Celebrating self-expression as a basic human right essential for the

healthy growth of youth, individuals and communities


Stephen H. Baird, Founder and Executive Director

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by Stephen Baird © Stephen Baird 2003


Santa Cruz, California

Street Performing Voluntary Guidelines


 Here they are as amended once (mid-ninties, after the earthquake in 89 smashed the downtown they rebuilt and opeed new senior housing downtown ... there were new conflicts having to do with nighttime performances ... we added a bit to make the new incoming performers aware of the old folks sleeping on the upper floors of some of the buildings)

Tom Noddy


Dear performer,

This paper was designed by and agreed to by your fellow performers. We are making them available to merchants, and city officials, so that everybody knows the agreement. It might be handed to you by one of them but it comes from many of us.

In 1980, thirty-five Santa Cruz street performers met to address a proposal by city officials to pass laws that would ban or severely restrict street performing in Santa Cruz. In an effort to avoid inflexible laws, the performers proposed instead, to come to an agreement that recognized the rights of performers, people working in the businesses, downtown residents, and others who use the downtown. 35 street performers came to consensus on those guidelines and agreement was reached with merchants, the Downtown Neighbors' Association, the City Council and other interested parties. A few times since, performers met with representatives of the Downtown Association, city officials, and others to update the agreement.

The following list of voluntary guidelines represent that agreement. We believe that these guidelines reflect the unwritten rules that street performers have worked with for centuries (street performing is at least as old as stores).


It is recognized that one performer or act monopolizing an area for a long time can make it difficult for other performers and for the people working in the downtown businesses. One hour rotation is thought to be reasonable. It is also recognized that the performances take place in front of businesses and that the people working in that business may ask a performer to relocate after one hour if they are experiencing a problem. While it is agreed that the public streets belong to no one, it is suggested that talking with people working in the stores will many times help to prevent misunderstandings.


Gathering a crowd so large that they block the sidewalk can create a problem for people trying to pass by. The performer is usually in the best position to address the audience and help to keep a clear passage on the sidewalk and through doorways. It is also recognized that performances taking place in front of business doorways and windows can be problematic, and that people working in these businesses have a right to request that performers move aside to prevent that problem.


It is recognized that too many performers on one block combine to create a sound that is disturbing to all, including the workers and passers-by (the audience). It is suggested that musicians be sensitive to their instruments (the sound of bagpipes or conga drums carry further than that of a dulcimer).


It is also recognized that we share the downtown area with downtown residents. When he was still alive and active on behalf of the rights of street performers, Tom Scribner , (the street performer whose statue still entertains on Pacific Avenue) asked that we respect his and other residents' need for sleep. The city has a curfew on noise disturbance. From 10:00pm till 8:00am musicians are in danger of being cited under this ordinance.


Contributions from satisfied listeners is the only financial support afforded to a sidewalk entertainer. Offensive vocal solicitation is not only rude behavior that works against all street performers but is not very good for tips either. An open instrument case or other receptacle is considered appropriate.


"Sidewalk entertainment has no cover charge. There is no age limit, no dress code, and no minimum drink. And it's not plugged into any nuclear power plant or any other source of power but natural human energy." .
.....Artis the Spoonman

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