A couple of weeks ago I promised to kick off my part in the 100 challenge and do some busking to raise a bit of cash for charity.
On this occasion I thought I’d do a street busk to promote the Neimann Pick Children’s Fund. It wasn’t a big public promotion event, just a personal busk hoping to hand out a few leaflets and chat to people about the disease alongside a couple of blog posts to raise awareness about Neimann Pick Type C.
Take a look at my last post on Neimann Pick Type C if you would like to find out more about the disease and children who are affected by it. Also, if you are in the mood to do something good and want an excuse to get out and play, why not try out our Charity Challenge on Street Musician and organise your own charity event. It doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, just think of something and go out and do it.
I’ll be doing this again in a few weeks time, so if you live in my area and can play or just want to do some collecting, you are welcome to come out with me and we’ll arrange a bigger street busk to raise some more cash (as long as the weather is better than it was this time).
Anyway, here’s how things went.
Neimann Pick – Charity Busk
Over the last few months I’ve been so wrapped up in other things that I’d been seriously neglecting my playing, so this charity busk was the first time I’d been out performing in the street for about 6 months.
I was pretty happy to be getting back out there and also to be kick starting my busking doing something for a worthy cause.
The one thing I’ve been having trouble with over the last few months is trying to find the time to practice regularly. No matter how much I order myself back to a decent practice regime, after a few days everything else starts to get in the way again and my guitar takes a back seat while I deal with business, customers, paper work etc.
Being out of the picture for so long, I really needed get back to street busking and also get a few pub gigs in before Summer.
The great thing about promising to do something for charity is that once you have committed yourself to an event, whether it’s a small personal challenge or a big charity do, you know you’ve got to do it or you are going to let people down.
This can be a great way of making yourself do those things that you’ve been meaning to do for ages.
I’ve been practicing on and off this year without really making that proper commitment to hit the streets again on a certain date, but promising to do a busk in aid of Niemann Pick Type C ensured that however much work I had on, and whether I felt like it or not, I made sure I got my guitar and vocal practice in for at least a few hours a day for the couple of weeks leading up to it.
Friday came and I was looking forward to getting out there and playing again after so long in the wilderness, but typically, the one day I needed to get out and do something – the whether was miserable and it was pretty much a gamble whether the rain would hold off and let me get out and play.
It was one of those days when it’s half raining, half drizzling and misty round town, which is about the worst you can hope for when you’re intent on going busking. If it’s not raining hard enough to cancel the busk completely, but drizzling enough to get your guitar wet and mess with your electrics, then unless you can get a pitch that’s under cover, you are pretty much screwed.
The last thing a musician needs is a rusty, warped guitar with water in the eq. Messing up a £400 guitar for the sake of earning a tenner is just not an option.
I spent half the morning watching the rain come down thinking ‘There’s no way I can play in that’, then after a while it eased off to a drizzle, making the choice even more difficult.
The one thing that does my head in is when you have to cancel something because of the rain and then the sun comes out and makes you feel bad for missing out. It’s even worse when you risk giving it a go and then after spending ages getting into town, setting up your gear and waiting for a break in the whether, it just drizzles all day and you stand around looking stupid when you could be doing something else more constructive.
I bought some strings in town and while I was out the drizzle stopped. I thought ‘Let’s just do it anyway and see what happens’.
I took the car up to Dorchester and as I passed out of my home town, it started hammering it down again. The roads were foggy and I knew the conditions were going to be pretty bad when I got there.
By the time I got to Dorchester, parked the car and got my gear into town it was still raining and pretty bleak, but once you’ve come all this way you’ve just got to hope there are no other buskers or people collecting in the only sheltered pitch in town, or it’s game over.
Luckily there was no one else stupid enough to go out playing in this weather so I set up in the M & S alcove which gave me some protection from the rain, put my case down and slung 50p in to kick the session off.
I kicked off at 12 to an almost empty street, which was a bit weird because there are normally quite a few people about at lunchtime but after a while the the streets started filling up and the umbrellas came out.
The problem with busking in the rain is that it doesn’t put people in the best of moods for giving. When I’m in town, if it’s raining and I see some poor busker standing there in the rain, I think ‘poor sod !’ and give him some cash, but most people are too cheesed off to put their hands in their pockets. It’s funny, because that also seems to happen when it’s too hot. Blistering sunny days can often be just as bad for your earning potential as miserable wet ones.
After about an hour of playing I’d had a few coins from passers by but it still wasn’t looking great. Luckily there were a few pound coins in the case and a couple of 50’s which helps. I’d rather have a few pound coins than masses of 2’ps. When you have a case full of coppers, people tend to think you’ve made loads of cash and stop giving when actually it only amounts to a couple of pounds.
By now there was plenty of people about but not much cash throwing going on, which didn’t surprise me, considering.
Most days when you are out busking, people come up to you and chat and you get a few smiles from passers by, but in this sort of weather people keep their heads down and rush on by, probably thinking ‘What the hell is he doing out in this weather ?’
It’s always quite amusing singing Travis’ ‘Why does It Always rain On Me’ in weather like this. You see a few smirks on people’s faces. The song always gets a few people chucking coins at you when it’s raining.
I thought I’d get one of me in but couldn’t really hassle people in the rain and ask them to take photos so I took one myself.
After a couple of hours or so the skies opened up again and as the lunchtime crowd had gone back to work I thought I’d give it a few more songs just to round things off and then get the hell out of there.
Singing in the street subjects your voice to much more strain than practicing at home and I hadn’t been singing too badly considering I’d not been busking in a while, but after two and a quarter hours my voice started to sound pretty ropey and no one had thrown me a coin for the last half hour, so enough was enough. Normally I’d stick it out for another hour but there is only so much your voice can take until you build up to it again and with everything getting more soaked every minute, it was time to go. By now it was torrential rain and people were trying to shelter in my alcove too… should have charged them to get in.
I’d managed to keep my guitar from ruin as I was under an alcove and off the floor, but my busking case and bag had been on the ground for over two hours with the rain coming in at an angle and everything was wet through. There was no way I was going to put my guitar back in a waterlogged felt case, so I tried lining the case with my coat which wasn’t much good.
In the end it was either me or the guitar and with only one coat between us, the guitar came out on top.
I put the coat the coat on my E.S.P, picked up my bag and empty case, dumped the wet coins in my pocket and did a runner back to the car.
In the few minutes it took me to get back to the car park I got a real soaking but when you’re carrying your only hope for success wrapped in a wet coat, the only thing you are worried about is getting it back to a safe place and getting your guitar dry again so you can busk another day.
Taking the back roads home, the fog was still lurking around. I swear there was something strange in that fog.
I’d hoped to raise about £20 from the session and by looking in the case I estimated about £10 -15. When I got home I had a quick count up and the grand total was….
..wait for it…
Wey hey – steady on !
Well, that’s not too bad for a rainy day.
I’d loved to have stuck around for longer and passed out lots of information on Neimann Pick Type C, but to be honest in that sort of weather people weren’t going to hang around and chat. I think unless you’ve got full rain kit and waterproof leaflets you need a reasonably good day to effectively promote your cause from a buskers perspective.
Leaflets would have been soaked and stopping people in the rain to talk wouldn’t go down too well, but the good thing about this mini charity mission was that just by getting involved and learning about children’s alzheimer’s, it spurred my last blog post about Nieman Pick Type C, which will be read by literally thousands of people over the coming months and also, even though I didn’t get a chance to get the message across to people in the street, just taking about it to my family and friends over the last few weeks has really touched a few nerves and brought it to the attention of many people who would otherwise never have known about it, and that’s got to be worth something.
The small amount of money I raised was donated on the same day via PayPal to Brisan and Parker’s Charity Fund as it was their inspiration that led to the busk taking place in the first place, but there are many branches of the Niemann Pick fund around the world that all raise funds for research and to help families coping with the disease.
If you are interested in raising money for this or any other charity of your choice and at your leisure, just as I have today, then check out my post on the Street Musician 100 Musicians for Charity Challenge and join in.
I’m thinking of giving it another go in a few weeks time. Hopefully if the whether is better, I’ll stick a few signs up, hand out some info, play for a few hours and spread the word a bit more.
If any one else wants to come out and join in, just send us an email and we’ll put something together.