14. 7. 2009

What expats in Brno say: Where are your street performers?

Debra-Jayne Kimlin was born in the UK, but raised in northern Australia, before moving south to Brisbane and later Melbourne. She studied a Bachelors Degree in Wine Marketing from the University of Adelaide, graduating in 2004, and has a 20-year career history spanning public relations, sales and marketing roles in Airports and Advertising. She moved to Brno in 2007 to teach business english, recently starting lecturing in wine marketing at the Narodni Vinarske Centrum in Valtice, as well as writing wine marketing articles for Vinarsky Obzor.

What do you like/dislike about Brno?

The abundance of public transport in Brno should be applauded - it's great - you really don't need a car to get anywhere. This is unfortunately marred by the lack of safe practice displayed by some of the tram and bus drivers - who mustn't be assessed psychologically before they are put behind the wheel. I've seen blood spilled in these vehicles from irresponsible, wreckless and seemingly sadistic practices of the drivers.

The amount of building restoration going on in my neighbourhood (inner-city suburb) and in the city centre makes me smile. It is done with such sensitivity and care for the magnificent facades. Brno should be proud of the beautiful face it is maintaining for visitors and locals alike by preserving its heritage buildings. I love the restoration work done to the roads and footpaths in front of Jacob's Church and along Husova.

Although the city is littered in some places by undesirables, you can walk around most of the centre with a feeling of safety and peace. I think this is important for foreigners.

Do you know some “best practices” or experience from living in other cities which could be of use in Brno, too?

Coming from a small city which developed tourism as a major industry, I can think of a mountain of best practices which can be adopted by Brno's business and government leaders.

Thank goodness restoration work has started on that train station. It's a slap in the face for visitors, and those of us who travel by train to other cities. Crossing the road in front of the station, you take your life into your hands. It's a nightmare of tram lines, pushing vehicles, and badly placed crossings. Cars and buses should not be allowed to drive in front of the station. There is little/no drop-off zone there anyway.

China has, in the last few years, outlawed spitting in the streets, introducing big fines for those caught doing it. It's time to bring that in to Brno also. It's a disgusting, disease-spreading habit.

Brno has the potential to become a wine-cultural capital. Wine tourism needs to take a hold here, not only to increase job opportunities for the whole south Moravian wine region, but to give the city a status that Prague simply cannot touch. Brno is perfectly situated on a direct route from Prague to Vienna. Come on, people, you have CASTLES IN YOUR VINEYARDS!!!! Australia is the king of wine tourism organization, and has a multi-million dollar industry based around visiting vines - and they don't have 13th century castles, or Mucha paintings to add to the wine-touring experience.

Finally - hello Brno, where are your street performers? Jugglers, statues, musicians all bring life into a city centre and have proved to be highly successful in cities all over the world. There are so many theatres here, so I am sure there would be no shortage of performers somewhere? Brno could adopt a model for organizing these performers from London, Melbourne, Berlin, Vienna, Barcelona and many others. Take Vienna, for example: A busking license costs 5 Euro - and entitles the holder to major spots in the city on allocated days, for an hour or two at a time. Non-prime spots around the city can be taken at any time during the month of the license. This gives city hall some idea who these people are (as they show ID to get the license) and empowers police to remove anyone who has not paid, thus keeping the number of performers at a manageable level.

What do you think is its advantage compared with other cities?

For a city which holds place as second largest in the country, Brno is still just a big town in terms of atmosphere. The abundance of youth (students) which make up a major part of Brno's image, keep the place friendly and vibrant.

As I mentioned above, Brno's strategic position close to the Moravian wine region offers perfect base-status for wine tourism. This could put Brno on the global wine-map with the likes of Adelaide, Melbourne, Bordeaux ... I'm working on that one.

Seriously, I think Brno's variety of curiosities can compete with Prague's. So they have a bridge? We have mummified monks! And our castle [albeit less celebrious] is nestled in a peaceful forest environment atop a hill right next to the city. You can venture around Brno's highlights without blisters or use of public transport!

Where do you see the way how to make Brno more open and attractive for foreigners?

Put up some information boards around the city showing the story of the main sites [at least in Czech, German and English], as well as old photographs showing what it looked like at key historic periods. Berlin does this and it's much better than flicking through a guide-book all the time.

Improve the retail trade. Encourage a higher level of customer service. This means training, and thus investment by the shop owners. Time to put some of the profits back into your business. Training + Motivation = Happy Staff = Happy Customers = more profits and sustainable business. You don't have to be Einstein to work this equation out. How about Albert and Tesco sponsoring some Annual Retail Awards celebrating excellence in customer service?

13 komentářů:

Richard Lank řekl(a)...

I like the idea of street performer "licence". It should not be expensive just to filter the performers from beggars. This would be nice to have several music spots of various musical surprises.

Debra-Jayne řekl(a)...

Yes, Richard, you are correct. It will give authorities (eg police and security personnel) the right to remove beggars. It also means the performers contribute to the city financially - albeit a small amount. However, the social problems around the train station and Tesco at that end of town represent high risk for buskers, and there needs to be increased police presence there to make sure they are able to perform without being robbed.

Richard Lank řekl(a)...

I agree.
Is there any particular place in Brno you would recommend for street performances?

Debra-Jayne řekl(a)...

Hi Richard ... sorry for delay in response ... yes, I like Ceska - prime area would be under the clock and in front of Raffeisen Bank (out of hours, of course!) Namesti Svobody would be a bit of a problem because noise travels so far, but I would recommend that Brno goes one further and develops a busking "stage" in Nam Svob - for which it could ask a premium license fee for one-hour performance times, for example. In front of Spalicek is another good place. Of course the train station WOULD BE optimal but is not in the state it is now (too many beggars, pickpockets).

Debra-Jayne řekl(a)...

... of course there are other places that are not premium but could offer opportunity - out at Brno dam where all those little eatery places are, at the zoo (only for specific performances, of course! eg statues), at the BVV during popular exhibitions. The potential is only as limited as one's imagination.

Richard Lank řekl(a)...

Thanks Debra-Jayne for sharing your ideas.

Are you aware about usual practice for use of copyrighted music? This is the artist who should resolve him/herself before performing and the town covers this somehow?

Debra-Jayne řekl(a)...

Copyright is not a subject I am expert on, but in short I would say the onus of obtaining copyright is on the performer. In my opinion, though, artists should be happy if people are performing their songs in public! It's not like the performers are making a lot of money anyway, and it would be impossible to calculate which part of their income is earned from which song.

Anonymní řekl(a)...

Hi Debra-Jayne, from a fellow Aussie who is married to a czech girl, often in Brno! Sandgroper myself...involved with tourism for WA. Some great ideas you have, lets hope someone is listening! We are in Brno next week.... Mal

Debra-Jayne řekl(a)...

G'day mate. Sandgroper, huh? I won't hold that against you! I'm a canetoad myself! Thanks for the support - yes, let's hope the right people are watching/reading/listening.

Kateřina Drtílková řekl(a)...

To Richard: Information from OSA's scale of fees (OSA is the Czech Performing Rights Society):
"Pouliční hudební produkce bez vstupného pořádané účinkujícím - autorská odměna činí 190,- Kč za den." which is Kc 190/day paid by the performer, of course.

Anonymní řekl(a)...

Brno needs clear rules, read read (in Czech)

Debra-Jayne řekl(a)...


Well, I guess this spells out the end of busking in Brno, so all our debate herein appears defunct. Well done, bureaucrats. The rationale "Brno is not New York" is laughable in itself. Wandering minstrels who played to earn their living were in Europe long before the US existed, so to consider somehow that buskers belong in New York is just plain ignorant. They are part of the landscape of your own land! It's a cop-out to just put anything remotely similar to other activities in one bucket. If that's the case, then politicians and con-men should also be categorised together. Oh, and just a reminder ... this is the year 2010.

blackomatic řekl(a)...

i've been busking in Brno for 10 years and it has been the best place i have ever busked in, including Grafton Street in Dublin, the money is great and people smile and enjoy it. It was tolerated because very few people did it and there were no complaints. two summers ago i played with a full rock band in svobody on several fridays and the police came to me and said it was cool but i should stop before 8 pm. The police have been very tolerant until now. there were the regular beggars but they were unobtrusive. Recently I have noticed more and more buskers and most of them in my opinion are fairly awful. My guess is that people complained the law was made/changed. The problem with selling liscenses is that if you make them cheap, anyone can afford them and if you make them expensive some cannot. In New York there is a Music Under The STreets program but you have to audition which means someone is judging what is good and bad music. i have busked all across Bavaria and In Ireland and the best way has been an unwritten compromise between police, shop owners (who are usually the ones to complain) and the buskers. For example, last October I was busking on Postovska for an hour or so. A postal worker walked by and said "people are trying to work here you know" So I left. Just to avoid trouble. I play for fun and pocket money and it is unpleasant to have a confrontation with the police. Even with a liscense you can be stopped for making a public disturbance, the excuse of "but I have permission" has never worked for me with the police. With the police you basically do what they say. Remember that the music shop at the bottom of ceska constantly blares music from outdoor speakers and isn't stopped because they pay rent. I have found that in busking the best thing to do is to slip between the cracks.

I think the problem is that fire eaters and jugglers pretty much entertain everyone and are not offensive. But people who play folk/rock and roll (especially when they suck, which i am sympathetic to because when I started 15 years ago I certainly sucked as well) often offend. But rock and roll is SUPPOSED to be offensive. Thats the point. Elvis Presley would have been arrested if he busked in 1955. Sex Pistols, etc. Its against law, order and authority, so how you can expect authority not to respond? Its about expressing real freedom in a city in which every square centimeter is owned by someone and I can walk down the street without some billboard or sign intruding on my vision. its like the bands or worse, recorded music that is pumped out of those speakers in svobody. Its hideous. But without it I would have nothing to rebel against. I have no solution. Im just airing my thoughts. but there is a protest on friday at 7 in svobody and I, for one, will be there.