Fredericton — Panhandlers take note: if you want to make a go of it in New Brunswick’s capital city, you’re going to have to become buskers. Grab a ukulele and strum away at it instead of just asking for change, and you may even be paid to haunt your usual street corner.
Fredericton’s development committee is trying to recruit buskers to adorn our elm-lined streets and to entertain tourists and locals alike. A busker pilot program approved Thursday saw nearly 20 acts sign up last year, and hopefully this year the city can scrounge enough cash (amount to be determined by city staff and members of Downtown Fredericton Inc.) to pay dozens of buskers for their services.
“It just ups the value of the area, and makes us look good — all the major cities have a thriving busker scene,” said one city councillor. “If we can get rid of all these unsightly homeless people playing their tattered instruments and singing their sad laments, we might be able to entice some talented buskers to liven up the downtown core!”
We hit the streets of Fredericton to ask locals what they thought of the busker incentive plan.
“I love it! I often see these homeless guys huddled over a Tims cup, and I always think, ‘Would it kill ya to pick up a guitar or a hula hoop? Or like juggle some balls or something?’ It might make ya more sympathetic to us hardworking Frederictonians,” said Arthur MacNeil.
“The other day I was just trying to go buy a new suit at Robert Simmonds during my lunch break, and I was accosted by this man asking if I could spare some change. But you can’t expect something for nothing in this world,” added MacNeil, who inherited the rights to a lucrative business from his late father. “Sing for your supper a bit, ya know? Show me what you can do!”
“Personally, I’m annoyed by anyone trying to sing some shitty folk song in my direction or show me a dumb magic trick — I don’t care about their employment or home status,” said one grumpy urbanite, Sasha McDonald. “But I guess when it comes down to it, I’d rather support the arts than end homelessness. A lively arts scene is the mark of a truly progressive society.”
It may be hard for the average pedestrian to distinguish between a professional busker and a homeless bum down on their luck.
“Well there are some dead giveaways,” said Const. Sam Lowell, who was writing a panhandling ticket and affixing it to an obviously passed-out homeless person who was huddled under a newspaper. “First off, is the person clean? If they’re filthy, that means they’re lacking the basic necessities in life and we should throw them in jail, not pay them to be there.
“Are they decent at singing? As in, could they make the first cut on Canada’s Got Talent? If their act needs polishing, it’s likely they’re homeless, not pro buskers. Finally, do they have some ratty old dog lying next to them, and a cardboard sign saying ‘Please help’? That for sure means they’re homeless and you should walk on by.”