10 January 2008

Trusty Ibanez and 'Buskers Blues' cutting from London Paper

Busking the Cost

I feel like those Python geezers in the Four Yorkshiremen sketch (and listen and wince at John Cleese's truly awful northern accent):

"Nay, lad, when I were busker there were none o' this roobish about *auditioning* ... and don't even talk to me about licenses, bloody nonsense."

A pal sent me the article from thelondonpaper about Busker's Blues and a bigger load of codswallop I've not read for many a moon.

If I were heading back to Blighty, I'd sign up and show 'em how it's done, no mistake.

Actually, I'm just jealous that all this wasn't around when I was in my minstrel prime (and the same goes for yon trusty Ibanez, still going strongly melodious after 35 years).

So what's this article all about?

crowdL ~ For a start, that glum line-up looks a right bunch of losers, and the berk with the cap *must* be a setup shot because he's right on the edge of the platform. One nudge from a tone deaf punter and he'd be onto the electrified rail or under the next train's wheels.

Either way, the next train whooshing out the tunnel will scatter his props followed by a trampling underfoot by the exiting passengers.

To boot, he's committed the prime error of not arming hisself wi' decent starter float to entice the customers to give generously.

singerI don't know if this is meant to be a joke, but the article includes five "How to be a Busker" hints:

  1. Apply yourself - fill out a form, downloadable here or here.
  2. Police Checks - These take 4 - 6 weeks and you need to visit a police station. Admin fee is £10 (I told you it was a load of rubbish)
  3. Audition - You'll be notified of your date.
  4. Get a Licence (By God that stuck in my throat to type) - After 4 wks you'll be told if you've been accepted. If you have, you will have to sign an agreement with 'Transport for London' ('London Transport', in my day) to get your licence
  5. Find a pitch - Ring up and organise your pitch. They're handed out every Tuesday.

One minute while I regain my composure: After 4 weeks you'll know if you're *ACCEPTED*? Admin fee? Official licence?? Phone to be given a pitch??

By the nine gods of Clusium! In my day (cue old fart mode), you woke at sparrow fart and shuffled down to the Greasy Spoon for brek and to carve up that morning's best strums. If when you got there some bastard was hogging your pitch, an 'honour' system was meant to prevail whereby the occupant moved on after an hour.

Yeh right. They never did and in my case I'd find a nearby bench and read my Guardian with a big sulky pout until the local fuzz came along. I'd moan about the interloper and 5 mins later he'd be on his way. There was no fricking red tape about some buffoon telling you where to strum: if some twerp had told me I'd been allocated mid-morning Edgware Road or high noon West Hampstead, or graveyard 2pm St Johns Wood, I'd've told him what he could do with it and toddled off to the movies.

Sic transit, eh? Very sick.

Comment post-script: Duude! (as Eric Edge taught me to enuciate), talk about a Bread-on-Waters posting. I vent my rage and frustration on the ludicrous state of al fresco minstrelsy in what today passes for London, and in a drop of a capo the lovely Natalia (aka The Saw Lady) writes to me.

She sounds talented and absolutely delightful and I want everyone to check out her impressive blog and, when next passing her pitch, pitch large quantities of coins of the realm in her direction (actually, I don't think America does anything as posh as 'realm', in which case just hurl dosh, moolah, drachmas, whatever).


Saw Lady said...

Greetings from a NYC busker!
I heard about this licence program in London - that's terrible. In NYC there is a permit program, but you don't HAVE to get a permit. You can still go about busking the old way. The permit only allows you access to 28 spots. I like it because it's nice not to have to look for a spot plus the Police don't bother you as much. But the permit definitely doesn't cost Money!!! That is insane charging an admin fee!
Anyway, just thought I'd say 'hi'.
All the best,

Saw Lady

Busker said...

Thanks for all this very interesting info' and glad you agree with me.
I never got hassled in London coz i changed my coins in a pub run by an ex copper and always bought drinks all round with my takings. I also insisted on playing free at all police balls and charity dos and i gave free guitar lessons to daughters of senior polizier. Of course, these days a male guitarist wouldnt be allowed near a damsel but back then we'd sit in their bedrooms and strum away at whatever was in the hit parade, then dad would come back from a hard day's crime busting and we'd have some beers and daughter would show proud pater what she'd learned, and it would be totally cool.
It got known in the lower ranks that I mixed with the prefects, and of course they saw me at the office parties, so any interloper who had the gall to poach my sites got moved on pronto. Them was the days.