Tuesday, 30 August 2011

UK Tour (Busking for Fun and Profit)

I've always dreamt of going on tour around the country, performing, larking about, generally living the rock and roll lifestyle. This is summer has been epic, the summer I've waited my whole life for, and I've learnt through my experiences that if you want to go out and do something, DO IT! Don't let anybody tell you you cant do something, especially yourself.

So I went out, and busked around the country. This trip took me about two weeks, and was very spontaneous. No tickets were booked, I would be staying with friends around the country, and I would leave when the universe felt it right. This trip really made me appreciate the art of busking as its own unique, ancient and sacred form of performance in it's own right. I feel like I could write a book on busking now; in fact, my friends say I should busk around the world and write a travel book about my experiences.

I took a run-of-the-mill disposable camera on this trip, rather than my DSLR. Alot of the pictures were unusable but the pictures that did develop alright have that classic aged quality I love about disposables.

Firstly, Exeter. Exeter was alright, my problem was arriving too early, and having to set up anyway so I didn't loose my spot. I started singing at about 9:30, much too early. I was finished in the high street by 1pm, and moved to the quay. I had a somewhat uncomfortable feeling there, I don't like busking where people are sat outside cafes because they are forced to sit through your performance. I like giving people the option, I like a place with a stead flow of traffic. While there a man bought my CD, told me I "had what it takes" and then asked me if I were a journey-man, because of how I was dressed. I didn't know what he meant, and later found out a journey-man is an apprentice of an ancient apprenticeship.

My second stop was Brighton. I got a lift in my very good friend's Jon's car. I stayed there with my good friend Pam H West, a very talented photographer: http://h-pinkness.com/ .I've only been to Brighton once as an adult, for a day. I tried the Lane's first. I figured, hey, boutiques, Bohemia, trust-fund-hippies, this is perfect. Ha! The money and traffic was good, but within an hour two burly security guys in high-vis jackets turned up. They told me a local business had complained and they asked that I moved on. A man sat outside a near by cafe jumped up in my defense, saying "I was listening to that! This is Brighton, you can't make her move on." He told me they were only requesting and had no actual legal powers. I decided to move about two streets down anyway, I wanted to be respectful. This would be the theme of the day. I was moved on by security three times. It was funny though, every time the universe presented something to me that would hinder my busking, it would also provide something to help. Someone would defend me, or someone would say "Hey, don't play here, you'll get moved on. But try over there, that might be better."

After an exhausting day in the sun I eventually moved to the sea front. I would recommend the sea front above the Lane's. I was just finishing my last song of the day when a young Japanese girl meekly but a ten pound note in my case and hurried away. I was so shocked at seeing paper money in my case I stopped playing completely. Then I went an had ice cream on the Pier.
 London - Camden Town

With the money I made in Brighton I bought a bus ticket to London, were I stayed in Selhurst some very special not-really-family-but-might-as-well-be. It was a wonderful week, but god it was hot. I busked in Camden, which I was most nervous about because I knew Camden had a reputation for great street performers. This spot turned out to be the most enjoyable and successful spot of my trip. I set up on the pavement outside the market, facing a busy road. I thought the traffic noise might disrupt my performance but this turned out to be a lovely venue - people were taking pictures at me from buses, waving, and one man even threw 40p at me from a moving car. A lovely hippie lady who looked like she had her whole life on the back of her bicycle bought my CD for a fiver (I was only selling them for two pounds.) I packed up that afternoon feeling like I'd arrived. I wasn't just someone pretending to be a busker, I was a busker, a noble bard. It was exhilarating.

London - South Bank
I'd wanted to busk the South Bank since going there for the first time when I was 16, even before I played a buskable instrument. It was tough. Very tough. It was the hottest day of the year, and for fear of losing my pitch for a pee break I kept myself dehydrated. When I packed up that evening I was so faint I don't know I managed to maneuver the underground. The South Bank was packed with performers and I was jammed between a man in a chicken suit and a living statue. Statues I don't mind, but chicken-man's whole act was to stand there people pay to have pictures with him. It's a mockery of the ancient art of street minstreling. I had to add a lot of bull-shit to my act even to get noticed - yee-hawing, spinning, dancing little jigs. It was almost disheartening when people passed by me to pay the chicken-man.

But that morning I had a truly beautiful moment on the South Bank. Before setting up my friends and I did the tourist thing. We bumped into Charlie Chaplin, and he played the part. But suddenly he looked at me, my friends, and broke character, something very rare for his type of performer to do. "Is this your family?" He asked me. "Not biologically, but they are in a way." I answered. "A very special family you have." We began talking about crystals, mysticism, spirituality. He began telling me about a very special mandrake root he kept in his hat for luck. "I don't know why I'm telling you this!" He laughed. I myself have an onyx crystal I keep in my case for strength. It was a wonderful moment of universal like-minds in spontaneous meeting. I was carrying my ukulele in it's case, and drew me aside by the elbow and said in faltering English, "You know, I see. You play. When you play, play loud. Play with your everything...you know what I mean!" I knew, and I did.

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