Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Musicians Whose Careers Are Going Down the Tube

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Musicians Whose Careers Are Going Down the Tube

Article excerpt


AN aspiring opera singer, a kiltwearing bagpiper and a pair of punks congregate on a disused Tube platform at Charing Cross.

All of them have a single goal - to win permission to busk on the London Underground.

Since 2001, busking has been allowed on the Tube but performers have to acquire licences before they can regale passengers with saxophone renditions of Careless Whisper or The Entertainer.

More than 3,000 hours of live music a year is provided by 150 buskers throughout the network.

The rewards can extend beyond commuters' spare change. Buskers have met the Queen at a Buckingham Palace reception and played at the Baftas, Ken Livingstone's summer party and with Simply Red and English National Opera.

But first the contenders had to convince a judging panel which included political columnist Matthew Parris.

"I was impressed by the standard but also by the diversity of musical styles on display," he said.

"I half-expected to see deadbeats but there was a great range of musical talent. In the old days it would have attracted alcoholics with mouth organs so it just goes to show that regulation rather than an outright ban works for busking."

Steve Charlick, head of London Underground's busking scheme, said: "The driving factor for the change was customer opinion, which told us that customers wanted to be entertained by good performers rather than under the old system where a lot of the buskers were beggars.

"The quality levels of the performers have definitely improved since we started the licensed busking scheme and our aim is to develop it.

Hopefully, musicians travelling on

the Tube will see the standard of performance on show and that will drive them to want to be part of it."

What attributes are needed? "People must present themselves well, have musical ability and, most importantly, they must provide variety. …

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