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Gazette’s gaffe sparks conflict

by Archives February 5, 2008

A group of Concordia music students were ready to defend buskers’ space when a Montreal Gazette columnist revealed that buskers were being replaced at Lionel Groulx Metro by TV screens. Poised for action, they were rewarded before their protest had begun. It turns out that buskers can still perform at the subway station after all – it was all a misunderstanding.
“It all kinda sparked in an article in the Gazette that was stretching the truth,” said David Kunstatter, the protest’s organizer.
In his column, journalist Mike Boone said there were no buskers left on the deck at Lionel-Groulx and attributed it to the new plasma televisions.
“Instead of listening to flamenco guitar or Andean drums, commuters now stand around mutely while kaleidoscopic images urge us to buy more stuff,” wrote Boone in his Jan. 18 column, describing the atmosphere at Lionel-Groulx’s platform.
“There was a buskers’ station about halfway down the upper platform. It’s not there anymore,” he wrote. “There doesn’t seem to be the well-organized and continuous parade of buskers there was before those TV screens took over.”
After reading the column, Kunstatter organised a protest for buskers to regain their right to play music at the station. It’s important to him because some people live off busking and Lionel-Groulx is an important station for it, he explained.
After having checked, and finding that people were still allowed to busk at Lionel-Groulx, the protest was dismissed.
The spokesperson for the Société des Transports de Montréal (STM), Isabelle Tremblay said the signs indicating where buskers can play have simply been relocated “due to the construction of new commercial areas.” “There are no rules really [for buskers], it is a little bit ad lib,” Tremblay explained. Buskers write their names and their schedules behind the lyre and they just have to present themselves when it is their turn to play, added Tremblay.
In an e-mail to The Concordian, Boone defended his article saying, “[I] didn’t say [buskers] were barred.”
If he is unhappy about the new commercial areas, Kunstatter understands the needs for the STM to make a little more money. Money he hopes will go to providing commuters with better services, though he doubts it will.

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