File photos Buskers have been a common sunny-day sight in White Rock for years, including Edward Westphal in 2012 (left), a pair of violinists who livened up the pier two summers ago (top right) and sisters Alanna and Brianne Finn-Morris of Fionn in 2016.

International flavour to White Rock buskers festival

Peninsula favourites to mix with acts from Berlin, London and Toronto

It’s billed as the White Rock Buskers Festival.

But the May 5 event – co-presented by the city, the White Rock BIA and the White Rock Players Club – is a little outside the common definition.

Buskers are usually street entertainers who rely solely on voluntary gratuities – the loose change or small bills deposited by passersby into a hat or a guitar case.

Instead, the city’s day-long (11 a.m-5 p.m.) free festival – at four uptown locations – is bringing in street entertainers from Berlin, New York City, London and Toronto, mixed in with some local favourites, such as boogie and jazz piano wizard Dominik Heins, 15-year-old Cloverdale singer-songwriter Madison Bell and Korki the Clown.

City cultural development manager Claire Halpern confirmed all performers, whether local or from out of town, will be receiving an honorarium.

But, she said, the intent of the festival – organized by the city’s busking program committee – is to expose the community to a broader variety of acts that are possible in street-entertainment situations.

“Most of our local busking scene is musicians,” she said. “We’re trying to achieve a balance (for the day) between music and other kinds of street performance. I’m excited about a lot of entertainment that we haven’t seen in White Rock before.”

City council has approved a budget of $20,000 for the festival, Halpern said, and through partnership with the BIA, the committee is hoping to encourage businesses to become involved by offering discounts to people attending the festival.

An action item in the city’s cultural strategic plan, the current event is being planned as the first in a series of annual springtime busking festivals.

And just because some basic expenses are being met, that doesn’t mean that some genuine busking won’t be occurring.

“The honorarium is basically a stipend to cover travel expenses – if audience members are enjoying a performance they can be expected to make a contribution,” Halpern said.

Those who might be inclined to drop a few loose dollars in a hat are also being invited to shell out $15 for the event’s grand finale at 7 p.m. at the Coast Capital Playhouse.

Although headliner Juno-award winning comedian Ivan Decker doesn’t qualify as a busker, the rest of the bill – including New Westminster-based a capella pop choir The Quayside Voices,Vancouver’s NZR Circus, a three-person cirque-style troupe comprising a contortionist, an acrobat/clown and a singing stilt-walker – all have street-entertainer experience, Halpern said.

During the day, the curated festival will host more than 30 acts at the four venues; Miramar Amphitheatre (at White Rock Community Centre off Russell Avenue), Saltaire Plaza (at Thrift Avenue and Johnston Road), the clock tower (at Johnston Road and Prospect Avenue) and at Five Corners (Johnston Road and Pacific Avenue).

Among the artists are FairyWork from Berlin (“she’s almost like a living statue,” Halpern explained), who will be interacting with the public in a more one-on-one context on Johnston Road, and New York’s Allez-Oops, a married comedy/variety duo, whose shtick includes circus-style tricks and incredible agility on tall stilts.

Also pushing the conventional limits of busking will be Dynamike, who divides his time between London and Vancouver, offering interactive comedy with a distinct edge that only juggling machetes and chainsaws and riding a 10-foot unicycle can provide; and Toronto’s The Hockey Circus – (“he’s a one-man hockey game,” said Halpern) will provide a family-friendly show that manages to work in acrobatics, juggling and one-of-a-kind circus stunts.

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