views were also varied on the format of auditions, with some agreeing that having public auditions would reflect street conditions while others felt this would complicate the auditions process. On spaces, buskers shared the importance of having suitable venues to busk that would maximise the busking experience for both buskers and the audiences. Buskers were also invited to share their views on important characteristics of spaces that were necessary in identifying busking locations, so that these could be considered when working with venue partners to designate new future locations. Most were of the view that having good footfall was an important characteristic, in addition to other suggestions such as ensuring the space had amenities nearby. Feedback and suggestions gathered from these sessions will be brought to the BCC for further deliberation, as NAC continues to work towards improving the busking experience for all in Singapore.
NAC also explained that as designated busking locations are shared public spaces, their availability may from time to time be affected by other events, activations and also renovation works. However, the buskers were reassured that in such situations, NAC would continue to work with venue partners to minimise disruptions to busking activities and to explore designating new areas and spaces.
Buskers were appreciative of NAC’s openness to feedback and suggestions on improving the busking scheme, including its efforts in addressing recent challenges arising from the Busking E-Service Portal. Overall, buskers shared that the sessions were fruitful as they had the opportunity to learn and connect with one another. NAC will continue to organise similar sessions in future.
Engagement sessions with members from the busking community were held on 12 and 14 April 2023 at the National Library’s Drama Centre. They were designed to be platforms for buskers to learn from industry professionals, get updates on the developments in the busking scene, and network with fellow buskers.
The sessions began with a sharing by representatives from communications services and creative agency, TBWA, who spoke on tips and tricks for building an online presence and deepening the connection with audiences online.
Buskers reflected that they found the E-services profile page beneficial as it included their picture and contact details and shared that they received other performance opportunities as a result of being discovered through the platform. There were also suggestions for NAC to assist those who may not be as digitally equipped, as well as increase the visibility of the Busking E-service portal so that the public, venue partners and event organisers could find out more about buskers through this platform.
NAC also shared the following with the busking community:
- Key findings from the annual busking survey conducted in February 2023 showed an increase in positive sentiments towards the Busking E-services and more buskers exploring new busking locations;
- Plans to pilot a share-slot function within the Busking E-Service Portal in the second half of 2023. This was developed based on the busking community’s suggestions and will open up more opportunities for buskers to perform at different locations.
- Though venues such as Ang Mo Kio Hub and Jubilee Square will undergo renovation and restructuring works in the year ahead, new designated busking locations (Hougang Central Hub and 111 Somerset) will be open for booking from 1 May 2023.
Many appreciated that the updates were shared in advance as this would allow them to better plan their schedules in the months to come. The buskers also requested for clearer images and descriptions of the designated busking locations in the Busking E-Service portal, to which NAC shared that the team was currently working with venue partners to improve this.
Overall, the buskers shared positive feedback that the session was fruitful as they had the opportunity to learn new things and connect with one another. NAC was encouraged by the response and will continue to organise similar sessions in the year ahead.
In the month following the engagement sessions, the following tasks were completed:
- The images and descriptions of designated busking locations in the Busking E-Service portal were reviewed and updated.
- A list of planned redevelopment and renovation works and venue updates were added on the website. This list will be updated when new information is available to serve as a useful resource for the busking community.
29 November 2022
A joint engagement session facilitated by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the National Arts Council (NAC) was conducted on 29 November with the busking community. Both agencies shared that with the lifting of COVID-19 safe management measures and the resumption of travel, very large crowds are expected at the various year-end events and festive celebrations and public safety remains a top priority.
SPF and NAC worked closely to review the situation to adjust the busking hours at selected locations along Orchard Road, with additional crowd control measures in place:
- Busking activities can take place from 10am – 10pm throughout the week, at four locations along Orchard Road, namely The Heeren, 313@Somerset, Knightsbridge and Mandarin Gallery, except on Christmas Eve till 7pm.
- Busking activities can continue till 7pm at ION Orchard, Wisma Atria, Ngee Ann City A and Ngee Ann City B on Fridays and Saturdays, from 9 to 31 December (inclusive).
SPF has also advised on the additional measures to be put in place for crowd control such as having professional security officers on-site to usher and monitor crowds. There will also be real-time response to live situations for e.g. to pause a busking act at a certain point, if crowds are assessed to have significant public safety risks on ground. It is important for the busking community, venue partners, authorities, and various stakeholders to continue working together to bring vibrancy to the streets of Singapore in a safe manner.
With the collaborative commitment and cooperation established from various stakeholders at the engagement session, an off-cycle balloting exercise will be conducted for the four selected locations along Orchard Road. Details of the off-cycle balloting exercise was shared with the buskers in attendance and via email for the rest of the busking community to have the opportunity to express their interest for the newly available busking timeslots. Applications were open from 30 November to 2 December 2022, with balloting results announced on 6 December 2022.
Additionally, in anticipation of large crowds on New Year’s Eve (31 Dec), busking hours will be adjusted at these five locations around the Marina Bay Waterfront area:
- Busking activities can take place from 10am – 7pm at Breeze Shelter A and B as well as Mist Walk A, B and C.
NAC will also continue regular engagements with the busking community and venue partners to better understand and address the various considerations raised.
27 November 2022
Following the resumption of live busking activities in March 2022, NAC has been meeting a diverse range of representatives from the busking community over a series of more than 15 sessions and briefings. These sessions seek to hear from the buskers across a range of topics - from their varied experiences and encounters on the streets, to gathering feedback on the busking e-service portal and related features, as well as to brainstorm solutions on the ideal characteristics of busking locations and navigating challenging situations. NAC has also been engaging buskers face-to-face or over calls to address general requests, and to provide guidance in accordance with the Scheme’s terms and conditions to better manage the increasing number of public feedback received since the resumption.
Recently on 21 November, two sessions were held to get feedback from buskers on the upcoming e-service portal enhancement. This new feature will allow a busker to opt-in to share selected busking slot(s), which then allows another interested busker to book the same slot if they wish to share with the main busker too. Attendees discussed developing a guide for the community as they recognised that respect and good communication between buskers will be important, including other practical considerations such as alternative or side-by-side equipment set-up, sequence and duration of each act and suitability of the designated location.
Here is a summary of the various points of discussions across the months:
- Busking e-service portal is useful for planning busking schedules and to profile themselves, with varied views on booking period and ideal timeframe for balloting of slots and busking durations.
- In managing the allocation of popular locations, buskers recognised equity is important and that the e-service portal helps ensure accessibility through balloting.
- Suggestions to monitor overall demand of locations especially those that are becoming more popular, and to add new locations or delist existing ones based on demand.
- Discussions on promoting less popular locations and how to maximise popular spots through sharing.
- Key characteristics of an ideal busking location include access to amenities such as toilets, shelters, loading/unloading of their equipment as well as footfall, lighting and ambience etc. Heartland locations were also raised as good examples.
- Certain busking acts for example, circus acts will require more space and suggestions for the demand for such locations to be moderated to ensure fair access and optimal usage of busking locations.
- Buskers acknowledged that self-regulation may be challenging to administer on their own as not everyone will be willing to be cooperative and collaborative; suggestions to establish a Code of Conduct to address no-shows and hogging of slots within the busking community and for example, a penalty system to deter irresponsible behaviours were discussed. Possible learnings from overseas busking districts on how such situations are managed can be explored too.
NAC will continue regular engagements with the busking community and venue partners to make further improvements to the e-service portal and to enhance user experience.