Search icon


30th Jan 2015

“The naysayers want to ruin the soundtrack of the city” – Irish band Keywest hit out at council’s proposed amp ban

Keywest launch #SaveIrishBusking campaign

Paddy McKenna

“We have 52,000 fans on Facebook who are there because they saw us on Grafton Street.”

So says Keywest lead singer, Andy Kavanagh, who spoke to about Dublin City Council’s proposal to ban amps from Grafton Street.

On Monday 2 February, Dublin City Council will meet to vote on a draft Bye-Law that proposes to either outright ban all electric amplifiers from Grafton Street or, alternatively, impose a noise level limit of 80 decibels.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 11.06.10

Source: Dublin City Council Street Performers Draft Bye-Laws 2015

Either outcome is a disaster for artists and performers according to Kavanagh:

“If they outright ban amps from Grafton Street, that’s the end of the livelihoods of 90% of the street performers. That includes bands like Keywest who use electric guitar amps, but also jugglers, magicians, dancers and anyone else who needs an amp to communicate with an audience on a noisy, busy street.”

So would the noise level proposal of 80 decibels be a fairer compromise?

“Absolutely not,” says Kavanagh. “The ambient noise level on Grafton Street is 82 decibels. I know that because we busk all over the world in places like California where the level is 95 decibels, so we have our own decibel reader.

“95 decibels is fair. If it’s 80, what are we going to do? Run around and ask everyone to be quiet so we can start playing?”

There are is also a proposal in the draft Bye-Law about the positioning of buskers on the street.

“The Bye-Law suggests a distance of 50 metres between performers. Did anyone take in to account the fact that Grafton Street is just 350 metres long? The naysayers want to ruin the soundtrack of the city. In California, it’s 40 feet between performers, which I actually think is a bit tight, but 25 metres apart would be fair.”

Keywest have started their #SaveIrishBusking campaign and were filming on Grafton Street today.

As far as Kavanagh is concerned, the buskers on Grafton Street are a massive boon for tourism in the area.

“Aer Lingus actually use us on their in-flight tourist information video – ‘head along to Grafton Street to see the buskers, you might even catch Keywest’ – not any more! Have a look at Grafton Street on TripAdvisor, 90% of the comments are about buskers and how much people appreciate the entertainment.

“If we are trying to sell the country to tourists, we need the buskers and not just one guy and a guitar. Anyone who has ever busked on Grafton Street without amplification knows you’ll be hoarse in ten minutes. It’s very, very hard to do.”

The band have consulted with members of the council about the draft Bye-Laws and they hope they have made some headway, but the concern remains that from Monday night, amps on Grafton Street will be a thing of the past.

“The council are doing this because they received 70 noise complaints in 2014,” says Kavanagh. “In a country of nearly five million people, on a busy tourist street, that’s not that many. We have 52,000 fans on Facebook who are there because they saw us on Grafton Street.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 11.12.13

Pic via Twitter

The council votes Monday night.

LISTEN: You Must Be Jokin’ with Aideen McQueen – Faith healers, Coolock craic and Gigging as Gaeilge