Halifax Busker Festival to return in a new way this weekend

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A busker entertains the crowd at a previous Halifax Busker Festival in this file photo. Performances this year will be limited to one stage, with only musicians and magicians participating.  (CBC - image credit)
A busker entertains the crowd at a previous Halifax Busker Festival in this file photo. Performances this year will be limited to one stage, with only musicians and magicians participating. (CBC - image credit)

The Halifax Busker Festival is back this weekend with in-person shows, but not without some adjustments.

The three-day event starts Saturday at the Salt Yard, just off Lower Water Street on the Halifax waterfront, with two days of live music followed by a day of magic with two Nova Scotia-based magicians.

The festival — the first since 2019 — is open access, so spectators can come and go or sit on picnic tables set up in front of the event's only stage.

Musicians performing on stage will be paid a flat rate this year as usual. Senior event director Christina Edwards said magicians will also be paid a flat rate this year, if they choose.

"We're [still] going to give them the option if they want to, to ask for tips," she told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Thursday.

Festival founded 35 years ago

The festival, which was founded in 1986, typically runs for six days and features a wide variety of international performers, including flame-throwers, acrobats and dance groups.

Edwards said cancellations of live events because of the pandemic have been hard on buskers all over the world.

"They travel with the sun. So they're in Australia part of the year, then they work their way through Europe, and then into Canada, the United States," she said.

Last year was also a year of firsts for the busker community, with performances being streamed live on the website Busk.co.

People 'tired of looking at their computer screens'

Edwards said it inspired the Halifax Busker Festival to do something similar, with pre-recorded shows that could be watched again and again.

She said at first numbers were low, but over the following weeks they received "hundreds and hundreds of views."

Despite that success, Edwards said people want to experience live shows again.

"We knew people were tired of looking at their computer screens, performers were tired of performing in front of cameras, so we wanted to do something that brought the audience to the artists and the artists to the live audience," she said.

The event kicks off Saturday, July 31 at 3 p.m. AT.

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