A blind Kelowna busker's life just got a lot harder - InfoNews

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A blind Kelowna busker's life just got a lot harder

Sarah Mainland's life as a Kelowna busker got a lot harder last week when a thief stole some equipment on the same day city council approved changes to the busking bylaws.
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April 05, 2018 - 6:00 PM

KELOWNA – The life of a busker isn’t easy; just ask Sarah Mainland.

On the same day Kelowna city council moved forward bylaw amendments making it harder to busk, a thief stole $400 worth of her equipment.

Sarah was born blind, has since been diagnosed with autism and has had to let go of her dream of becoming a receptionist.

Her mother Joyce Mainland says although disappointed, Sarah has since found her true passion.

Now 35, she has been playing Celtic harp for more than 12 years. She has a gold medal from the Royal Conservatory and has been playing publicly in Kelowna — often for free — for around a decade.

“She busks a lot,” Joyce says. “She really enjoys it.”

Last week she was playing a free concert at Metro Community for Easter Sunday when Joyce realized some equipment was missing

“Sunday comes, and she’s playing at church and couldn’t find the pickup cable,” she says. “I went outside to the car to get it, no pack.”

Joyce and Sarah were on their way to harp lessons the previous week when they noticed someone had been inside the car the night before. An expensive amplifier that was under a blanket in the back seat was still there, and nothing else appeared to be missing, so they thought nothing of it. 

It wasn’t until Sarah was getting ready to perform Easter Sunday that she realized the thief had taken a backpack with around $400 worth of equipment including 34 expensive harp strings.

“(Sarah) has to have those,” Joyce says. “That’s probably the hardest thing to replace.”

Sarah's next performance is supposed to be this weekend, so Joyce is scrambling.

“She’s hoping to get out to the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters market for opening weekend,” she says. “Those strings are worthless to anyone who doesn’t play the harp. I’m hoping (the thief) threw them in a bush somewhere.”

The bag was taken near Doyle Avenue the night of March 26, the same day Kelowna city council gave three of four readings and all but assuring passage of additions and changes to the so-called Good Neighbour bylaw dealing with buskers and panhandlers.

The revisions include a requirement for buskers to present a valid permit to a peace officer on request and stay within designated “busk stops”.

Joyce bought her a City of Kelowna busking pass, even though most of the 18 designated stops are too loud for harp music.

“(The pass) is more so she doesn’t get questioned and embarrassed,” Joyce says. “Most of the busking stations don’t work for a harp. It needs to be quiet to be conducive to the softness.”

Anyone with any information about the theft is asked to contact the Kelowna RCMP non-emergency line at 250-762-3300 and cite file number 2018-16897.

— This story was corrected at 7:07 p.m. April 5. The bylaw was given three of four readings, it has not yet been passed by council.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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