Magazine article Management Today

MT People ... the Sharp End - the South Bank Show

Magazine article Management Today

MT People ... the Sharp End - the South Bank Show

Article excerpt

Dave Waller takes the popular out of music as a busking rapper by the Thames.

As the economy continues to play out in a minor key, it's time to take to the streets and sample life as a busker. Given the way publishing is going, it may be worth the risk of hypothermia.

Busking on the London Underground falls somewhere between The X Factor and trying to sort out a gas bill - you need to audition for a panel of staff to secure your licence, only to then have to spend hours trying to get through to the automated phone service to secure your pitch.

Rob Grundel, an Aussie in his early 30s, is my music man for this gig, and he suggests we take a purer, more spontaneous route - heading to the outdoor market at the South Bank. It's teeming with people, but there's one thing missing: buskers. This sets my alarm jangling. The Lambeth Council website had suggested we'd be fine without a licence, but I still worry that with our first twang we'll be carted off to an internment camp for illicit entertainers, where gold-painted performers stand impressively still in the queue for slop.

Rob seems undeterred as we set up by the British Film Institute bar, connecting his keyboard and iPhone drum machine to a tiny battery-powered Roland amp. He first busked in Tasmania as an eight year-old. Airfix model kits cost dollars 5 a pop back then, so he'd sing Beatles numbers until he'd raised enough. 'Most of busking is about personality,' he says. 'I couldn't sing, but it was cute.' I suspect the rule may not apply to me, a tone-deaf hairy bloke in his mid-30s whose repertoire is stuck on underground rap that's 20 years out of date.

Still, with plenty of people around, oodles of natural charm and a spot in the middle of the promenade, we can't fail. Rob props himself against the tree, his synthesizer sounds wafting across the cold night air, mingling with punters' breath vapour. I find it impossibly nerve-wracking: in a minute I'll suddenly go from being just another bloke in the street to what everyone is looking at. Again, Rob tries his best to be reassuring. Unlike a live gig, he says, where the ticket price alone brings huge expectations, you're just making yourself part of the landscape. 'You open yourself up, and the city opens up to you,' he says.

Not with this repertoire, it doesn't. …

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