Busking has always been a part of Galway’s culture, with a huge variety of street performers gracing the streets every day of the week. In fact, many of Galway’s top buskers have gone on to greatness, with Ed Sheeran, David McSavage and Little John Nee starting off in the City of Tribes.
For many of Galway’s regular buskers, performing in the streets is a way of making a living. One such busker is Holland-native Robin Hey, a folk singer, musician and song-writer who can regularly be found at various parts of Shop Street in rain, hail or snow – quite literally as a photo on the front page of the Irish Independent recently proved.
“That was very cold,” Robin joked, remembering the photo that got him into the national newspapers. When a sudden downpour of hail and snow started on the afternoon in question, Robin decided to just keep playing instead of running for shelter, proving just how dedicated he is to his music.
“I just like to finish my set. When you’re standing out there, you don’t really feel the cold as much. It’s only hard on the fingers.”
Robin’s list of songs includes some much-loved Irish classics like ‘Raglan Road’ and ‘The Wild Rover’ to name a few. These songs go down well with tourists who could spend up to an hour sitting on the ledge of eason’s, listening to the classic Irish ballads.
“The Irish music is known all over the world. I’m a big fan of the Dubliners and the Pogues and I always went to the Dubliners concerts when they played in the Netherlands. My favourite bands are the Pogues, the Dubliners, the Chieftains and the Clancy Brothers. I really like that kind of music so I picked up a banjo and started singing and playing,” said Robin.
As well as performing some much-loved tunes – or much-hated, depending on your tastes – Robin writes his own music. To him, music is his career and his only source of income, so busking and performing are his way of life. He lives, sleeps and breathes music.
“I started busking around ten years ago on my travels. I still travel around sometimes and I’d like to do it more this year. I did more gigs in the beginning, but the pubs are a bit quiet at the moment,” said Robin, whose voice and singing style divide opinions among the public, with some enjoying his performances and others finding it too loud.
“For the past few years music is my only income. See, that’s the reason I busk a bit more these days. I started busking on my travels and sometimes I did it in Holland as well as outside some pubs. It was more fun at the time, but now I make a living of it.”
But discussions have been taking place regarding new bylaws that could be put in place for buskers in Galway, after Dublin City Council’s recent introduction of busking regulations which ban performances that reach noise levels of over 80 decibels and require buskers to purchase an annual permit.
“Galway is famous for its music and busking tradition, however in recent years complaints about street performing to the City Council, An Garda Síochána and the various business representative organisations have increased significantly,” according to the Galway City Council.
The complaints in question relate to “loud, continuous and repetitive noise, obstruction of premises and thoroughfare, busking taking place at night disturbing city residents, and intimidation by some performers soliciting donations”.
Existing bylaws on street performances, which were introduced in 2011, restricted late-night busking, but these regulations do not address the issues that are the main source of ongoing complaints.
“With this in mind, Galway City Council are reviewing the whole area of street performance and busking in the City and considering the possible introduction of a policy and/or bylaws to regulate and encourage street performance in a manner consistent with the overall public interest,” according to the City Council.
The purpose of this review and any proposed bylaws is to “attempt to regulate busking in the City Centre in a managed way, to make street performing a more positive experience for all and to mitigate the problems currently being experienced”.
“At the same time, the importance of street performance and buskers to Galway City’s vibrancy, culture and attraction must be acknowledged,” said the Galway City Council.
Robin Hey has been busking in the streets of Galway for a number of years now, contributing to the city’s popular musical scene. “I think Galway is a great town with music in bars and on the street and acts that make the town unique,” he said.
“I don’t see myself doing something else other than playing music and it’s the only thing that keeps me going. But if they’re going to make it difficult in Galway for buskers to perform, that means I have to leave this town and go somewhere different.”
But he’s hopeful that any bylaws will be fair and allow him to continue with his passion “because I think it’s a great town. But if I’m going to live somewhere else in the future, I would always love to go back to Holland with the banjo for a few songs and a few tunes.”
Whatever the outcome, Robin Hey’s music won’t be stopping anytime soon.
Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island
Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.
A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.
Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.
It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.
Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.
Gardaí investigate fatal Carraroe crash
A man in his 30s has died following a road crash in Carraroe in the early hours of this morning.
At 3.50am, Gardaí and emergency services attended at a single car collision on a minor road.
The driver of the car, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. A passenger in the car, a male in his 30s, was taken by ambulance to Galway University Hospital. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.
The road is currently closed and local diversions are in place. Garda forensic collision investigators will examine the crash site this morning.
Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.
Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.
It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.
In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.
In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”
It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.
“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.
“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”
Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.
The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.