Little Mole cartoon character on Old Town Square. via Raymond Johnston

Giant pandas, cartoon characters and bubble makers will get the boot from Old Town Square

The ban in line with City Hall promises to reduce visual smog

A draft amendment will ban oversized animal costumes and people making bubbles from Prague’s Old Town Square and other locations. This will be in line with promises to reduce what the current City Hall administration calls “visual smog” in the crowded city center.

It is not clear when City Hall will vote on the amendment to the Street Art Decree, or when it will take effect. Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) previously said he hoped to rid the square of begging pandas by the autumn.

The proposal has already been approved by the Culture Committee of City Hall, and it expands on regulations for street art that have been in force since 2013 that already limit live music and other forms of busking. That was later modified to also ban amplification and drums.

April 24, 2019: a street artist in an inflatable panda costume dances in central Prague
A street artist in a panda costume in Prague. via iStock

The draft decree justifies the ban on the use of giant costumes such as pandas or cartoon characters because it aesthetically distorts the appearance of the city. The proposed change has two parts: a ban on performing in disguises such as animals or characters from movies, TV shows, or computer games, and a ban on performing in disguises that by their dimensions obviously exceed the proportions of an adult.

Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) has made cleaning up the center from unrepresentative attractions one of his goals. “The giant mascots are not really street art, and the amendment about busking, which is being prepared, … takes this into account. Kitschy characters do not belong in Old Town,” he said when the issue first came up. He also opposes beer bikes, which are in the process of being banned, pseudo-historical car tours, and sales of stacking dolls that have no connection to Czech culture.

Prague 1 Mayor Pavel Čižinský (Praha 1 sobě) previously said the decree should be changed so that busking is “something that is at least a little artistic, not a stupid attraction that only pollutes the public space.”

bubbles
Bubble maker in Old Town Square. via Raymond Johnston

The amendment will also prohibit busking that violates the rights of others with noise or environmental pollution. This includes bubble making. Performers also must not stand where they would block the passage of pedestrians or stand in the entrance to buildings or the metro.

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The ban on costumes will now apply to the entire area of Old Town Square. So far, it only applied to the northern side. “Any busking activities are inappropriate there, both aesthetically and for safety,” Culture Committee Chairman Jan Wolf (United Force for Prague) said, according to press reports.

A minor concession is that the space a busker can use will increase from the current 1.5 square meters to 2 meters.

acoustic busker
Acoustic busker at Velkopřevorské náměstí. via Raymond Johnston

Other places of the city will also be included, such as Nerudova Street and Velkopřevorské náměstí, which is the site of the Lennon Wall, in Prague 1 and náměstí Míru in Prague 2. It will also affect Spálená Street between Purkyňova and Národní streets.

The Lennon Wall has recently become a focus of attention due to inappropriate graffiti, noise and drunken crowds. The city administration and the Knights of Malta, which owns the wall, are working to find a solution to return the wall to its original purpose, separate from the pending amendment on costumes and bubbles.

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The draft decree specifies the conditions and places where busking is allowed. It prohibits it, for example, in places where an event is already taking place. It also prohibits street art in cemeteries, health facilities, playgrounds and schools during school hours, or at churches. It does not include Charles Bridge, as that has its own rules.

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