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August 11, 2020

Amplified busking temporarily banned in Rundle Mall

Rapper Brenton Torrens usually busks by the Balls every day. He says the ban on amplified busking will lock him and other artists out of performing in the city’s busiest strip, diminishing performance opportunities and earnings.

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  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Pictures: Stills from 'Starting From Scratch', directed by Jared Nicholson and Scott Baskett

Last week Brenton Torrens wrote on his artist Facebook page the City of Adelaide had banned amplified busking in Rundle Mall. This would have a “HUGE” impact on himself and other street performers, he said.

Rundle Mall is the city’s premier shopping precinct, and clocks in 400,000 locals and tourists each week, the Rundle Mall website says. This number is, of course, not exactly accurate in our current time of pandemic-induced warped retail spending.

Brenton knows the city well and usually performs to the late night crowds on Hindley Street on Friday and Saturday nights. He frequents Rundle Mall during the week to capitalise on foot traffic.

We know Brenton as the Mall Rat turned Rundle Mall Rap Magnate, who featured in the documentary Starting from Scratch, created by Run Wild Productions and commissioned by CityMag‘s one time sister project City Standard.

The film explores Brenton’s hustle as a hip hop musician performing in the street to fund an upcoming EP release.

Brenton is a freestyle artist, taking lyrical cues from the people passing him by in the street. His bars are always backdropped by a self-produced tracks, broadcast through the Mall, or from wherever he’s standing, from a portable amplifier.

News that the Adelaide City Council has temporarily banned amplified busking – performing with the aid of an amplifier – left Brenton gutted.

He doesn’t want to compromise on quality by going a cappella, but is worried if he doesn’t, he’ll miss out on possible opportunities he could garner in the Mall.

“That film [Starting From Scratch], I got that opportunity from being in the Mall,” Brenton tells CityMag.

“A lot of buskers are upset and a lot of them were frustrated as well.

“For some, that’s how they make their main source of income.”

A City of Adelaide spokesperson explained to CityMag the ban was prompted by COVID-19 and is part of “a number of interim specific conditions for performances”.

Sound amplification is restricted because it can potentially attract audiences and exceed social distancing requirements, they say.

Additional 4sqm “designated busking performance areas” are being marked-out in the Mall and laneways for those not using amps.

There has been no end date for the restrictions laid out on the Council’s website. If you are a busker, you also need to complete a COVID safe plan to in order to perform.

Brenton is currently completing a Bachelor of Music (Sonic Arts) at the University of Adelaide, and, prior to the ban, he would use time between tutorials, to pop over to the Mall to work.

He usually pockets $30 for an hour of busking, which he considers his job. He’s concerned that being pushed into quieter districts of the city to perform could affect his earnings.

“There are different performances,” Brenton explains.

“I’m a walk-by performer, so I’ll be performing and then people will be walking by, then they’ll put money in.

“There’s less chance of any contact and transmission, but the other buskers who operate in the circle, they’re drawing heaps of people and I think that’s the council’s main concern. The circle acts are bringing heaps of people, and there’s a high chance of infection.”

For the minute, Brenton’s going to continue rapping outside the Adelaide Railway Station, which is ok money.

He’s hopeful about the future of street performing as the Adelaide City Council will eventually roll back restrictions, he says. While he waits, Brenton will work on material, soon to be heard by shoppers wandering through postcode 5000.

Brenton Torrens released a new album Not Hard to Listen in March. It goes hard. Listen below.

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