When you head out to do a bit of busking, it’s always important to find yourself a decent spot. Every town has it’s own quirky alleyways, squares, and high streets; and making the right decision on which one to position yourself can have a big effect on how enjoyable/lucrative your time spent performing is. Once you’ve found your spot and are all set up it’s quite common for other people to come and try and get it for themselves, and the situation unfortunately sometimes even ends up getting a little aggressive.
I’ve had to go through this rigmarole many a time in the different towns I’ve played. But none more often than in Lincoln. I’d found a great spot underneath a bridge next to the Brayford waterfront. There’s a path leading down to various restaurants and a cinema on the quayside, so it was always full with very generous folk going to and fro. There were great acoustics, and no one else seemed to ever busk there. But there was a reason for this, it was very popular with the local beggars.
I started getting abuse after a few busks. The guys who begged there were really down on their luck, really desperate for money, and me being there meant they couldn’t get it. But I was more than prepared to share it, me being in a similar situation myself. On and on it went. I was threatened many times, but I stood my ground, politely, in the hopes of a friendly outcome.
Eventually, after a few conversations, one by one they started to come round. They got to know me, and me them, and we began sharing the spot; which worked out for everyone. There was one particular beggar called Brian who was very respected amongst the others. And once we were on good terms no one ever gave me any trouble.
One day when I was playing under the bridge Brian came up to me in a fit of tears. He’d had a fall out with his girlfriend, who was also homeless. She had lost her dog, and was covered in bruises, although Brian assured me that they were nothing to do with him. He asked if I could sing them a love song to cheer her up. “Of course.” I told him, and began singing ‘Music when the lights go out’ by The Libertines, switching a few of the words around to make it more appropriate. It was a winters day, kind of grey and barren; a cold, frosty wind blowing about, keeping most people indoors. It was just me and them under the bridge. They held each other close in a loving embrace, pulling tight the rips in their clothing, sobbing in each others arms, swaying gently as I strummed and sang. It was touching to see, a really stirring moment. I was so happy to have given this unlucky couple such a lovely gift.
Only a few weeks earlier Brian had been shouting at me to “Get out of my spot!” and now here we were having this magical moment together. It goes to show that no matter how hostile someone appears to be, deep down they’re just as soft and sweet as anyone. It’s difficult, but if we can manage to be patient and get to talking, eventually we’ll see the good in one another.
This is a shortened version of a story from my book, click HERE for more…
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