BENIDORM saw its own version of the U.K. riots, but in place of hoodies and snoods, was the Charlie Chaplin bowler of the mime artists, and the pork pie hats of Andean pan pipers.
This was a war between the street entertainers, fighting to occupy the best positions on Benidorm’s pedestrian thoroughfares. The season is short; the competition vicious.
At first tourists could have been excused for thinking they were being entertained in some reality punch up show; a kind of improv’ street art, but soon it was obvious that things were serious, and despite the credentials of the protagonists, it was not all an act. Tourists and locals were visibly shaken by the antics of those involved.
Accordions are alarming at the best of times, but even more so when hurled, causing panicking tourists to flee screaming, even more so than when it was playing La Vie en Rose, in a novel style, just moments before. It was seriously unpleasant and quite rightly, Benidorm council have stepped in to address matters.
All licences have been suspended and now street performers will be more stringently regulated to avoid further bloodshed. Re- application by way of audition.
The riots were ugly and exposed the darker side of mime and harp music; that hidden underbelly of bohemian street entertainment that goes unseen on a day to day basis by Mr and Mrs Tourist. What would Marcel Marceau have had to say of such behaviour?.. he will have turned in his grave, silently.
At the end of last week Benidorm council held a meeting with the performers, to try to resolve the problems, which have been festering for some years, especially in the peak summer months, and it certain entertainment hot spots, such as Matinez Alejos, Calle Gambo or by the Dove Park.
New licences will be issued giving specific pitches to artists to avoid the understandable jostling for space, said Eva Mayor, Councillor for Culture.
But the Council’s intention is to go beyond mere physical demarcation. A new set of rules has been drawn up and agreed with the artists, to better regulate their activities, said Councillor for Commerce Juan Ramon Martinez, including timetables for working and a requirement that they demonstrate “their artistic quality, become self employed, and pay a licence fee.”
The words “Street entertainer” and “artistic quality, are not often heard in the same sentence.
Normally, each artist will have one minute to demonstrate that they have the required talent to qualify for a licence, but in the case of the man who wears strange make-up and does not move, the panel will sit for a straight thirteen hours.
By popular demand, the Bolivian pan pipes ensemble ‘Los Hombres Bajitos’, have been limited to one bar only of the classic, El Condor Pasa, and all mime artists were politely asked to move to France.
By Paul Deed