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Busker's Festival organizer wants street closure

Jan 12 2012

Victoria International Busker's Festival organizer John Vickers is hoping to get the city to shut down a block of Government Street for nine nights this summer.

With the city's permission, Government between Yates and View streets would be closed at about 6 p.m. for nine nights beginning July 20.

"We're just trying to increase our presence in the core," Vickers said.

The closure would be similar to what happened during the festival last year on Langley Street.

"If it goes well, if we have the merchant support for next year, our plan is to increase the area to possibly Fort Street and hopefully attract even more people into that zone," Vickers said.

"It will be a full program stage right in the middle of the street each evening for nine consecutive evenings.

"I think it would be great for the community to come down and experience live theatre right on the street. I think it has to be a win-win for the merchants as well."

Acts would rotate through every hour. Vickers said he has the support of businesses on both sides of the block for the closure.

"Everybody has not only been supportive but excited to bring the festival down to that area," he said.

Coun. Chris Coleman, president of a previous busker festival held each spring between 1996 and 1998, supports the idea, and thinks consideration should be given to expanding the Government Street pedestrian area to the Gate of Harmonious Interest at Fisgard Street.

"I think it's an interesting proposal," Coleman said.

"I think it's a worthy discussion point and I hope we can move forward with it."

Coleman said the Victoria's first International Buskers Festival last summer was more successful than many anticipated and the closure could well be in the best interests of businesses.

"If we can draw them up Government Street and do it in a night-time capacity, I think it's a great test case," Coleman said.

The idea of closing Government Street to vehicles has been batted around since the 1970s and no consensus has ever been reached - some pedestrians love it, while some drivers and area businesses hate it.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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