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NW Folklife threatens street performers (Seattle)

reggie miles 29 Apr 10 - 06:12 PM
mousethief 30 Apr 10 - 01:24 AM
reggie miles 30 Apr 10 - 11:02 AM
artbrooks 30 Apr 10 - 11:39 AM
meself 30 Apr 10 - 12:02 PM
reggie miles 30 Apr 10 - 01:28 PM
Deckman 30 Apr 10 - 01:33 PM
meself 30 Apr 10 - 01:58 PM
open mike 30 Apr 10 - 03:52 PM
GUEST,leeneia 30 Apr 10 - 05:13 PM
Deckman 30 Apr 10 - 05:50 PM
Don Firth 30 Apr 10 - 06:02 PM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Apr 10 - 07:17 PM
Don Firth 30 Apr 10 - 07:54 PM
reggie miles 01 May 10 - 07:05 PM
GUEST,Mark Stevens 01 May 10 - 07:11 PM
GUEST,The Shambles 01 May 10 - 07:47 PM
McGrath of Harlow 01 May 10 - 07:59 PM
artbrooks 01 May 10 - 08:12 PM
GUEST,The Shambles 01 May 10 - 08:24 PM
Deckman 01 May 10 - 10:12 PM
IvanB 01 May 10 - 11:02 PM
artbrooks 02 May 10 - 12:44 AM
artbrooks 02 May 10 - 01:01 AM
reggie miles 02 May 10 - 07:13 AM
MAG 02 May 10 - 10:48 AM
Deckman 02 May 10 - 11:39 AM
GUEST 02 May 10 - 05:29 PM
Don(Wyziwyg)T 02 May 10 - 05:58 PM
GUEST 02 May 10 - 06:42 PM
Don Firth 02 May 10 - 09:28 PM
ChanteyMatt 02 May 10 - 11:23 PM
reggie miles 03 May 10 - 10:19 AM
GUEST,leeneia 03 May 10 - 11:18 AM
GUEST,The Shambles 03 May 10 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,oggie 03 May 10 - 02:16 PM
Don Firth 03 May 10 - 02:35 PM
artbrooks 03 May 10 - 02:43 PM
GUEST,mg 03 May 10 - 03:01 PM
GUEST,The Shambles 03 May 10 - 03:40 PM
Genie 03 May 10 - 03:41 PM
Don Firth 03 May 10 - 04:16 PM
GUEST,oggie 03 May 10 - 04:35 PM
mousethief 03 May 10 - 10:48 PM
artbrooks 04 May 10 - 12:31 AM
Will Fly 04 May 10 - 03:54 AM
GUEST,Northwest Folklife 04 May 10 - 07:16 PM
Deckman 04 May 10 - 08:14 PM
open mike 05 May 10 - 01:37 AM
GUEST,The Shambles 05 May 10 - 02:52 AM
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Subject: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: reggie miles
Date: 29 Apr 10 - 06:12 PM

I surprised to get a phone call from a friend and fellow street performer the other day. He was dismayed by some news that he had learned about playing at the NW Folklife Festival this year.

This year, he was scheduled to perform at the event. He was excited about that. Like me, he gets invitations to play at events and he had been looking forward to this opportunity. He was going to organize a group performance with some other friends for this year's event.

He told me that while at the festival he was also planning to perform for donations with his friends. While talking with the folks at NW Folklife he learned that they had adopted a new tactic this year to crack down on street performers. He said that they were going to report street performers to the IRS who did not comply with their list of demands.

Upon hearing this news, he told the organizers that he and his friends weren't interested in performing this year. I was as surprised as he was to hear about this new tool in their anti-street performing arsenal. Their list of rules is long, restricting those who engage in this First Amendment protected activity and copied almost to the letter from a similar list that was being used to restrict street performers by those managing the Seattle Center.

A street performer challenged the Seattle Center's rules and won his case against the Seattle Center and the City of Seattle in June of 2009, just two weeks after I was bounced from the event. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit heard the case with 11 judges and in an 8 to 3 decision, they invalidated five specific rules. The Court said that the City of Seattle could not:

1. require the application for permits to perform on public property
2. ask performers to display a permit for entertaining on public property
3. tell performers where they could perform on public property
4. tell performer how close they could be to any gathered group of people
5. restrict what performers could say to their audiences

In short, what I do on public property as a street performer, is protected by the First Amendment as freedon of expression. At the following link, you can Read the Court's ruling.

It was number 3 on the above list that the NW Folklife head of security used to harass me, while I was entertaining folks at the event. At last year's NW Folklife event I was forcibly evicted from the grounds of the Seattle Center by four officers of the SPD (Seattle Police Department) because I stood up to being bullied by the festival's head of security. (I told him that the only problem I saw was him.) What had I done wrong? I choose to sit in the shade of a covered walkway at the far northern edge of the event and entertain about a dozen folks (at their request) offering folk music with my folk instruments at this "supposed" folk music event.

The NW Folklife Festival is a free event, held on public property, the Seattle Center. The Seattle Center is a public park. According to the Court's decision on the matter, that makes my activities as a street performer beyond the forced control of the rules of the festival.

NW Folklife specifically demands that they have the right tell performers where they can and cannot perform, how close performers can be to a gathered group of folks at the event. Plus, they wish to collect a tax of %15 of anything that listeners might freely offer to street performers as support. They require street performers to pay a $10 fee for the right to exercise their First Amendment right to freedom of expression on the ground of the Seattle Center, a public park. Finally they require street performers to get a temporary business license, a $20 fee.

Here's the link to their rules.

http://www.nwfolklife.org/get-involved/street-performers

See for your self.

NW Folklife has not paid a single performer for their skills and talents to entertain at this event in the last 3 decades since I've been donating my time there. Now, they not only wish to deny the right to freedom of expression, but they want to street performers to pay for that right. Rights are not privileges to be controlled by power hungry event coordinators and they have no right treating our rights in that manner!

To my friends on the other side of the pond, suffering from the hands of those termed fascists. Know that we too, here in the land of the "free", do suffer from creative oppression as well, from those who I would also term as having a mentality that's not far from fascist.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: mousethief
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 01:24 AM

Weird. A girl who went to my church, who was 10 at the time, took her fiddle and stood under a tree with her case open and played. This would be about 10 years ago, I think (she's about 20 now -- geezis how time flies). I wonder if they've gotten narstier in the interim. Or maybe they just don't harass little girls.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: reggie miles
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 11:02 AM

Wonder no more, NW Folklife's IRS threat against street performers is a new low blow for the event organizers of this "folk" event. When you're so desperate for cash to run your event that you have to start demanding %15 and assorted other fees from street performers (essentially robbing from the poor) you've already lost and should just step down from calling yourself an event coordinator/producer/organizer and throw in the towel. If your goal is to be a thief, these (four letter words deleted) should go get a job on Wall Street, where robbing from the rich and poor alike is sanctioned and supported.

Street performing, as a folk art, is the one of oldest forms of entertainment known to man. It is perhaps the original form of entertainment. It has existed for thousands of years, far longer than most of the forms of music and art that we support as "folk" today. To treat this honorable means of exchange between humans as something to be scorned and treated as "less than" corporate controlled folk arts is criminal. It's bureaucracy run amuck!

What next? Is NW Folklife going to start robbing the panhandlers too and reporting them to the IRS if they don't comply with their demands?


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: artbrooks
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 11:39 AM

Well, we will be at Folklife this year, enjoying the scheduled performers - who are already so close together that the music from one venue can be heard at others - and trying to get through on the already crowded walkways where buskers and others are impeding progress. Perhaps there is a good reason for trying to control the number of additional people creating their own stages. The sidewalkj north of Centerhouse? Fagetaboutit!


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: meself
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 12:02 PM

I can see where there might be a need in an event such as this for some control, but when it reaches the point where - assuming Reggie Miles is giving an accurate report - the organizers resort to extortion and snitching - well, what can you say ....


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: reggie miles
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 01:28 PM

"assuming Reggie Miles is giving an accurate report"

meself, I have no reason to invent the truth about this matter. If you'd like, I'll send you the email address and website of my friend who withdrew from the event and you can have a chat with him about it. He and his friends sing in a traditional gospel music vocal group.

artbrooks, the only control that's needed in this instance, is control of those who deem themselves above the law of the land. They are the ones denying folks their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Or perhaps you'd rather live in a country where just anyone with the position of event coordinator/producer/manager can come along and deny you, me and everyone else that they see fit, to the precious freedoms that so many in this country have fought and died to protect. I, for one, don't believe that they should be granted that kind of authority. If they're so power hungry that they want to resort to the kind of tactics, they should host the event on private property and not in a public park.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Deckman
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 01:33 PM

My respect for Reggie Miles knows no bounds. He is a superb musician and an even better person. At first when I saw this thread, I was just going to sit back and shut up. But now I feel compelled to comment:

I performed in the first 20 or more folklife festivals. At first, it was just plain fun: family oriented, music and musician oriented, and it was one of the annual events we all anticpated with relish. With the advent of "professional festival managers", the yardstick of success became the "numbers" of the crowd. It was then that the focus shifted from good, family oriented music and fun, to issues of crowd controll and making money anyway possible.

I personally have "given up" on just about every activity in Seattle, save personal contact with many friends who are unfortunate enough to still live there. The issue that Reggie is reporting is very reflective of the present day nazi/thug mentality I see in many areas of Seattle.

I find this very sad ... I grew up in south Seattle when it was a good place. I can't help but wonder what Ivar Hauglund would say today! Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: meself
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 01:58 PM

Sorry, Reggie, I didn't mean to sound like I was questioning your integrity; I just wanted to make it clear that my reaction was based solely on your account of the situation, just to cover myself, because, you will note, I used fairly strong language in my interpretation of what seems to be happening.

Btw, I stopped busking at the Fringe Festival in Edmonton some years back for similar reasons - although it hadn't occurred to the organizers to tattle-tale to Revenue Canada on buskers.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: open mike
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 03:52 PM

sorry to hear this sad state of affairs.
i think that the Turkey Pluckers enjoyed
a reunion concert there a few years back
the folk life folks should support folk
music, after all isn't that what it is
about??!! You should be featured on one
of the stages, and paid to perform there.

i thought that the free admission to the
event was possible due to sponsors and
other contributors footing the bill for
the performers...are you saying that no
one gets paid to play there? that stinks.

does the folk life organization pay for
the use of the park for the day (weekend)?

they do not pay performers, and they deny
them (you) the chance of collecting donations
for your efforts...?? something wrong here....

do the musicians need a union to represent them
(us)? try local 1000,http://local1000.com/


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 05:13 PM

"Our organization is a small nonprofit that relies heavily on donations from Festival-goers to keep this event going each year. We ask that you donate a portion of your proceeds to Northwest Folklife."

Sounds fair to me. The committee probably works all year, and at least some of the members will be unpaid.

Why should they do all the work and take the risks, only to have strangers pop up at the last minute to take advantage of the crowd? Why should they work to provide free music, then let outsiders move in and stick their their hands out?

The rules seem fair to me, as well. Not too close to other bands, no blocking of traffic, not too loud. No fires.

Reggie, I think your friend needs to accept a little 'give and take' here.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Deckman
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 05:50 PM

"To take advantage of all the crowds" ... that's the kind of mindset that has warped this festival. This festival deserves itself. Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 06:02 PM

I don't have time right now to say much here, but it's not that simple, leeneia.

I used to participate in the Northwest Folklife Festivals, but rarely any more and only under certain circumstances. The nature of the thing has changed within the past few years. No matter what their web site says, it has become Big Business, with little real understanding of what folk music is all about.

And, no, they don't pay any of the thousands of scheduled performers. It's become a bloody mob scene, and the powers-that-be don't seem to have any standards when it comes to what "folklife" means. Apparently, it's anything that "folks" do, including garage rock bands using the festival to showcase themselves. Anything resembling traditional folk music is generally crammed up into the meeting rooms in the northwest corner.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 07:17 PM

So the suggestion is that buskers during a festival should be expected to give some unspecified part of their takings to the festival?

Seems pretty fair. I'd imagine the folkie crowd would only be there to provide the takings because there's a festival - and I'd suspect a lot of people wold assume that the busking was a fundraising effort anyway.

That IRS threat sounds a bit out of order - but surely it'd be a bluff? Pretty hard to prove anything, even if the Revenue were particularly interested. And going on record as promising not to report buskers who gave them a cut of the takings would appear to put the organisers in a pretty dodgy legal position anyway.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Don Firth
Date: 30 Apr 10 - 07:54 PM

I've heard (dunno if it's true or not) that during the Folklife Festival, some buskers find better pickin's down at the Pike Place Market. Everybody else is up at the Seattle Center grounds.

Oops! Maybe that's supposed to be a secret!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: reggie miles
Date: 01 May 10 - 07:05 PM

I find it morally disgusting that their little non-profit organization, on Memorial Day weekend, the one weekend out of the year that we honor the sacrifices of those who have given their lives to defend the rights and freedoms that we enjoy in this country, would treat those freedoms like they are a privilege that we should have to pay them to enjoy. The right to practice these freedoms, like our right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech has already been paid for in blood. I am outraged that their little non-profit organization would disgrace and dishonor the sacrifices, of all those Americans who have fought and died to protect our precious freedoms and rights, by suggesting that they have the right to charge me a fee to exercise my rights as described in the First Amendment of our Constitution. I am further appalled by how blatantly their little non-profit organization has completely ignored the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on this specific matter of exercising our rights to freedom of expression on public property. Does their lack of respect for the American way of life, our Constitutional rights and the sacrifices of countless Americans know no bounds?


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,Mark Stevens
Date: 01 May 10 - 07:11 PM

This looks a new case for Folk Against Fascism . . . .
Somebody please send me an application form.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,The Shambles
Date: 01 May 10 - 07:47 PM

Well said Reggie.

I am constantly surprised at how little valued these hard-won freedoms now appear to be in practice. And not only am I surprised at how easily they are taken away but at how those affected appear to be so willing to try to find excuses for those who would try to justify their removal.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 May 10 - 07:59 PM

For a busker at a non-profit folk-festival to begrudge letting the festival have a share of their takings seems remarkably mean-spirited. There shouldn't need to be any question of the organisers feeling they have to try to oblige them to do so.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: artbrooks
Date: 01 May 10 - 08:12 PM

There may have been a time when it wasn't so crowded at Folklife that there was room for anyone to set up anywhere he wanted, play for the enjoyment of the multitudes, and make a few bucks at the same time. I'm not sure that was true when I left Seattle in 1979 and I'm certain that it wasn't by the time we left the Northwest for good (except for the occasional visit) in 1987. Restricting buskers as to where they may perform (and that rule was not overturned by the court's decision)seems to me to be a good idea, considering that the entire city seems to be on the Center's grounds on a nice Folklife day. The threat to fink out non-complying buskers to the IRS, if true, is entirely out of line, of course.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,The Shambles
Date: 01 May 10 - 08:24 PM

It must take considerable effort to so totally miss the important point being made here and to choose only to address the less important nit-picking detail. Not that this is surprising.

It is almost as if regulation and restriction for its own sake had some merit which needed to be celebrated. To pick and choose one's freedoms is not an option that is open to us as that course can only lead to the end of them all.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Deckman
Date: 01 May 10 - 10:12 PM

I would also like to try focus on what I consider one of the more important aspects of this sick tale ... WHAT IN THE HELL DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH "FOLK MUSIC"?

I'll answer my own question ... NOTHING! What it has to do with is teeny, tiny people who consider themselves so VERY OMNIPOTENT that they feel they can dictate to the world.

Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: IvanB
Date: 01 May 10 - 11:02 PM

artbrooks, do you have a reference for your statement that the "location" rule was not overturned? As I read the appeals court ruling, the trial court rejected all five rules and the appeals court only remanded the location rule back for review. I see nothing in the links which have been presented here to indicate whether such review ever took place and, if so, whether the original decision was reversed as pertaining to that rule.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: artbrooks
Date: 02 May 10 - 12:44 AM

IvanB, as I read the appeals court ruling, they said that the location rule was reasonable, but that they were not making any determination as to its constitutionality. Also remember, this case involves one performer and the ruling premises an essentially empty Seattle Center - hardly the case during Folklife.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: artbrooks
Date: 02 May 10 - 01:01 AM

On reading the decision, you are correct...Rule 5, which the OP refers to as Rule 3, was remanded. That part of the case appears to still be open.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: reggie miles
Date: 02 May 10 - 07:13 AM

How much $ does NW Folklife get from just those who are vendors at the event? After looking at the application fees multiplied by the number of craft and food vendors that they allow to be featured at the festival, my calculator says, somewhere between $150,000 and $200,000. That's not counting the 15% that they ask from each vendor, determined by the amount of merchandise they sell. That seems like a healthy chunk of change and that's just from the vendors at this event.

Then, if you add what they collect from their various charitable contributors, like Paul G. Allen, Boeing, The National Endowment for the Arts, Q13, The Seattle Times, Comcast, 4 Culture, Arts & Cultural Affairs, Tully's Coffee, Western WA Toyota, Trex, Bridgeport Ales, Pepsi, BECU, Penguin Windows, WA Lottery, Dave's Bread, The NY Times, Deschutes Brewery, and a few others, I have to wonder why they see fit to force street performers to pay a fee at all. What? Is Paul Allen down on his luck and therefore can't offer them enough $? Has the Washington State Lottery suddenly gone bust because they haven't sold enough Lotto tickets and can't afford to share their wealth? Has Boeing gone broke and decided to quit building planes? Or has Pepsi sales been off? Has Toyota fallen on hard times? Nowhere on their site do they indicate what amounts any these contributors offer to the event. I think what Don said earlier is right. This is Big Business.

McGrath of Harlow, does the concept of freedom of expression mean nothing to you? Do you reside in the USA? This event is happening on public property, a public park. The Court specifically stated that you cannot commercialize "public" property and deny our First Amendment right to freedom of expression. Being mean spirited has nothing to do with it.

If you want to talk about being mean spirited, let's talk about why I was evicted from this public park, during a national holiday, by public officials, (the SPD) for offering free music at this free festival. They used police "force" against me to have me forcibly removed. I harmed no one during my 1/2 hour set of music. I put smiles on the faces of everyone standing before me. Let's point the finger of blame in the right direction.

Mind you, they've already received several decades of my time, talents and energy in support this event. It's not as though I'm some stranger who just walked into the event and has never offered anything in return. I've put in my time performing on their stages and I've hosted free workshops there for years. Even my performances as a street performer are offering my time, energy and talents for free at this event. Either way, whether on their stages, or via my efforts at entertaining casually on the grounds, they still have had the benefit of my talents featured at their event for free. They pay me nothing. Are you trying to equate my time talents and energy as being worth nothing? Would you like me to quote you what some other, truly supportive, events have offered me for my time, talents and energy?

I believe that this perception is part of the problem. This event has had the luxury of so many years of talented individuals offering their entertainment for free, that they deem that talent as having no actual value and that's exactly how the folks, who donate their time to this event, are treated by this event. The event sees dollar signs ($$$) when they see a food or craft vendor application arrive in their mail box.

Do you think that maybe that's why those vendors aren't being harassed for causing traffic issues? Do think that maybe that's why they are allowed to do what musical folks are being demonized for doing? And not just demonized but in my case, I actually had the head of security call for 4 Seattle Police to have me escorted off the grounds, because I dared to sit in the shade and entertain about a dozen folks, at their behest, for free, for about one half hour, on a sunny Sunday.

artbrooks, some of the same areas on the grounds of the Seattle Center where street performers are demonized for trying to play (like I was last year for playing underneath a covered walkway at the far northern edge of the event) are somehow miraculously and magically deemed by the event coordinators and their security staff, as just fine for craft vendors to crowd with their booths and cause huge traffic issues. No one says boo to them for creating traffic issues in the covered walkways. In my case, I created no such traffic issue, whatsoever, but that was the flimsy excuse that the head of Folklife security used to harass me and ultimately get me ousted from the event. The only difference is that the craft folks are paying hundreds of dollars to the event. Because of the fees they pay, they are allowed to crowd those same covered walkways and create actual traffic issues.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: MAG
Date: 02 May 10 - 10:48 AM

When I was in Chicago I busked, and the city required a permit for all street performers. I wasn't the only one getting a significant chunk of my income from it and none of us minded registering.

If buskers are there taking advantage of the crowwds coming for the fest they need to follow the rules, such as NOT BLOCKING TRAFFIC.

Each of us says the same thing every year,and none of our minds are going to change.

I didn't go for a period of ywears because of the people choking every pathway and shortcut.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Deckman
Date: 02 May 10 - 11:39 AM

This might be a bit long:

The events that Reggie describes are very true, he's NOT exaggerating.
I want to bring us back, for a moment, to 1962 when Seattle hosted the "World's Fair." It was a great success and a fun time. We all went, particpated, felt proud of our city and good about ourselves.

In a sense, this 1962 event was the forerunner of the present "Pacific Northwest Folk Festival", as it gave Seattleites a taste of what fun festival a can be. And in the early years, they were fun events, a great focus on music and dance and folk arts and crafts. And the atmosphere was one of welcoming the various artists and celebrating their talents.

Unfortunatly now, that has mostly changed. The present "festival" reeks of commercialism, food stalls overcrowding everywhere, performance stages jammed so close together that one's music drowns out anothers', drummers allowed to set up anywhere and break up everyone's music.

Over the last ten years, or so, I have watched as greater numbers of the better musicians have dropped out. Nowdays when I think of the "festival" I feel sad because so much good has been lost.

As Reggie has said, for many, many years he has supported this festival in many ways, including being a non-paid stage performer and workshop teacher. Because of what the festival did to him last year, I'm quite certain that the everlasting taste in Reggie mouth is quite unpleasant ... it sure is in mine. Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST
Date: 02 May 10 - 05:29 PM

Do you play at that venue the rest of the year or are you there simply because the Festival brings in a crowd?

Steve


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Don(Wyziwyg)T
Date: 02 May 10 - 05:58 PM

Doesn't really matter whether people play there all through the year or not.

Doesn't really matter whether they contribute to the festival in any other way or not.

We are talking about people who are exercising a right to perform in a public space, under the laws pertaining in their country.

I don't suppose that many of them actually leave without donating something to the festival funds.

What really matters is that they should be free to decide whether, and how much, they will donate.

They should not be coerced into complying, nor should extortion be permitted.

The bottom line is that, if some of them are too mean to contribute, under the terms of the US Constitution they do have the right to be that mean.

As somebody remarked above, if the organisers want to control the buskers, they should hold the Festival on private land.

Don T.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST
Date: 02 May 10 - 06:42 PM

Sorry but as a "craft vendor" who has to pay (up front, a fixed amount with no guarentee of return) to ply my trade at such events, I see a someone who wants to play the system to their advantage and is whinging when they can't.

David S.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Don Firth
Date: 02 May 10 - 09:28 PM

David S., I assume by your "accent" that you are British and have probably never been to a Northwest Folklife Festival (Seattle, WA, USA).

I hardly think that Reggie is the one who is "playing the system to their advantage." Thousands—yes, thousands—of singers from all around the area, including western Canada, come to the festival at their own expense. Nobody gets paid. They are donating their time—singing for free. Some are scheduled and sing on the performance stages. Others are busking. And many folks do both, often busking in the hope of picking up a dime or two to offset their own expenses, incurred by coming to sing at the festival in the first place.

This is hardly "playing the system." If anyone is "playing the system," it's those who are actually making fairly large chunks of money off the festival and getting the performers to do it for no compensation, other than simply a chance to perform. The performers, like Reggie, are the ones who make the whole thing possible in the first place.

And the Northwest Folklife Festival is one of the events that the city values, because it draws a fair amount of tourist trade to the city. Local hotels and motels, restaurants, and other tourist facilities profit by it. And pay business tax to the city.

And Reggie is hardly "whinging." He's making a legitimate complaint. The cavalier and shabby manner that some of those who run the festival often treat the performers is an example of biting the hand of the one who feeds you. I've sung at a number of these festivals, and even when scheduled and on stage, a number of times I've had to butt heads with officious twits who were on some sort of "power trip."

To paraphrase a slogan that came from the Sixties anti-war movement, "Suppose they gave a war festival and nobody came?"

Lots of "entrepreneurs" get people to sing for nothing by telling them, "The exposure will be good for you." Dave Van Ronk had a good answer for that:   "People have been known to die of exposure."

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: ChanteyMatt
Date: 02 May 10 - 11:23 PM

I seldom weigh in on such a touchy subject, but as a musician, I'm tired of being "allowed" to play and "allowed" to put out a tip jar. Not just for the First Amendment but for free enterprise not hampered by arbitrary and whimsical laws.

Seattle Folklife Festival (SFF) is too big, too vague and too full of it'self. Busking at SFF used to be the consolation prize for not getting chosen. Now days, I don't go to Folklife. I go to the Juan de Fuca Festival. SFF isn't the end all of festivals. I garauntee you'll have more fun at smaller events and they'll at least cover your travel.

Isn't exposing yourself illegal?


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: reggie miles
Date: 03 May 10 - 10:19 AM

GUEST Steve, yes, I've played on the grounds of the Seattle Center throughout the year and have, as always, have received wonderful responses to my efforts at offering folk music with my folk instruments while there.

GUEST Davis S., there's no whining going on here. I'm just trying to stand up for my "rights" as described in the First Amendment. I don't play the system. I play assorted stringed instruments, harmonica, musical saw and washboard percussion, if so inclined. I don't have to play "the system", as you call it.

Generations of Americans have fought and died to establish this way of life. You do believe in American citizens exercising their Constitutional rights in this country, don't you? Perhaps you are among those who don't believe that we should have the right to exercise our Constitutional rights on public property, during our country's national holiday, Memorial Day. I am grateful and thankful for the sacrifices made by so very many to offer me this way of life. I treasure my Constitutional rights. Apparently, you don't hold these rights in such high regard. That is your right to feel that way.

I should also point out that this particular event started out as a folk "music" festival that grew to include vendors. It wasn't a vendor event that just happened to eventually include some musical acts.

Lets' make the distinctions clear. Vendors vend. Vending is telling folks, "If you give me $, I'll give you what I have." Street performing is giving away what you have freely. Those that experience what it is that street performer folks do in public spaces also have the Constitutional right to support it in any way they see fit.

Perhaps you believe that those who support street performing are also playing "the system" by doing so. I'd have to agree. They are getting free entertainment, not corporate controlled vended entertainment. Is it any wonder why folks love to support what is freely offered with their applause, smiles, thumbs up, accolades, and yes even dollars.

Well, perhaps, if the shoe were placed squarely on the other foot, you'd be singing a different tune.

Let's play a little game. I call it, "walk a mile in my shoes". Imagine for a moment, that you vendor folks were only allowed to do what the music folks have done for years to establish this event. That is, offer, for free, what it is that you create as your livelihood. (Actually, now that I think about it, I have never been to a craft event, that was established by a bunch of craft folks, who offered their crafts for free, in the same way performance folks offer their entertainment crafts freely but for the sake of this little game, let's pretend that it's possible that such a thing could happen.) Imagine, you could only accept donations, from those who might wish to offer them, in support of what you do as a craft person but you were limited by the same rules that this event uses to restrict street performers. (Check the link in my post above to see that set of rules.)

Imagine not having the right to offer what you do in the shade of a covered walkway, while the same event allowed such access to shade and shelter from rain to every musical performer on the grounds. Note too, in the rules, that you would not be allowed to set up any kind of structure to protect yourself from the elements, like the rain that often frequents this event. (Yep, check the rules. That rule is in there too.)

And imagine what you would feel like if you had some weekend security geeks trump up charges and lies to demonize your efforts at offering your crafts in this way, for free, on the grounds. Then, try to imagine having four police officers escort you off the grounds of this public space and having them tell you that you were not welcomed back for the remainder of the event.

I know it's probably not an easy thing to imagine the above, especially if you're used to following the path of being a vendor and doing all of what that approach to vending your crafts might entail. Now, imagine that someone responded to what happened to you by telling you, in so many words, that none of the lives that were sacrificed by all of those many thousands, to afford you your right to offer your crafts in that manner, meant squat. Imagine that.

The game is over. I hope you enjoyed playing along in this version of, "walk a mile in my shoes."

I can only imagine what those, who have given their lives to protect this way of life, would say to you if they were still around to hear you relate how little their sacrifice has meant to you.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 May 10 - 11:18 AM

"We are talking about people who are exercising a right to perform in a public space"

Wait a minute. What do you mean by 'public space.' Anybody's space? That is not the case. That park is paid for by somebody, probably the taxpayers of the city or county. It is THEIR park.

It was voted for by the people for their enjoyment and edification. Having to walk through it while one person plays in Eb and the next person plays in A, all however loudly they wish, is not what they had in mind.

Read the rules. They are fair and reasonable. Even given the rules, it sounds like hell, based on Deckman's description. You will not find me, a person with keen hearing, anywhere near it.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,The Shambles
Date: 03 May 10 - 11:31 AM

Perhaps it is difficult for those who are not used to the concept but those who may choose on occasion to exercise their talents for their own pleasure and who will obtain additional pleasure if this can at the same time also provides pleasure to others, do struggle against a world that seems only to be able to deal with commercial concepts.

Thus it is that in the UK, we have to deal with officials who find the concept equally strange and who are instructed from above by those who will talk for ever with politicians and set up expensive quangos which will talk endlessly about the benefits of culture, funding and of a music INDUSTRY!

Music of course is so much more than simply this.

Thus Reggie is accused here of being mean-spirited and of playing the system...................


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,oggie
Date: 03 May 10 - 02:16 PM

I've come to this late and can see where both sides are coming from. However to just put the vendors point of view.

Walk a mile in my shoes...

Sometime in advance of any festival you make an application for a space and send a rather large cheque (which helps fund the event). You have almost no control over where you are pitched and if it's up a blind alley that's your problem and loss. It is possible you won't get a pitch at all (and may not be told until the last minute) in which case you either have to hope there's somewhere else to do or not earn anything that weekend.

The weather is out of your control, if it's bad you can't just stay at home, you've already paid. If it's part of a tour you may even already be there. So some hours before most people are up (or even the day before) you set up your stall and stock it. At some events you may even have to take down at the end of each day and put up again each morning, eighteen hour days are not uncommon. At some events you have to sleep with the stall for security.

At this point, just like the street performer, you are casting bread upon the waters, maybe you'll sell maybe not. If the organisers have had problems letting space you may find that half the vendors are selling the same sort of line (thank God I'm not a jeweller). Some you win, some you lose. The best hope is that over the season you make a living, many don't.

I would point out that vendors cannot just turn up and trade (even without a cover) if they did they too would be escorted away pretty sharpish (and might have their stock confiscated). A case in point is Sidmouth where there has been a crackdown on vendors trying to use a perceived (but actually non-existant) loophole to trade on the promenade. Even to trade (without covers) on a city street in the UK requires a Street Trading License from the Local Authority, in most places they're like rocking horse droppings.

So that's part of the walk in the vendors' shoes.

The big difference that I see is that the vendors are contributing financially to the running of the event as well as to the public's the experience of it. The street performers are contributing to the experience of it but not contributing financially even though the best of them may well be doing as well as many of the vendors.

As a Brit I have a number of issues with the interpretation of the US Constitution (a recent ruling that making and distributing videos of animal cruelty was protected under Free Speech provisions being one) so I probably attach less importance to this aspect of the argument than I should.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 May 10 - 02:35 PM

Leeneia, I don't know where you are or if you have ever had an opportunity to attend a Northwest Folklife Festival. But for the entire three-day weekend, one hears a whole variety of things such as rock bands complete with amplification, drumming—LOTS of drumming, notable African, Native American, and Taiko (the big drums that you can hear for miles)—and just about every other kind of musical or semi-musical endeavor, and this is coming at you from all sides. As to one busker playing in Eb and a nearby one playing in A, half the time the ambient din is so great that distinguishing between keys and noting dissonances is impossible, because it's totally lost in the general dissonance.

Sometimes you can hear the drumming from a few miles away! Across Lake Union and up on Capitol Hill, for example. From the viewpoint of a singer official scheduled and on a stage--especially on one of the outside stages accompanying herself with an accoustic guitar, or some unaccompanied ballad-singer, he or she is trying to compete with a general din that verges on the deafening.

Not only that, there is a general crowd noise. The Northwest Folklife Festival is usually attended by 200,000 to 250,000 people, generally milling around in the 17 acres of open space on the 74 acre Seattle Center campus. I was an active participant in these festivals early on: official, scheduled, and on stage. But the event has become so cumbersome that, to me, it's no longer much fun. And unless there is someone performing that I particularly want to hear, I don't go anymore. The last few times I attended, I was trying to navigate my way around in an electric wheelchair. I don't know how many times I wound up with someone in my lap because they were trying to see over other people's heads and didn't even see me there. Shouting a warning didn't work, because due to the general background roar, they couldn't hear me.

No, unless I am asked to participate in a particular workshop or performance, I don't subject myself to this mob scene. Especially when on that entire 74 acres, if you want to hear any actual traditional folk music, it is generally confined to the meeting rooms up in the northwest corner of the Center grounds.

I have to take my hat off to people like Reggie, who have the guts to get out there and try to add some genuine traditional music to this event, and add it in a way, like the minstrel who sings to any and all in the village square in the hope that a few people might drop a few coppers in his hat. And that kind of performing has been traditional for well over a thousand years.

Don Firth

P. S. Leeneia, my comments here are not just aimed at you, but at those who may have never been to this pit of chaos we call the "Northwest Folklife Festival" and don't know what bucking those crowds amid the general din is really like—or what it's like to brave the whole thing and try to actually offer something the way Reggie does.

P. P. S. But to be fair to the Powers That Be, when I was asked to participate in the Coffeehouse Reunion Concert ("Geezer's Concert") in the 2003 festival, they'd heard I was using a wheelchair, so they offered to send a "pusher" to meet me at a specified entrance so I wouldn't have to "hand crank" my way to the designated area. But I must add, this particular event was masterminded by the late John Ross, so there was some genuine thought behind it.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: artbrooks
Date: 03 May 10 - 02:43 PM

And I was at that concert, and I appreciated your effort!


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 03 May 10 - 03:01 PM

Ithink it is the crowd situation that makes the directors want to control the busking. THere are huge numbers of childen, cute and quite talented, but there are just so manyof them, and it is a situation of ..well, Katy made $200 at folklife so let's do it next year with Jeff and he can put it toward his college fund...the children and teens alone could really escalate..

I think one answer might just be to have quite a few weekends or weekedays per summer or whenever set aside for busking..or allow it when crowds are not expected to be massive, and frankly dangerous (and don't get me started on pit bulls at the face level of a baby in a stoller)...

I think it is a safety issue first and foremost and would love to see other venues or prehaps a set aside area off the beaten track for buskers...but this is a crowd that is just a jam of people...

So, as an omniist, I am for it except for safety issues, which are major. If safe places can be found for geometrically increasing numbers of buskers, including huge numbers of teens and children, great.

But don't shed a tear for people who sing and play for free. It is their pleasure to do so and no one is depriving them of anything. It is quite voluntary and in fact competitive. mg


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,The Shambles
Date: 03 May 10 - 03:40 PM

Walk a mile in my shoes...

oggie

A walk in your shoes to this festival would be quite plainly one where I attending in order to earn money.

Reggie is walking there for quite another purpose and if he and others were not prepared to do this - the simple fact is that there would not be anyone attracted that you and your fellow vendors could earn money from.

Nothing wrong with vendors or with earning money of course but perhaps not everything should be seen in these terms.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Genie
Date: 03 May 10 - 03:41 PM

I agree that the Folklife Festival has gotten too big, too all-encompassing as to what "folk" means, too commercialized, and TOO LOUD.    I also agree that when a musician like Reggie is forceably removed from a location that was not blocking foot traffic or when threats are made to report people to the IRS, that's too heavy handed.

Still, the Folklife people do pay big bucks to rent space for the festival and the scheduled performers are volunteers (who pay the Festival a cut of any CDs they sell), plus the walkways are already hard to navigate because of the crowds, even without the addition of street performers every few feet.   (In many cases, the open instrument case pushes the bystander audience farther away, thus interfering with the walkway traffic even more. I often cut between the performer and the assembled audience because it's too cumbersome and time-consuming to go around that crowd.) I empathize a lot with the volunteer performers who find other, non-scheduled musicians competing with them and getting paid by donations or selling their CDs without giving the Festival organizers a cut.

You can't deny that whatever a busker takes in in tips at the festival is at least partly due to the crowds drawn to the Seattle Center by the festival itself and its advertising.    If that weren't the case, why wouldn't most of those buskers be at the Seattle Center the week before or the week after Folklife?

There are spaces outside the Folklife "gates" where there are always many unauthorized street vendors and performers, and I don't know if they get hassled for being there, but they don't interfere with the movement of the crowds as much.

Reggie, I've never known you to be one of the buskers who creates a bottleneck along the walkways or who makes so much noise that it interferes with other performers (scheduled or not scheduled).       But many of them do, and I can appreciate why the Festival organizers and the Seattle Center "cops" try to control that.

As for buskers being paid for what scheduled performers do free, maybe there should be tip jars at the front of each stage so the scheduled performers could get donations too.   It wouldn't solve the excess noise problem (which I think would be helped by turning down the amps on most of the stages to a mild roar) or the traffic interference, but it would be fairer.      

And I would hope that all those who made money by performing would contribute 10% or so of the take to the Festival for providing such a huge audience.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Don Firth
Date: 03 May 10 - 04:16 PM

Thanks, Art! The name rings a small bell somewhere, but would I recognize you if we met?

####

For those who don't know what Taiko drumming is,   CLICKY.

This is amazing stuff, and I love to watch and hear it. It really stirs the blood when you hear these guys go at it!

But when you're on a stage maybe three-quarters of a block away, trying to sing your allotted half-hour's worth of songs and ballads to the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar while these folks are giving it their all, well. . . .

Someone doing the scheduling just ain't thinkin'.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,oggie
Date: 03 May 10 - 04:35 PM

Yes , I admit it. I divide Festivals into two categories. There are those that I attend as a punter, with instruments, to enjoy the festival, see acts, join a session, have a drink (or three) and a good time. There are the others where I am working, I don't take instruments and I don't expect to see any acts, I am there to earn my living, it's my job.

Now Reggie also seems to be there to earn money, OK it's a gamble, and he does contribute but given the complaint about licences and "donations" that seems to be the bottom line. This is where we, I hope on friendly terms, part company.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: mousethief
Date: 03 May 10 - 10:48 PM

I wonder that any traditional folkies still go there. It would be better to have an alternate festival in another location. Call it the Acoustic Folk Festival or something, I don't know. You'd get a different breed of audience, and a lot fewer of course, but then maybe not fewer that actually sit in the audience for each act -- more trad folk people might be tempted to come if the surroundings weren't so miserable.

I haven't been in 10 years and at that time the noise bleed wasn't too bad. There were no Taiko drummers (I would certainly have known), at least during the times I was there. But the crowds were already miserable.

Taiko drumming indoors can make your ears ring for hours.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: artbrooks
Date: 04 May 10 - 12:31 AM

Mousethief, we use it as an excuse to visit old friends in the Seattle area...mostly folkdancers. Personally, I mostly sit in the beer garden in the Northwest Court when I'm not dancing.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Will Fly
Date: 04 May 10 - 03:54 AM

What a fascinating thread. The Northwest Folklife Festival in its present incarnation is... my idea of hell. I've never been to a folk or any other festival in all my years of playing mainly because I'm an impatient old curmudgeon who hates the hassle of parking, queuing, crowds, noise and people, etc. Sad, innit? Just a touch of enochlophobia (fear of large crowds), I'm afraid.

From Mudcat threads on folk festivals in the UK, I can understand the appeal of meeting old friends, seeing great acts and enjoying the "festival" experience, but events of that size have never actually appealed to me. Having said that, I'm being escorted in chains to the Warwick Festival this year to help Alan Day to run an afternoon session there - and I must say I'm rather dreading and yet looking forward to the experience!

The change of style of the NW Folklife Festival from a rather free-wheeling and serendipitous event to a hugely complex business-driven corporate-style event seems to be a disease that can affect so many festivals.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,Northwest Folklife
Date: 04 May 10 - 07:16 PM

Confusion re: Street Performing at the Northwest Folklife Festival.

Street performers add life and color to the Northwest Folklife Festival. Our guidelines have not changed—they are the same ones we have used for several years. We suggest that street performers donate a portion of their proceeds back to the Festival in a show of support. This is done on the honor system. Our Festival staff pass out donation envelopes to street performers, and it is up to them whether or not to put in a portion of any contributions they may receive. We do not report any street performing activities to the IRS.

Northwest Folklife and street performers have a symbiotic relationship. We bring a large crowd to Seattle Center for the Festival, which means that street performers have lots of people to entertain. Conversely, street performers contribute to the fun, festive atmosphere, and many Festival-goers cite the street performers as one of their favorite parts of the Festival. We do not want to remove street performers from the Festival, unless they are in violation of the rules set in place by Seattle Center and Northwest Folklife. These rules provide for the safety and enjoyment of all who attend the Northwest Folklife Festival.

If anyone on the message board has a question about Northwest Folklife's policies, please give us a call at 206.684.7300 or contact us via email at folklife@nwfolklife.org. We're happy to talk with you any time.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: Deckman
Date: 04 May 10 - 08:14 PM

WELL WELL WELL ... If nothing else, Reggie Miles has finally got the attention of the Northwest Folk Festival administration ... PUBLICLY!

GOOD FOR YOU REGGIE.

My response to the administrations is this ... WHAT A BUNCH OF PR crap!

You folks treated him VERY WRONGLY last year and NOW you need to correct it.

The only way, in my opinion, that you can make it right is to publicly apoligize, give him a proper stage this year and ... A HUNDRED BUCKS! BOB NELSON


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: open mike
Date: 05 May 10 - 01:37 AM

what policy is there regarding performers selling recordings?
I am glad that someone who appears to be with the organization has joined the conversation.I hope there can be a positive conclusion reached before the event which is a few weeks away.


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Subject: RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers
From: GUEST,The Shambles
Date: 05 May 10 - 02:52 AM

The problems of particular event in question are partly due to pretty bad PR. Improving this may lead to the solution of the many issues highlighted and some direct input from the organisers here is welcome.

However, the larger issue remains.

It is fairly easy to have a policy which deals with festival vendors but it must be a different policy with one to deal with street performers, for this is not the same animal.

Vendors have a product to sell on conventional terms. They don't just turn up and present the product of their talents to potential customers simply in the hope that the customer may provide them with an amount on money of the customer's choosing. For they would soon run out of their wares........

But this is what street performers do and a policy which does not recognise this is a poor one which will threaten the long-term future of the event.


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