Crowds gathering to watch street performers in Place Jacques-Cartier is an Old Montreal tradition, but many of the artists say their craft is being threatened.
“I used to do four shows per day, now I’m doing two per month,” said Stephen Moore, who has been performing a juggling and magic show at Place Jacques-Cartier for a decade.
He says his biggest threat is now musicians.
“After 30 years, it’s sad,” Moore told Global News.
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Before, a particular spot in the plaza was reserved just for street performers like him. Recently, Ville-Marie borough council decided musicians should be able to play there, too. The suggestion came from Montreal’s ombudsman.
“As the ombudsman wrote in her report, it’s just more fair that way,” explained Ville Marie borough councillor Sophie Mauzerolle.
There are about five street performers with permits to perform at Place Jacques-Cartier, and dozens of musicians.
“There were two places. One was attributed to musicians, one for public entertainers and we just decided that musicians can go at both now,” Mauzerolle explained.
“There’s a lot more musicians than public entertainers so it’s a matter of fairness.”
The way it now works is the 200 permit holders submit their name into a random, anonymous, online draw and whoever wins gets to perform a one-hour slot. That makes it a lot harder for Moore to get the spot he says he needs to perform. Musicians can also play on the street, but Moore says there is only one place he’s allowed to do his fire juggling.
“It’s going to happen like Prince-Arthur,” he said. “Go see. There’s no entertainment there, nothing. I played there for eight years, they got rid of us and that street is really dead. I’m not saying it’s because of us, but I see that happening here.”
“They used to have it really good,” said musician Phillippe Mius d’Entremont of the street performers. “It sucks for them but… yeah.”
The new rules are good for musicians, he added, but street performing in general is on the decline because people don’t carry cash as much as they once did, he said.
Moore showed Global News tourist guide books with his picture in them. He argues that his show draws much bigger crowds than the musicians.
“You can hear violin right now. The kid who’s on vacation, he’s not going to stand there an hour listening to music. All I have to do is light up a torch and kids come like flies,” he said.
Moore did have the biggest audience on Wednesday afternoon. The city is convinced the new rules are fair.
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