It’s been months since I last posted on this blog! I have left you all in suspense! My last post was about busking in a new city. Perhaps you thought that I tried, got myself arrested and was never seen again! But you will be pleased to hear that this is not the case.
Since my last post I have had successful and unsuccessful attempts at busking in new places and I’ll tell you all about them below!
October 2017 – Bern – Switzerland
On my Autumn European tour I took my Roland Street Cube and performed in the streets of Bern. I was so pleasantly surprised by the response from the lovely Swiss passers by. My tour manager – Michael, hi Michael! – had researched the spots and how they work. Busking in Bern is easy enough for those wishing to turn up and play, but they politely suggest that you move along every half hour or so in order to avoid noise pollution in the same area for too long.
I set up with my back to a pretty fountain, in between two noisy tram lines and amongst the little shopping district. My audience mostly looked at me dubiously from behind pillars on the side walk and would sometimes brave their way into the middle of the street to drop me a few coins and take pictures. Every so often the trams would rumble past and I would be totally obscured, visibly and audibly from my audience and I started to make a joke out of it by pausing my song completely until the tram had gone, making the little crowd chuckle as I restarted, mid sentence when I re-emerged.
I had been warned by fellow buskers that Switzerland was not known for being as generous as perhaps Germany or even the UK in terms of financial tips for street art. However it must have been my lucky day, because my short time busking in Bern was very profitable and I was astounded by the generosity and encouragement that this city bestowed upon me.
After a half an hour, I had a little crowd of listeners perching on nearby steps, applauding and singing along to The Beatles. I decided to move along to another fountain and do another stint, but the streets were quieter by then and the crowds had subsided. It was still nice but I wished I’d got to Bern sooner and had the chance to play a few more times before the sun went down. The following day was a Sunday on which there is no busking allowed, so I’ll just have to go back to Bern another time!
March 2018 – Frankfurt – Germany
On my recent European tour I visited Germany and went into the centre of Frankfurt to find a spot. Reminiscent of my successful time in Switzerland, I found a pretty fountain to perform next to.
Frankfurt was fairly generous and responsive to my performance, but I found myself constantly on edge because the area didn’t feel as safe or as relaxed as Bern had. A little too close for comfort was a very angry looking homeless man playing football with a paper cup. As his one-player-kick-around got closer and closer to my guitar case I felt a bit uneasy. I was lucky to have the support of Michael and my boyfriend, Conor, close by at all times. Conor tried to ease the situation by gently kicking the cup in another direction, to tempt the man away from my personal space. But the homeless man did NOT like anyone else touching his precious cup and explosively told us so in very loud, angry German words. His reaction has confirmed to me that Conor is the bravest person I’ve ever met.
After continuing to share the area with homeless Steven Gerrard, it became pretty clear that he meant absolutely no harm to anyone; unless they touched his cup, in which case there would be hell to pay. That feeble little cup was all he had in the world. So we left him to it.
Frankfurt has a few rules on busking, one of which is not performing with amplification; I slyly ignored this and decided to just keep my volume low and my expression blank if the police came prying. Luckily I had no interruptions from the police, just a few more altercations with homeless and/or crazy people shouting in German at me. I think that’s what you call Schaukeln und Kreivsverkehre. Another Frankfurt rule is to move on after an hour playing in the same place. So I moved over to a spot that looked less crowded, but actually turned out to be more profitable and comfortable; there were ledges for people to sit on and a nicer atmosphere in general.
My summary of Frankfurt is that while busking was fairly easy and financially worthwhile, I did not enjoy it much. I think I’d rather make less money and not feel constantly on edge.
October 2018 – Meinz – Germany
I had a few days in Frankfurt, but since I’d found busking there a little bit stressful I decided to try a another city close by. I had heard that Meinz was very pretty so took a short train ride out there to play.
It was very quiet in the town centre and I was nervous to start in the empty streets; I suggested to my team that we go get brunch first – we all agreed and found the cutest place for some food while we waited for the town to wake up. It was called Wilma Wunder and this is not at all relevant to busking but it was SO CUTE if you’re ever in Meinz, you know what to do.
The centre didn’t seem to get much busier even after we had eaten, so I set up and started, hoping my sweet dulcet tones would bring the people. I played for about 25 minutes with the odd drop and a sweet smile here and there, but generally it was so empty that even if everyone in the area had dropped me a euro it wouldn’t have covered my train fare (or my yummy brunch!) But I didn’t mind, I did sell one CD which I was proud of and this was really more of an experimental experience, plus I got to see a lovely new town (and did I mention; brunch?!)
As I headed back to the station with my team we heard a man singing opera and discovered a much busier part of the town that would have, perhaps, been a more suitable spot for me. We listened to the opera man for a few songs, dropped him a coin and accepted defeat this time, our pockets empty but our bellies full.
October 2017 – Marburg – Germany
The last place I tried to do some busking on my most recent tour was Marburg. A pretty place that I’ve heard lots about. It was similar to Meinz, pretty but quiet. I decided to try busking there, especially as I found a fountain to perform next to (that seems to be my go-to when I’m busking somewhere new!)
Before I even started I attracted the interest of a lovely German lady who worked nearby. She bought my CD before I’d even sung a note! I kicked off with one of my own songs and the empty streets were filled with my music and no people.
Then, just I had hoped, my dulcet tones had attracted someone to come and listen. Well. Not exactly. Just one person appeared in response to me singing and it was a strict, no nonsense German police officer. He pointed to my amp and gestured by swiping across his throat, I assume he wasn’t threatening me with a death sentence but just telling me “no amplification”. I cooperated and apologised in broken German, he wasn’t unkind but he was firm and unsmiling. That was the end of my busking in Marburg, less than one song and it was over.
Despite my busking failure, I played a very nice gig in the evening at a place called Q. The man who owned it was an absolute delight and he has big plans for live music in his venue, so I think I’ll be back there in the future!
Busking somewhere new is scary. It is harder work than busking in your comfort zone, especially with a language barrier. I found it much more tiring and harder work but very refreshing.
I want to continue to break my all too comfortable habit of busking in the same place. While London and the Southbank will always be my favourite place to play, discovering new spots and seeing the world is becoming more and more enticing, so expect a lot more stories from the globe this year and next.