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Getting Hassled When You’re Out Busking

A couple of weeks back we’d been in Essex visiting family, and after my recent wash out of a charity busk I’d been working on getting my skills up to get out and do some more busking for the coming Summer.

I’d been strumming in the garden and paid a couple of visits to my busking tree to say ‘hello’ and play it a couple of songs.

My busking tree

Busking Tree

It’s still looking a bit bare but the fields around it are looking much better now. It’s a great spot to make some noise and not get on people’s nerves trying to pull off difficult vocals that were a lot easier before I took a break from playing.

I set my Ebay shop on vacation settings and slapped an away note on my Artisan site which gave me some time to play instead of worrying about posting, promoting and dealing with customers for a week or two.

The sun had been shining for a few days and I thought it’s time to start getting out there and earn some cash busking in the local towns around where we were staying.

Street Musician 2

On the Friday afternoon I headed into Chelmsford to see what was happening, hoping to grab a good spot and make the most of the last few days of the Easter holidays. Town would be packed out and good crowds would hopefully mean I could earn a few quid for a couple of hours playing.

As it happens, town was totally packed along with the usual market and a music event going on. There was a few bands and singers playing with a proper set up in the middle of town so you could hear it over most of the central streets. It wasn’t too loud but making enough noise to dowse any chance of getting a spot within a couple of hundred yards.

There were also Fire engines and charity collections going on in other parts of town and another girl busker who was pretty good, set up towards one end.

I wandered about for a bit thinking there was no chance this is going to happen today, but after spending £4 on a parking ticket for 3 hours and knowing that if I went home I’d have wasted my whole afternoon when I could have been playing at home, I thought what the hell, I’ll just set up out the way and play for a couple of hours to get my practice in, without worrying about making any decent cash.

I walked right up one end of town near the banks where it was pretty much deserted – apart from a slow trickle of people wandering by, heading into the main areas.

Busking in these sort of places can be quite good as there’s not many people around to drown you out and you can relax and just get on with playing without thinking about it too much.

I set up and started playing. When you are literally the only one around and there’s not much background noise going on, people can see and hear you from quite a distance and often throw you some cash when perhaps they might not have if you’d been set up amongst the crowds in town.

Street Musician 2

Hassle the Busker

I played for about 45 minutes and racked up about £5 – 6 pounds with a few good comments in the meantime. When it’s quiet you always get one or two Pink Floyd fans strolling past hearing ‘Wish You Were Here’ and slinging you some cash with a smile.

Just as I’m getting in my stride, I see this scruffy figure, looking in a bit of a state, wandering slowly down the middle of the street, swigging from a can.

You know when you’re out busking, you are a complete target for anyone looking for someone to hassle and as he spotted me from 30 yards away I thought ‘Oh Yeah, here we go again !’

Worse for wear

Worse for Wear

He wandered up to me, taking another swig out of his can and put it back in his coat pocket with it still slopping around. You could tell he had serious alcohol problems and was in a real mess.

In my past I’ve known many troubled people from different walks of life and I’ve seen some pretty bad states in my time. I’ve got a lot of empathy for people whose lives are in a mess, whether it’s alcohol, drugs or for a million other reasons and I never try to judge or treat anyone disrespectfully.

This guy, who ever he was, could have been someones father, son or husband and you never know what sort of life situations had put him there in the first place.

I was actually quite concerned because he was covered in this stuff which looked like dried blood, all over his nose and chin and it looked like he might of just had a beating or been involved in an accident of some sort. You can’t see it from the photo’s but he was covered in it. It was all over his shirt and his hands and nails were black and had about half a centimetre of grime under each nail. It looked like he had blood or dirt all over his coat aswell and I really wasn’t sure what had happened to him.

I kept on singing and with him only a couple of metres away and getting closer, he was shouting and motioning to me, sticking his hand out touching my guitar. Within a few moments I had no choice but to stop in mid song.

Street Musician 2

‘Alright mate ! How’s it going ?’ I gave my usual smile and happy greeting.

‘Nghot you flaying ffat *&!@# thrubbish for ?’ he grunted back in a slurry drunken fashion. Ng’ny *.@#.. and started churning out inaudible names of groups I’d never heard before.

I was like, ‘Err ! No mate, Sorry I don’t know that one, or that one….or that one..’

I haven’t got the greatest knowledge of musical history, but I seriously didn’t know any of them..I said, ‘Er.. How about Led Zeppelin, or Bob Dylan… is that any good ?.’

With that he started reeling of a drunken version of something I couldn’t recognise under the slurring, until he reached the chorus and with a little more clarity blurted out the end lines to Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowing in the Wind’. Within a few seconds he was pointing to my guitar and started trying to grab the fretboard, motioning to give it here so he could have a go.

‘Sorry mate,  can’t let you have a go’, I said holding on to my guitar, ‘I don’t let anyone play this …  it’s my only guitar..’  etc. etc.

He looked shocked and couldn’t believe I’d said ‘No’. Totally ignoring what I’d just said, he still kept on going for it, grabbing for the thing and getting really hacked off.

Now, it’s bad enough when someone who’s a bit drunk tries to grab your guitar, but this guy was totally smashed and covered in dirt. I’m not joking. I’ve had lots of drunks try it on in the past, and even when it’s some friendly happy chap who’s had one too many grabs your guitar when you’re off guard, you are guaranteed the strings are going to get a bad hammering or the strap will come off and there’ll be some sort of accident.

If someone who’s out of their head gets hold of your guitar, you’ve got a real problem and you’ll be lucky to get it back in one piece.

You don’t want to be kicking off, especially with an expensive guitar hanging round your neck and the poor guy probably didn’t know what he was doing anyway, so you have to keep the situation calm and get him to chill out.

I held onto it without getting aggressive but with a firm ‘No chance mate’… and with that he pushed himself right into me and squeezed into the gap between me and the guitar… so all of a sudden I’m like, practically hugging this guy while he’s squashed up in front of me trying to strum the thing like we are some sort of duet on Britain’s Got Talent.

I can handle many things, but this was pretty awful, and with the overpowering smell of alcohol and nicotine emanating from his clothes against my body, the black congealed blood like stuff all over his hands fingering chords and those long dirt ingrained fingernails strumming the strings… I was like  ‘WTF !..how did I manage to get in this position ?’.

I was thinking ‘What the hell is this stuff ? – I hope it’s not something nasty’.

After about 30 seconds still holding my breath from the fumes, I managed to get out of this bizarre embrace and get a bit of space between us.

He then started mumbling about how he’s got loads of guitars at home and used to be in a band years ago, but within a few moments was grabbing for my guitar again like he wanted another go.

By now I had the guitar secured behind me, holding it with one hand pointing it down at the ground, but he was still going for it and I was having to defend my position, pushing against him to stop him forcing his way in.

The people in the shops over the road and cafes up the street had started to take notice and see if this was going to kick off.

I was still being as friendly as I could be and trying to divert his attention away from the guitar back to himself and his past days as a musician.

He kept saying the same things over and over again every few minutes. One moment being happy and reminiscing over his past musical days, the next bursting into choruses of ‘Blowing in The Wind’ which would ultimately lead back to him wanting to play the song and him trying to grab the guitar again. I was constantly being forced to deflect his actions in a firm but nice way. This would then lead to him getting aggressive and shaking his fist up to my face before switching again to some other erratic subject.

He was insistent he could make me loads of money if I would just give him my guitar… and that he’d give me loads of money if I’d let him have a go..then he’d search his pockets and find nothing, take another swig out of his can and start the scene all over again, saying he had loads of guitars and didn’t want mine.

I kept saying to him ‘Why don’t you go and get your guitar and come out here and make some cash for yourself ?’, to which he would shake his head, dismiss the whole idea and go for my guitar again.

Street Musician 2

This scene went on… and on …and on… and eventually I had to get  more serious and say ‘Look mate ! If you are a musician you should respect my wishes, and my guitar…you’ve already had a go so just leave it now, alright !’

I wasn’t getting aggressive, but just showing him I wasn’t going to put up with his bad behaviour much longer.

It did the trick for a few moments and as I backed him off a few feet saying ‘Give me a bit of space here will you’. He then started feeling my arms, going on about me being a bodybuilder or something (which I seriously don’t look anything like, trust me).

I was like, ‘No mate, I’m just tall’ which again led him into shaking another fist in my face in a manner you couldn’t tell was threatening or drunken silliness.

On a few occasions I tried to start playing again and within a few seconds just kept getting interrupted, but after about twenty minutes of hassle and trying to keep the situation happy, I said ‘Look mate, give us a break, I’ve got to get on with this and try and make some money, how about I sing you a song, Eh ?’ I thought if I can get on with some busking, he might get bored and wander off.

No chance.

So I started playing for about the fifth time, this time choosing ‘Wonderwall’ thinking whatever he does this time, I’m not stopping for anything.

I think he got the message this time, but instead of moving on, he stood there in front of me, swigging his can and and growling at people with his hand out, trying to get money out of passers by.

A busker’s worse nightmare is someone out of their head making a scene in front of them and I thought surely no one is going to give him anything.

Just then about half way through the song, a lady and her little girl of about 4 years old streamed out of the shop opposite, with a coin in her child’s hand looking all excited to have been given some money to stick in my case.

They obviously had been oblivious to this guy’s actions while they were in the shop as with that she walked straight into the tramp’s path and he took off his hat and lowered it to the little girl, who’s face dropped like a stone. There wasn’t really much else she could do but nervously drop the coin in his hat and scurry away quickly. I just thought ‘Oh no, that’s going to put her off buskers for life’ and as he gleered at the pound coin she had put in his hat I thought, ‘o.k, let’s see what you do with it’.

He played with it for a while, taunting my case with this coin while I was still singing the song, and although I didn’t expect he would maliciously steal it, I did think he would probably forget what he was doing and just stick it in his pocket.

By the end of the song, he was still taunting my case with it so I said ‘Go on then, stick it in’ with which he regrettably threw it in, finishing his fun for the moment with another shake of his fist.

A couple of passers by who had been witnessing the scene from the coffee shop wandered by shouting ‘Oi Noel, I thought you’d sacked Liam’ which was quite amusing , but I didn’t play another song after that. It just wasn’t worth it. I didn’t want him freaking anymore kids out and I have a little girl around that age so I know how things like that can affect them.

Although the whole scene being made wasn’t really ‘nasty’ as such, it was still quite unnerving for me and for passers by, and having to be on guard while his mood constantly changed, wondering what he’s going to do next or if it was going to turn nasty wasn’t doing any favours for my busking abilities.

Snuff

As we stood there, with him still acting somewhat erratically, he pulled out a tin from one of his pockets and opened it up to reveal a large pot of dark brown snuff.

He dipped his fingers in it and pulled out a huge pinch, offering me a dose.

I said ‘Thanks, but I’ll give it a miss’ and he raised it to his nostril and took a huge clumsy sniff, with half of it coating his nose and chin and the rest pouring down onto his coat, leaving his fingers and clothes covered in snuff. He then took another swig of his can without a care of the mess he’d thrown all over himself.

I could see then what all this stuff was he was covered in, and I was quite pleased that it wasn’t congealed blood or something worse as I’d first thought.

The antics continued for about another twenty minutes and by that time we had been there for about three quarters of an hour. I could tell that there was no way I was going shake this and the only thing I could do without getting physical or being mean was to pack up and go home. I thought of setting up further down the road but knew I’d probably be followed and the whole process would start again.

I packed up, still humouring him as pleasantly as I could and once I’d got my stuff together I said ‘See You Mate’ and started to wander off.

Once he realised I was actually going, he seemed to get quite offended and started growling more stuff at me, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying.

Street Musician 2

Tolerance

I came away from that busking session feeling pretty disheartened and although he’d ruined my session, I wasn’t annoyed, I felt more disturbed about the whole thing and quite sorry for the guy more than anything else.

I couldn’t help thinking about the situations that lead to him getting into a state like that, and it reminded me of a program I saw a while ago called ‘Saving Ed Mitchell‘ about the I.T.N news presenter who had sunk from being a successful television journalist with everything going for him, to a homeless alcoholic down and out living on the streets.

The outcome of a person’s life can be determined by many things, and even successful business men, sports heroes and legendary musician’s lives can be destroyed by making a few wrong decisions in life.

Whether a person’s downfall comes about for reasons beyond their control or are self inflicted due to addictions to substances like alcohol and drugs, none of us really know what’s around the corner and unless we keep checking ourselves and keeping our lives on the right course, we could easily find ourselves in the same situation a few years down the road.

I’m often exposed to weird situations when I’m in the street and sometimes the easiest option would be to threaten or whack someone who’s giving you attitude or hassle. But that’s not the way we do things, and one of the rules I live by is never to strike someone unless it’s in self defense and absolutely necessary, and even then, only if that person is a genuine threat and not just someone who’s had a few too many drinks or just winding you up.

You don’t have to back down or let people abuse you, but just be firm but also tolerant of people in these sorts of situations. Understand that being exposed to the general public will undoubtedly lead you into some weird scenarios and you should only ever resort to ‘kicking off’ when it’s the very last option available to you and you literally have no other choice.

Being tolerant of the general public is something all musicians have to get used to and whether it is in the street, in the pub or on stage, it’s all part of the process.

Street Musician 2

23 comments to Getting Hassled When You’re Out Busking

  • That was a great story, but I feel really bad for that little girl. She probably asked her mother if it would be OK to give some money to the guy who was making music. I probably would have done the same thing as a child, convincing my parents to let me spend my dollar where I like (and that happens to be in that fellow’s guitar case right now) until they finally said yes, and I probably would have given it to the filthy old bastard who put me in the awkward position where it would make me feel guilty NOT to give it to him instead. I would have been racked with guilt either way, but giving him the money would have added me being pissed at the drunk as well as guilty I didn’t stand my ground and give it to the person who I thought deserved it.

    I’m sorry you had to go through that, but I’m even more sorry she had to go through that. She’ll probably never want to donate to buskers anymore for fear some drunk will jump out of the shadows of the nearest alley, all slurs and swigs and demand the money that is mere inches from a guitar case.

  • You often get hassled by unruly kids or drunken adults when you’re out, but most of the time you get a fairly good response from the guys living on the street. They appreciate your music as a welcome change to their daily routine.

    Often I’ll get thrown spare change from guys who’ve been begging up the road and I remember one tramp in Bournemouth gave me a £5 note once. I felt really bad but he would not take it back, they were drinking a little way away and he insisted I’d made his day. But in this case I did feel for her and her mother in that few moments of shattered excitement.

    If it wasn’t for that moment, the scene of me being hassled would have probably been quite amusing for passers by & I probably would have come away feeling less troubled by it all.

    Cheers Pappy

  • duffy

    do you have to pay taxes busking and can you busk whilst on benefits. i have never busked

  • Any money you make busking is additional’earned income’ and should be declared to the tax man. I have to include it in my accounts, but I’m sure many musicians just out busking for fun, probably don’t.

  • I sometimes do some busking out here in Hiroshima. Being left-handed is a bonus because it attracts even more interest (being a foreigner is eye-catching to start with) and because it deters 99.9% of people who’d otherwise want to show off on my guitar. I don’t get the scary kind of hassle you had, but one problem is sometimes people ask you to play stuff you don’t know and can be a bit insistent. The most difficult thing is that sometimes there are many buskers in the same arcade, and they make up for lack of singing/playing ability with sheer shouty volume – this means that we all get ignored as background noise by most passers-by. Still, Japan is a nice place for busking, and people can be pretty generous, and usually there will be somebody who stops and listens for a while because they love music, and that makes it worthwhile. As for declaring money to the tax man..what has Britain come to that anybody’s seriously bothered about the odd extra quid somebody makes busking? Just add The Beatles’ Taxman to your repertoire and pocket the cash!

    One thing more: are there still lots of people about blowing away on penny whistles? I kind of appreciated the gesture beggars made to actually do something for their money, but now I’ve been a-busking and trying hard to make real music, it irritates me that these people are seen by many in the same light as those who can really play an instrument and who have worked up an act.

  • Thanks for your input Tami, I’d love to busk in Japan one day.

    I know of a few of penny whistle ‘buskers’ in my county, some are quite good and have a reasonable repertoire, but then there are the known addicts who sit there all day and play the same 3 tunes until they make enough for a bag of heroin, disappearing for an hour and then returning to play the same tunes over. As you listen they’ll often slump into a wrecked sleep mid tune from the last hit.

    It’s a shame to see people’s lives, their talent and money earned wasted on drugs and alcohol, but the vicious circle of poverty and addiction is hard to break. One pennywhistler I know has been an addict and playing in the streets repeating the same cycle for 25 years.

  • Hey Kier,
    Great story — As unnerving as it was, it made a rich essay later! I’ve had lots of drunks (tipplers) sing along with me, but never none as aggressive as your blood spattered guy. My favourite fan, Christine, was always wandering about in a drunken state on the downtown streets of Victoria, Canada. I was busking there in Summertime — and she always tossed coins into my guitar case!
    Neil

  • Hi

    I have just read your blog and it was well written, funny, sad and also bought back loads of memories for me as I busked for a bout three years in the mid to late 90’s.I completely related to this story and in Cyoydon had a couple of experiences with someone who could have been the man in the story (well they’re like the borg aren’t they? LOL)

    but seriously, this is a great site and one I wish was around (with the internet!!) all those years back. Busking was sometimes awesome, with great money being made, sunny weather, new friends made and lots of adventures and other times the exact opposite. I will always support buskers and think what you are doing with this site is great.

    Take care

    Matt

  • Cheers Matt, you’ve got a great site there too. I loved your composition – The Longing. A really beautiful, moving piece. Your other compositions are excellent too. Love the Prelude for Jigsaw. Eerie !

  • kenny

    I am an older person just starting out in busking here in New York. I really appreciate your effort in writing so elaborately your incident with the intoxicated, invasive person at your street performance and your personal feelings and responses to it. I think that scene, were it to happen to me unprepared or even forewarned would really freak me out, leaving me non-plussed as to what to do.Nevertheless I would like to tell you about something called NON Violent Communication which is a book with a method wherein you empathize and and try to let your harasser, problem person know that you are hearing /understanding what feeling and needs are going on in them by saying something like ” I’m sensing that that you don’t like the music I’m playing” or “You look like you really would love to play my guitar right now” and then if they say “That’s right” or something like that and you think maybe their need/desire has been heard by you, then sometimes thereby a shift occurs within themselves to a more receptive state.That being the case they then may be able to take in a response from you that states your needs and feelings i.e. “I’ve been really looking forward to playing these songs and am really enjoying myself playing here and would feel really frustrated and sad if had to stop right now to let you play.” It requires a lot of vulnerability to do it sometimes as is not the usual way relate to people but, vast experiences by the writer of the book and others who try the method show it can be very effective. I didn’t go into a lot of elaboration here but I hope that what I just wrote didn’t sound to unrealistic or absurd (and I honestly don’t know if it would even work to a even a small degree with such a highly intoxicated person) and it may take some skills at this to say these things in just the right hearable way. In closing I’d also like to mention that I greatly related to and appreciated your describing about your compassionate and non-judgemental personal viewpoint towards the guy. Thanks again for sharing the story.

  • Hi Kenny, thanks a lot for your input. I can see how responding to a person in such a way as you explain could really have a positive effect on the way they react to your own situation. In a way you’re connecting them to your own sense of feeling instead of them concentrating solely on their own compulsive needs. That way they’ll be more able to relate to the stress they are putting on you and perhaps back down instead of continuing with the relentless onslaught of selfish behaviour, even if it is driven with the misguided sense of drunken fun.

    I think you could be right and it’s something I’ll think about next time I get hassled. Whichever way you deal with it, connecting with your aggressor in a positive or non violent manner is definitely better than kicking off.

    .. however sometimes, you may have no choice, so be prepared for all circumstances.

    Cheers.

  • Would lke to leave one of my short stories, Btw you have an excellent sit. a few years ago I wasnt actually homeless but literally scraping the barrel for cash (wont go into detail but its true) a friend got me a beat up old acoustic and I busked (with caution) outside ARchway Tube station in London. I was playing some instrumentals and noticed a dear child (about 6 years old dancing with her friend while her mum was talking. she came up to me and said “I really like your music, tell me is it difficult to learn?” The conversation went on for a bit and then she thanked me and walked away deep in thought, then she turned round and ran back to me, ” Please if my mummy says its Ok would you teach me when Im older?” To this I replied ofcourse, if mummy says its ok ” she leaned into to me and whispered quite seriously ” Also tell me HOW MUCH DO YOU PAY THEM TO LISTEN TO YOU ?” I could have hugged her!! One day i hope to see a gl on the X factor or elsewhere and Ill recognise her as the LIL gal from ARchay Tube

  • Hello,
    A great read. I came across your page whilst looking into busking.
    I live in Essex and I’m contemplating busking. I know that exact place in Chelmsford opposite Lloyds TSB!
    I was going to try Chelmsford… I think I still will but i’ll keep my eye out for that chap and others.
    Being a woman, it does make me feel a bit apprehensive. I do have experience of performing but not alone in the street.
    Can you use a small amp there? I believe you don’t need a licence/permit.
    Any advice you could offer a potential female busker is appreciated!
    All the best,
    Angela.

  • Andy Martin

    I think you were a model of patience there! I don’t think I’d be quite so long suffering. I’ve recently played a couple of times in public and discovered how trying people like this can be!

  • Andy Martin

    PS
    I suppose I can’t be too judgemental as I’ve had “issues” with booze etc. myself in the past, but at least I drew the line at wrestling with buskers!

  • Am on a very limited budget, please can someone advise me the cheapest and best way to set up for performing busking using an electric set up? I have s digitech RP 150 box plus a strat copy and a tiny belt hook up amp at the mo. Any practical suggestions appreciated. btw wishing you all a great Xmas )0( John

  • Hi john,

    Theres a realy good street amp on ebay called a traynor 50 watt you may be able to buy something like that,
    on the street you need a good battery amp, so something like a maxi mouse, harley benton hbca 30 , crate do a taxi for
    a reasonable price , check it comes with a charger, what ever you get, you could try Thonmann and have alook at there rang of portable battery amps, its worth getting mains chargeable, 2 input, and awedge for good monator, and a trolly to move it around, id say save your money and try to get one of those mantioned, if you come up on the lotto AER make a fantastic battery amp veary clear cost £1200 but worth the money, they run for 4hrs the rest will run for about 6-8 hrs
    i think they’ve stoped making maxi mouse and the harley benton but if they come up s/hand there good amps to buy
    hope this is helpful keep rocking in the free world, hope you have a good xmas cheers jools

  • Your take is similar to mine and I see like me you know loads of songs. Although this is be good for fitting in with your own mood or the type of passers by I think there is something to be said for only having an hour’s worth of songs and playing them really slick and without having to fish them out of your memory.

  • I Love Busking

    I used to play in Chelmsford but a few things have put me off. A couple of times I have been threatened by a homeless guy who says he comes up from London to beg and that I am playing “on his patch”. He has threatened with taking my instrument away from me and threatened me in front of two nearby community police officers. I moved away after 15 minutes as he was still hassling aggressively with me. He obviously has troubles but seems to prey on vulnerable people ( I consider myself vulnerable with an expensive instrument in my hand). He also intimidated other beggers who were around, most of whom I liked and even gave money too when I earned a reasonable amount.

    Then the same two community officers came over and said I need a license from the council and told me stop playing otherwise they would confiscate my instrument and arrest me! This is after busking there for nearly a year with regular police giving me a smile and a nod as they passed by. I am professional musician and play well and within a good sound level. I have made between 5 – 20 pounds an hour in Chelmsford (usually the former). what with the hassle, the cost of parking and extremely varying income levels (which I do declare to the tax man,so have to pay tax on) – its just not worth the hassle in Chelmsford anymore (as of July 2014). I hope someone can have a word with these community police officers as I have been approached by more of them elsewhere – they seemed to get a kick out of getting buskers off the street. In Epping high street, the local police station and the council said it was ok to busk and wished me well. When two community officers came along later they said I needed a “Pedlers License” which costs 25 pounds per year! They refused to listen to me telling them that the local police station had said yes! A pedlers license is for people wanting to sell goods from a tray – so this isn’t true or accurate either with regard to busking (unless you wanted to sell CD’s?)! I now have to play elsewhere. So Chelmsford and Epping community police officers have demonstrated their power and won, but do the general public or even “normal police officers” really don’t want buskers anymore? I doubt it. When I play out professionaly I normally earn from 150 – 500 for a couple of hours playing. Seems the public has lost out on hearing my talents for free / or donation. So Why do i do it if I can earn good money elsewhere?

    I love seeing peoples faces smiling while I busk, sometimes dancing; telling me the song I just played reminds them of fond memories of a relative who has passed away, people clapping and cheering saying thank you, restaurant owners walking by and offering me a paid gig in their place, other musicians offering me session work; finally being able to play whenever I want (usually a sunny day) playing material that I want to play. Recently I played an electroswing number and got quite a crowd gathering and some were dancing. Blissful times – but for how much longer! Surely Community police officers (CPO’s)are for the community? but many members f the public love and want buskers. Any ideas / suggestions on how to reverse the removal of buskers by CPO’s as it is killing busking, at least in Essex.

  • Thanks for your input and I’m really sorry to hear that.

    It looks like the power hungry community officers in Chelmsford are getting a bit too big for their boots. It seems completely ridiculous to me say you need a pedlars licence to busk. I have obtained many pedlars licences in the past from when I set up my Bolivian handmade goods business – Original Artisan in Dorset and used to sell our alpaca gloves, hats & leather belts etc. in the street at Christmas. I used to do very well which is what inspired our website http://www.originalartisan.com (shameless plug)

    The pedlars licence is governed by age old laws and has particular wording which requires the seller to keep ‘peddling’ their wares from town to town, which means technically you are legally required to keep moving and are not allowed to stop in the street unless you are stopped by a potential buyer or actually ‘in the process’ of selling your goods to a customer.

    To say you need one for busking goes against all the conditions stated in the licence, so if you ask me, what they are saying is an absolute load of b.s.

    It’s a real shame to see good musicians who are appreciated by the public, police and local businesses, kicked in the stomache by little hitlers who just want to ruin your day as they have nothing better to do.

    They may not appreciate it, but we do so keep on strumming and don’t let the bastards drag you down. :-)

  • Craig

    Many years ago I was supporting a band. Having done my bit I was in the crowd when a very drunk guy started trying to get on stage and grab the mic etc. A few times I kind of gently dragged him back and explained our position on drunk audience participation. To no avail.

    Again he jumped on the stage. Jack the guitarist did a nice little flick with the tip of the guitar-the guy was down.

    “Can’t reason with drunks mate..”, says Jack, “and you have to protect your gear”.

    Now, I have never had to do this on the street, for the precise reason that I will protect my interests. People have to be be aware of that, tell them quietly or develop a menacing stare…we are after all actors.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am very patient and once upon a time I was heading in the direction of your drunk…so I’m not altogether lacking in empathy. But this is serious stuff making complete strangers happy and smile with no guarantee of an income. The punters may not touch our gear or invade our space.

    When street performing..stay alert, don’t drink, lay off the weed and act professionally. You need a straight back and a confident strut to not be bothered walking home at 12pm on Friday night; in the same way you need to project professionalism/confidence when street performing.

  • Craig

    and re: I love busking.

    These cops are idiots and you are clearly not a peddler.

    You need to ask for their numbers and arrange to see the sarge, a newspaper reporter, mayor or whoever to discuss their threats and reluctance to serve and protect you. I’d be carrying a discrete voice recorder.

    You are cleverer than a couple of community constables; set up a sting.

    That sort of nonsense doesn’t really happen here in New Zealand.

    Police have concern for their image.

    I have seen UK community constables and many of them clearly don’t.

    Worst comes to the worst you could probably out walk most of them.

  • I have been a musician/entertainer for many years, and have taken to busking in NewZealand and Sydney. I encourage those who have been hassled in New York and parts of London by inexperienced officers to take their cases higher up. I watched a media article on YouTube of a New York busker who was moved on by a young rookie, there was an outcry against this officers naivety from not only the musical community, but the public and local media. Although the officer was not dismissed from the NYPD, he was given extra training in this rather ambiguous area of street trading policy and regulations.
    The key to singing/ playing in any public situation is to maintain your stance, don’t let anything undermine your confidence as people will pick can pick up on it, with RE to busking you are reliant on public funds, so a warm smile and confident demeanour always go a long way.Happy Days.

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