Why 'Ben the Music Man' got a ticket for playing music at a busk stop in Kamloops - InfoNews

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Why 'Ben the Music Man' got a ticket for playing music at a busk stop in Kamloops

Benjamin "Ben the Music Man" Boltwood poses on his motorized scooter at the "Busk Stop" in downtown Kamloops on May 28, 2019. To his side he has one of his homemade "microphones" that he uses while dancing to the music that he plays out of the speaker on his scooter. He also has some "guitars" made from, and adorned with, found objects.
May 29, 2019 - 6:00 PM

KAMLOOPS — A Kamloops man was fined while playing music under a "Busk Stop" sign downtown on Friday.

The second Kamloops International Buskers Festival is coming up this summer, and the City has been trying to figure out how to make Kamloops a busking-friendly city.

So it might seem strange to the average passerby to see RCMP and City Bylaw attend to someone playing music in a spot where it appears to be OK to do so.

However, there's more going on than meets the eye— and the ear.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: Woman surprises Kamloops street performer with generous gift

RCMP and the City of Kamloops Bylaw arrived at the site on Victoria Street on May 24. Benjamin Boltwood was issued a ticket from bylaw, and left the scene, eventually throwing away the ticket. 

Boltwood, also known as, "Ben the Music Man," can often be seen around Kamloops playing music from an iPhone hooked up to a speaker nestled in the centre of a four-wheel mobility scooter.

"Music is the number one focus, right, that’s my energy, that’s my passion, that’s my life," Boltwood told iNFOnews.ca. "That’s why I get really upset being told to turn it down, especially for no good reason."

He was told to turn it down on Friday. Carl DeSantis with the Kamloops Business Improvement Association, reported three complaints coming into his office.

"We see and we interact with that individual regularly and often there’s compliance after we have a conversation and sometimes there’s not," DeSantis said on the phone.

Boltwood also has a history with police dating back to age 10, he says. 

"I made bad choices and I blame myself," he says. "Well, done is done. Been to court. Been to jail. Done. K. Now I’m here. Right? It’s never too late to start over. Right?"

He also says he has ADHD and anger issues that music helps him work through.

"This is how I deal with my anger, my stresses, and how I show my light," he says. "This helps me. Shrinks and psychologist (don't). Pills don’t. This does. This works for me... I can’t play a guitar, an instrument, I can’t sing— but I can play the radio."

WHAT'S THE BYLAW?

There are no "rules" for busking specifically at this point. Audrey Trim with the Tournament Capital Centre says city staff won't be revisiting busking bylaws until the fall.

"We’re taking time to consult with our community partners, BIAs, businesses and groups that it may impact," Trim says. "And just try and get some feedback, and try something that will work for everybody in the community and that’s all-encompassing and inclusive."

As the actual ticket was not produced, it's not clear what Boltwood was actually penalized for. Since he wasn't panhandling it may have been item 3.1 or 3.3 of the Good Neighbour bylaw. Both of these points pertain to individuals making noise, and 3.3 specifically mentions speakers. Breaking either of these could ring up a $100 penalty.

Tammy Blundell at the bylaw office says just because it happened at a "Busk Stop" doesn't mean it's exempt from noise complaints.

"Busking is... an art form and allows people to portray their art and their culture through music whether it’s playing the guitar, playing an instrument and singing," Blundell said on the phone. "If somebody is playing music under that quote-un-quote busk stop, that does not stop us from enforcing the bylaw."

She added that officers have to be proactive and respond to any activity that may infringe on a bylaw.

"Even if it’s one complaint, we do and probably will react to that and deal with it accordingly," she said.

Boltwood lives on disability and so has lots of free time. The amount of time he spends playing music outside varies. His music gets mixed reviews. Some love it, others not so much.

"A hundred people come up here, they like it or they don’t care, and you get one that hates it and calls the cops and there’s a problem," he said, adding that though he doesn't ask for money some people will just hand him some.

SO, WHAT ARE THE "BUSK STOPS" FOR?

The sign that says, "Busk Stop" on Victoria Street also says that it can be used from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and that tips are welcome. It's also complete with an electrical outlet on the bottom where Boltwood plugs in his equipment.

Trim, with the City, says the signs were put up by Kamloops International Buskers Festival society last year as part of the festival. They designated certain areas around town to be able to schedule performers to play at those areas.

"We wanted to start promoting the culture of busking in Kamloops so those went up just prior to the festival," Trim said. "We did request that they stay up all year round and to encourage people to perform on our streets."

Part of the process in drafting bylaws for busking will be consulting with the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association, who prioritize the success of businesses.

"Those signs were erected last year, they’re intended to be in place so we could schedule talent that was at an elevated level," DeSantis says. "If you are playing at a volume that is deemed to be interrupting the businesses then it’s going to generate a complaint, of course it will."

In Friday's incident, DeSantis says the problem was the volume of Boltwood's music, and that he didn't comply when asked to turn it down.

He also says that he has never received a complaint based on the quality of a busker's performance.

"Music is in the ear of the beholder I guess," he says.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Shelby Thevenot or call (250) 819-6089 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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