Ruling on buskers strikes a bum note
Street performers hoping to brighten up the lives of the city's residents are out of luck.
The government quietly extended its scheme for street performers after a year-long pilot scheme ended last month, but approved only one location for busking - Sha Tin town hall.
The aim of the Open Stage pilot scheme was to enrich the cultural ambience of the city and allow the public to enjoy live, free shows in outdoor settings.
Three locations were chosen by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department - the piazza of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kwai Tsing Theatre and Sha Tin town hall.
These open areas were chosen because the venues they adjoined were considered popular performing arts venues, said Shirley Tsui Sau-yin, chief manager of cultural services and the New Territories.
As part of the scheme, 37 groups or individuals auditioned with the department for the right to busk from July to December last year, with 20 qualifying. From January to June this year, four groups or individuals qualified out of seven who sat auditions.
Of the 24 that qualified, three groups or individuals did not actually perform. During the scheme, there were 144 performances. The Hong Kong Cultural Centre hosted 73 shows, Sha Tin town hall had 62 and Kwai Tsing had nine.
Tsui said the performances were mainly acoustic band shows, with instrumental music, percussion, dancing and singing, with performers' ages ranging from 20 to 70.
'The department considered that Sha Tin town hall provided more favourable conditions for the scheme ... whereas the [programme at the] Cultural Centre and Kwai Tsing theatre will cease,' she said.
The decision was made after a 'serious' review of the scheme was carried out last month, Tsui said.
'It's not a printed review to release to the public. But I can tell you that we have thoroughly considered the scheme and reviewed the stakeholders' views,' she added.
Tsui said performers were surveyed as part of the review and while 'some of the performers at the Cultural Centre said they would prefer to perform in other areas like Mong Kok and Causeway Bay', no new locations would be added.
This was because the department did not have facilities in those districts, which was a requirement of the scheme, Tsui said.
A new scheme will start next Saturday with an acoustic guitar and singing show at Sha Tin town hall.