Sydney Muso Declan Kelly Speaks Out Following Manly Markets Busking Incident

Footage emerged over the weekend of a crowd at Sydney’s Manly markets turning on an angry resident over his aggressive heckling of musician Declan Kelly.

Kelly, who was booked by market organisers to play, and who has played at the markets before, says he was shocked by the local man’s outburst. However what didn’t shock him so much was the crowd turning on the man, and the subsequent wave of online support not only for him but for live music in public in general.

Speaking to Music Feeds, Kelly gave us the full story of what went down on the Corso over the weekend as well as offering some thoughts on how Sydney nurtures (or rather doesn’t) culture and expression .

Music Feeds: It’s got to be a good thing for you to see all these people coming out to support you.

Declan Kelly: It all ties in with all the stuff going on with the lockout laws and with things being more stifled than they  already are.

MF: So how did the whole confrontation start?

DK: I was playing, everyone was going about their casual market day, it was all pretty relaxed and this guy, and I think it was his wife, came charging up to me. I thought they were coming up to ask me something positive, like did I have a CD or something, but they actually just told me to turn the ‘F’ down, while I was still half way through a song.

So I stopped playing and said: “For a start it would be good if you just let me finish my song and then came up and talked to me”. That’s when the guy just started in on me, and it escalated from there.

MF: What was he saying to you?

DK: Basically he said he has been living in that apartment block behind where the markets are held for 30 years and he’s just sick and tired of the music. He said I was too loud, which I wasn’t. I was playing very relaxed reggae songs of my own composition, and it wasn’t loud at all. The council guy even came around as the incident was going on and I asked him “how’s the volume” and he said “it’s fine by me, keep doing what you’re doing”.

The guy was clearly out of line but it seems to be a pretty common thing. I’m sure there are plenty of musicians out there who’ve been through a similar experience where you’ll be playing in a venue, or outside or just busking and everyone is cool with it or enjoying it and one person will come up and spoil it and make it difficult for everyone else. The markets want to put live music and culture down there, but this one person could probably shut it down.

MF: Have you played the markets before?

DK: Yeah, I’ve played the Manly markets before and I’ve never had that problem. Usually it’s just a great place for me to play my music direct to the people. Everyone is usually just having a good time.

MF: So something like this happening came very much out of the blue?

DK: It did, and it was pretty surprising how quick it escalated, but it’s just part of playing on the street. I’ve busked all around Australia and overseas and you just don’t know what is going to happen sometimes. The majority of the time it’s a positive experience, but every now and then there might be someone who runs off with your money or complains like this guy did yesterday. I guess that’s the nature of being outside though. It’s a free place to express your feelings, whether you are into it or not.

But he was quite aggressive, and that’s what led to people coming up and surrounding him. All the market people down there who have their stalls, they all know me, and so they were right there behind me in support.

MF: Was he trying to intimidate you into stopping?

DK: He was just one of those stubborn guys trying to prove a point you know. I don’t feel like it even had anything to do with me personally, it just felt like he had an issue. Maybe he needs to look at something that’s going on deeper inside his own soul.

MF: The video starts with the confrontation already in full swing, what didn’t we see?

DK: People didn’t really know what was going on until I told the guy to walk away. I didn’t want confrontation of any sort, and after I had told him three times to walk away, he was still coming closer to me. So I just started yelling out: “this guy won’t walk away, I’ve told him three times, he won’t leave me alone, and he’s getting aggressive” and that’s when the crowd started realising there is something going down here. Once they surrounded him though it felt like he was kind of getting put on the spot without realising.

MF: It must have felt good having all these people back you up?

DK: Yeah it’s hard busking sometimes, and when you’re playing on the street you just never know if people are into it or if they’re there just getting on with their day. At the markets though it really felt like people were really into having live music there and they didn’t want one guy spoiling it for everyone else. People were even coming out of their apartments and yelling at him to go away and that they wanted music there. So it’s not like there are other people who live there who don’t want it, I think the majority of people want life and culture in their neighbourhood.

To hear everyone’s voices and opinions being heard felt great. Power to the people you know.

You can check out Kelly’s music here and watch the video for yourself below.

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